Mountain Midwifery Center in Englewood, Colo., recently became the first facility in the state to offer nitrous oxide to women in labor.
Commonly known as laughing gas, and often used as a pain and anxiety reliver during dental procedures, nitrous oxide, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a tasteless, odorless anesthetic and analgesic. While it will not completely alleviate pain, it may reduce stress during birth in women who choose not to receive an epidural.
Sixteen women have opted for the gas since it became available earlier this year, according to Mountain Midwifery Center. The availability of nitrous oxide aligns with the center's philosophy of freedom of movement, i.e. walking, sitting on a yoga ball or birthing stool, kneeling on the bed, hanging on a partner or birth rope and other positions, during labor.
While there is a fee for nitrous oxide that covers the cost of the gas, supplies and equipment, it is typically less expensive than an epidural, according to the center..
The American Pregnancy Association and American College of Nurse-Midwives support the use of nitrous oxide during labor. The gas was historically used before other, more effective forms of pain management became prevalent. It is safe for both the mother and fetus and does not affect breast milk.