Childbirth: a Laughing Matter

Childbirth: a Laughing Matter

I am one of many who has a phobia regarding dental care. For me nitrous oxide, or as it is commonly known, ‘laughing gas,’ is a wonderful chemical. It relaxes me and the pain is a distant memory. Laughing gas has been used for decades by doctors to reduce or eliminate pain during procedures; and although it has been used in Europe during childbirth for quite some time, it is now becoming a growing choice for American women.

Nitrous oxide was popular in the United States until the discovery of the epidural. Since then it was rarely used. The situation is apparently headed for a reversal.

One woman in Minnesota reported that her firm wish was to have a natural childbirth. Her labor was not only painful but lengthy. As it moved into the 13th hour she was aware that she would not be able to have the child naturally without something to assist her with the management of pain. Instead of an epidural, she asked for laughing gas.

After the baby was born, she related her experience to those in the birthing center. She said that although the pain was not 100 percent alleviated, the tension and anxiety resulting from severe pain eased, and she was able to cope with what was then extreme discomfort.

Another benefit is cost. The use of laughing gas for childbirth related pain costs approximately $100; the cost of an epidural can reach $3,000 because of the need for an anesthesiologist.

The FDA approved the use of laughing gas during childbirth in 2011. Although only a handful of hospitals presently offer nitrous, health care workers believe that will soon change.

By James Turnage



Photo courtesy ofsean dreilinger

Flickr License

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