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OBOS Post: Laughing Gas for Labor

May 5, 2008

Over at Our Bodies Our Blog today, we’re wondering why nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) isn’t a more widely available option for labor pain relief in the United States, given its availability in Europe and Canada. Come on over to find out more and share your thoughts!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2008 8:26 pm

    As an obgyn physician, I have heard about the widespread use of nitrous oxide in England during my training here in the States. However, we were always told that there were several reasons why we did not use it in the states. The reasons given included the following.
    1) The use of this gas is difficult to control, as the doses cannot be standardized and different patients react differently to different amounts. Therefore, it is very hard for hospitals to keep track of what people are using and to monitor for side effects and toxicity.
    2)Women like to be fully alert and conscious, and stil;l have good pain relief during labor. The epidural is an excellent way to achieve this, but the nitroius oxide affects a women’s consciousness. Indeed, in my experience, many women dislike narcotics in labor (which are used frequently in the US for labor pain) for this very reason.
    3)epidurals also provide anesthesia for other interventions such as a possible c-section, an extensive repair of a vaginal laceration, an assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps, or other interventions. Nitrous oxide cannot be used in such circumstances.
    4) It is difficult to store, has a high abuse potential, and exposes the others in the room to small amounts.

    Although all of this is true, obviously it seems to provide many women in Britain and other countries with effective relief. I have frequently wondered if it would be feasable to at least have it as one available option for women in our hospital. The main obstacle though is that no one in our hospital that I am aware of has any experience with it, so I’m not sure if we could ever safely start such a program unless we brought someone from overseas.

  2. May 9, 2008 7:45 am

    Saul, thank you for sharing this, and you’ve hit on what’s puzzling me as well – reconciling the reasons you state with the popularity of this option elsewhere.

Trackbacks

  1. “The Most Important Goal in Managing Labour Pain Is Patient Satisfaction” « Kittywampus

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