Nitrous Oxide

10 Cool Facts About Nitrous Oxide for Labor Pain

Nitrous Oxide In Labor

Rapidly increasing in popularity in the US, nitrous oxide is a safe and affordable option for pain relief during labor in both hospitals and birth centers alike. With both anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and analgesic (pain reducing) effects at low doses, nitrous oxide is becoming the choice of many women who want to forego or postpone more invasive options like an epidural yet wish to have some relief from pain intensity throughout labor and birth. Here are ten cool facts about the use of nitrous oxide during labor that you may not know!

  1. Nitrous oxide was commonly used for pain relief during labor in the US up until the 1960s and 1970s when the use of the epidural rapidly popularized. With the rise of epidurals, the use of nitrous oxide became virtually obsolete until around 2011 when midwives began bringing the practice back. You will now find nitrous oxide available for pain relief during labor in over 100 hospitals and over 50 birth centers in the United States. 
  2. While the use of nitrous oxide for labor pain plummeted in the US with the inception of the epidural analgesic, the practice remained commonplace in other areas with sophisticated healthcare systems around the world such as Australia, Europe, New Zealand and Canada.
  3. While many believe that the nitrous oxide received during labor is the same as what you receive at the dentist, it’s actually less concentrated. When you utilize nitrous oxide during labor, the gas you are receiving is 50 percent N2O and 50 percent oxygen. Dentists use varying concentrations of nitrous oxide for their patients but can use up to 70 percent N2O and only 30 percent oxygen.
  4. Another way that nitrous oxide for labor is different than the nitrous oxide you receive at the dentist is that during labor it is controlled by the woman only. You will be given a handheld mask that contains a demand valve which opens to release the nitrous oxide when you inhale. When you exhale, the valve will close. This allows the woman in labor to use the nitrous oxide when she feels she needs it and to place it aside when she does not. This is much different than an epidural which is inserted into your spine and typically gives a continuous dose of analgesic throughout the rest of labor. Conversely, once you remove the nitrous oxide mask during labor, the effects will dissipate in about five minutes.
  5. While epidurals typically remove or greatly lessen the pain of labor, women who have used nitrous oxide report that they still feel the pain but their perception of it is altered. Because of the anxiety-reducing effects of the nitrous oxide, many women are better able to handle difficult contractions and other painful parts of the process with its use.
  6. You may begin using nitrous oxide for pain relief at any stage of labor or even post-delivery. There is no cut off in the process of labor when the treatment becomes unsafe making it a great option for moms who wish to try to make it as far as they can without any sort of medical intervention. Some mothers even decide not to use it until they are undergoing repairs following the birth for any tears occurred.
  7. If there was not an initial need for continuous fetal monitoring of your baby prior to your decision to use nitrous oxide, there will be no need for continuous monitoring after. You will still be free to move about, change positions, use a birthing ball or tub or any other position you wish to labor in after you have used the nitrous oxide. Your midwife or doctor will just want to ensure you are not experiencing any dizziness from the treatment before you go walking around but this is a quite uncommon side effect.
  8. There has been no evidence found that the use of nitrous oxide during labor slows the progression of labor at all. Particularly because you are able to move about freely in positions that are conducive to birthing, baby is able to further make his way into the birth canal. Nitrous oxide also does not impede the body’s natural production of oxytocin which is necessary for labor to progress.
  9. One of the most important factors to know when considering the use of nitrous oxide during labor is that it is safe for both mother and baby. Unlike certain narcotics that are often used during labor such as fentanyl, there is no risk of depressing baby’s breathing with nitrous oxide. It also should not negatively impact the infant’s alertness upon delivery and consequently, there should not be an effect on his ability to breastfeed and bond with the mother or father during the time period following delivery.
  10. Although unfortunately many insurance companies do not cover nitrous oxide treatment for labor at this time, the cost of nitrous oxide is significantly cheaper than having an epidural. And, unlike an epidural which requires a hospital birth and the presence (and a bill from) an anesthesiologist, nitrous oxide can often be offered at a birth center by a midwife.

If you are considering alternative options for pain control during labor, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife to discuss the benefits and risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide. We’d be happy to give you a tour of our Birth Center and answer any questions you might have about delivering at our Center and becoming part of the Health Foundations family.

 

The Top Five Fears about Having a Natural Birth

Natural Water Birth

While birth is a natural and normal experience that a woman’s body is created to do, it is common and expected to have fears leading up to your delivery. You may be feeling anxious about your ability to handle the pain, or wondering what will happen if something goes wrong. You may be worried about how you will recover from pushing a 7-10 pound baby out of your body and what you will feel like afterward. Rest assured these fears are not only normal but even healthy when they motivate you to better prepare for the experience. Here are the five most common fears about having a natural birth and how to alleviate them as best as possible. 

  1. What if I tear? Unfortunately, the chances of tearing when having a vaginal birth are high, about 90 percent. The good news is that about 99 percent of those tears are minor and superficial, requiring only a couple of stitches if any at all. While tearing may be inevitable for most women, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for the big task of pushing baby out and reduce the chances of more severe vaginal trauma. These techniques include doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly, practicing perineal massage, laboring in water, choosing a birthing position that aids in baby’s exit, placing a warm compress on the perineum when crowning begins and following your body’s lead and natural instincts when it comes to pushing. Even if you do experience some tearing or the need for a few stitches, your vagina and perineum will heal in about a week to ten days.
  2. What if I can’t handle the pain? While we won’t say that you’ll experience a pain-free childbirth, we can say that there are certainly ways to prepare yourself for the experience and natural ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. These ways include: 
    • Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people who can help you stick to your wishes of a natural birth and provide any assistance you may need during labor and delivery. 
    • Hiring a doula to assist in your birth. Women who have delivered with the support of a doula report having less overall pain and fewer interventions.
    • Using any number of natural labor pain management techniques including massage, hypnosis, acupressure, laboring in water, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and even the use of nitrous oxide to give you some temporary relief.
    • Prepare ahead of time. Whether this involves writing a birth plan, taking birthing classes, or having your partner learn special massage techniques, take the time to prepare for your birth as you would any other major event in your life.
    • Lastly, remember that your body was miraculously designed for the job of delivering your baby so you are already more prepared than you realize.
  3. What if I don’t make it to the hospital or birth center in time? While just about every movie that contains a birth scene depicts a woman frantically racing into the hospital in the 11th hour being rushed into the delivery room right in the nick of time, in real life labor takes time. In fact, the average amount of time active labor takes is about 8 hours and perhaps even longer if it’s your first. More likely than not, you will have plenty of time to get where you need to be for your delivery and probably even enough time to check over your bag, take a shower and drop the dogs or other kids off with a neighbor or grandparents. Not to mention, you will likely also have plenty of warning signs that baby is preparing to make his debut from intense cramping and contractions to back pain and possibly even your water breaking.
  4. What if I poop during the delivery? You may not have voiced this concern to your care provider yet but we know you’re thinking it. All women seem to worry about this one! Having a bowel movement when pushing a baby out is a completely normal and unremarkable thing given the basic physiology of the body. While the thought may horrify you (or your partner) rest assured that your midwives or doctors will not even be the slightest bit phased if you deliver more than you had planned on. If you are feeling particularly anxious about this possibility, try sitting on the toilet in the early phases of labor to empty yourself out before the pushing phase. It’s not uncommon for your midwife to recommend this strategy and it may help circumvent the issue. But, if it does happen, we guarantee you won’t care at all in all the excitement and adrenaline of the moment.
  5. What if something goes wrong? This is a big one for most expectant moms and understandably so. There are so many things that could happen during childbirth and most of them are not things we can plan ahead for. First off, trust that you have surrounded yourself with capable and compassionate professionals who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart. Should complications arise, your birthing team will know what to do and what the next steps should be. Discuss possible obstacles that may arise and how you would like to handle them ahead of time. Learn about what changes to the plan may be made in the event that you or your baby is experiencing any sort of distress. If one of your biggest fears is having a C-section, consider factors such as having a care provider that is supportive of natural birth, using a doula to assist in your birth and delivering outside of a hospital setting--- all which may reduce your chances of it occurring. Try to be flexible going into your delivery. While birth plans are an awesome way to detail your preferences and wishes for your birth experience, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time that things may not go exactly as planned.
Natural Birth w/ Midwife

It is completely normal to have fears leading up to childbirth. The best way to address those fears is to educate yourself through speaking with your care providers, taking classes, reading books and talking to friends who have experienced different types of births. It’s also important to familiarize yourself on the reasons why you have decided that you want a natural birth. The ‘why’ behind your desire to deliver your baby naturally will help you find the strength that you’ll need during labor to keep going. Just remember that despite your fears, you are strong, you are able bodied and you were created to do this. For questions about how you can have the natural birth you’ve always wanted contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.