As many first time moms prepare their birth plans, pain management is one of the concerns that most women are apprehensive about. 

"Do I need pain management for my birth?"

Every birth is different and many women experience very little pain through their labor transitions and others need pain management assistance. If you are looking into pain relief options for birth, there are tons of choices that are recommended by health care providers. 

Many hospitals and birthing centers utilize Nitrous Oxide as Pain relief for birth; the same inhaled gas combination that many dentists use for more invasive in-office procedures. 

How does Nitrous Oxide work?

Since this is a gas mixture that is inhaled, it enters the blood stream quickly to help the patient feel more sedated and relaxed through a procedure. Nitrous Oxide can be administered in different strengths depending on the recipient's comfort level.

Because the gas molecules enter the blood stream, this does pass through the placenta to the baby fairly quickly but because it does not leave any chemical byproducts, it is eliminated fairly quickly from the body. Nitrous is fast acting and works through and out of a mother and baby's blood stream more efficiently than some pharmaceutical products. 

Does Nitrous Oxide come with good reviews? 

The results from Nitrous vary with every birth and 20% of patients report the gas providing some form of pain relief, less than 50% find it to be satisfactory and 30% of women find it did not help them. This is a pain management option that has a broad range of results so it's best to consult with your doctor and birth team to see if Nitrous is a good fit for you.

How is the gas administered?

The gas can come from a wall fixture in a hospital setting or in some cases it can be available in a portable canister. With the wall mounted gas, the dosage and strength can be adjusted and controlled but usually won't be able to stretch to a birth suite's tub or shower. With the portable canister, it can be used for home birth and other alternative birth options. The portable mixture is 50:50 Nitrous and Oxygen so for some women it can be too much Nitrous and for others it isn't enough to help them with the pain. 

What are some of the Advantages of Nitrous Oxide for birth?

  • Allows a birthing mother to remain in control of their body during birth.
  • Using Nitrous places the patient more in control of their pain relief. 
  • It does not interfere with contractions and the natural progression of birth.
  • The effects are short term and research suggests it leaves no short term effects on mom or baby.
  • It can help women remain confident and more comfortable during labor. 

What are some of the Disadvantages of Nitrous Oxide for birth?

  • Nausea, headache or vomiting 
  • Not a guaranteed pain relief method.
  • Some women feel disoriented, confused or drowsy. 
  • The oxygen mask can make some patients feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic.
  • Any long term side effects are unclear.

Birth Centers Offering Nitrous Oxide for Birth in the Kentucky Area

While Nitrous Oxide isn't new in the medical or birth world, there aren't many birth locations that currently offer Nitrous as a pain management option for birth. In the greater Kentucky area, Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany, IN, Clark Memorial in Jeffersonville, IN University of Louisville in Louisville, KY are the only locations that it is optional for laboring parents. 

The choice is yours.

Whether you're researching pain management solutions or choosing a natural birth, finding preferences that make your birth more comfortable and rewarding. It's your birth so feel empowered to make the decisions that keep you feeling confident.