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Nitrous Oxide

About Nitrous Oxide

Your comfort is an important part of your care. Your health care team wants to make you as comfortable as possible, but pain is personal and individual – each person feels pain, and its relief, in different ways. Women & Infants Hospital is pleased to offer nitrous oxide for pain management during labor and delivery.  

Benefits and advantages  

  • Self-administered
  • Easy to use
  • Fast acting
  • Quick recovery 
  • Does not interfere with labor, your ability to push, or breastfeeding 

Learn About Our Birth Partnership

What is nitrous oxide?  

Nitrous oxide is a gas. Most people know it as “laughing gas” and are familiar with it as being widely used in dental offices. When used for labor pain, the gas is a mixture of 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen that is inhaled through a mask.  

Is nitrous oxide safe? 

Nitrous oxide is considered safe for mom and baby.  

Does nitrous oxide have any side effects?  

Some women do report nausea or dizziness, but taking a few deep breaths of room air will quickly eliminate these effects.  

How will I feel when using nitrous oxide?  

Each patient has a different experience when using nitrous oxide. Most women say that nitrous oxide helps “take the edge off” of the contractions and allows them to better cope with labor. Some also report more pain relief. Nitrous oxide does generally help in lowering anxiety, which can also help you better cope with pain.  

Can I still be out of bed and use nitrous oxide?  

Yes. As long as you are steady on your feet, you may be up and about in your room with the assistance of a labor support person while using nitrous.  

Is there any extra monitoring required?  

No. There is no extra monitoring required for nitrous to be used.  

Are there any effects on the baby? No. There are no known effects on the baby. Nitrous is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs, so as soon as you pull the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within a breath or two. 

Do I have to choose between either using nitrous oxide OR having an epidural? 

 No. You do not have to choose between using nitrous oxide and getting an epidural. Nitrous oxide is just one option that reduces pain and relieves anxiety. For some women, it may be all they need, especially since it can be used during any stage of labor. But if you reach a point during your labor that you would like an epidural, you may choose that option as well.  

Who administers the nitrous oxide?

You do! Nitrous oxide is self-administered, so you will breathe it in as you feel the need.  

When do I administer the nitrous oxide?  

Nitrous oxide is most effective if it is inhaled before a contraction begins. This helps the gas reach its peak effect at about the same time as the contraction reaches its peak, providing the greatest relief. You will hold your own mask and begin to inhale the gas mixture about 30 seconds before a contraction begins.  

Who CANNOT use nitrous oxide?  

People who cannot hold their own face mask, have a known vitamin B12 deficiency, or have received a dose of narcotic in the past two hours cannot use nitrous oxide.  

What should I do if I want to use nitrous oxide in labor and delivery?  

First, speak with your obstetric provider to be sure there are no other medical conditions, risks, or concerns. Then, add your request to your Birth Partnership (see Our Birth Partnership section for downloadable pdf) and tell your nurse when you arrive at Women & Infants Hospital on the day of delivery.