According to a new study, laughing gas (nitrous oxide) has been found effective at managing labor pain in some women, with no side effects observed in the baby; however, more than half of the women preferred epidural or other methods to manage pain.
The study was presented at the annual conference of Anesthesiology.
Lead study author and anesthesiologist Dr. Barbara Orlando said, “Our research is one of the first large retrospective studies done in the U.S., in five large university hospitals, on the use of nitrous oxide in the labor and delivery unit.”
“Although nitrous oxide did not prevent women in labor from requesting other pain management options like an epidural, we received positive feedback from patients who said they like laughing gas as an option to manage their pain,” explained Dr. Orlando.
When it comes to managing labor pain, there are several options – such as epidurals, intravenous painkillers, and alternative methods like deep breathing, massage, and even nitrous oxide.
Laughing gas is commonly used in Australia and Europe to manage labor pain. In the United States, it has recently gained some popularity.
Nitrous oxide is an anesthetic gas that is inhaled to help reduce anxiety and subside the pain. However, it does not eradicate it completely.
Epidural is one of the most commonly used pain-relief techniques during labor, as it subsides pain in the lower half of the body, which allows the laboring mother to stay awake and alert during delivery.
The study looked at the medical records of more than 1,900 women who used laughing gas during labor from 2016 to 2018. Researchers noted that only 850 of the patients were satisfied with the use of laughing gas, with a satisfaction rate of 7.4 out of 10. They also found that nitrous oxide was safe for the newborns.
Dr. Orlando said, “Nitrous oxide is easy for patients to use, relatively inexpensive, and will attract more patients looking for a birthing center, or more homelike type of delivery experience.” “The high patient satisfaction rate and safety profile that we found should motivate other institutions nationwide to offer nitrous oxide as a pain management option to women in labor,” added the lead study author.