Laughing Gas During Labor Is Becoming More Popular Among Women in the United States

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is self-administered and can reduce anxiety and pain during childbirth

Nitrous Oxide for childbirth
Photo: Getty

Many women are turning to a new option for pain relief while in labor.

As an alternative to epidurals, some hospitals across the United States are offering nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide is a tasteless and odorless gas that "reduces anxiety and increases a feeling of well-being so that pain is easier to deal with," according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Laughing gas, which is more commonly used in a dentist's office, has long been offered to women giving birth in other countries like England, Canada, Sweden, Finland, but wasn't introduced in the United States until 2012, when the FDA approved it for laboring women.

Use of nitrous oxide is sometimes preferred to an epidural, which relieves pain but can cause minimal feeling and limit mobility in the legs. With nitrous oxide, which is typically mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a mask, a woman can hold the mask herself and control when to inhale. Once the mask is removed, the effects of nitrous oxide quickly wear off.

pregnant woman giving birth assisted with gas mask pain relief.

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Laura, a 41-year-old New York resident, told TODAY that she chose nitrous oxide while in labor and would inhale prior to each contraction in order to feel the "anti-anxiety" effect of it.

"You're cognitively aware of everything that's going on. If you don't want the effects of it, you can simply stop using it," said Laura, who withheld her last name for protection of privacy. "You're not confined. With the epidural there's a lot of movement restriction."

There are currently a few hundred American hospitals that offer laughing gas for labor.

"We are the second hospital on Long Island to offer this. It's becoming more available," Laura Jabbour, a certified nurse midwife at Northwell Health Huntington Hospital, told the outlet. "More women are becoming interested in having more control over their birth experience."

"It doesn't take the pain away, but it does give you a sense of euphoria that helps with anxiety that a lot of women experience," Jabbour added. "It takes the edge off."

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