Lucky Moms In Boston Hospital Get Laughing Gas During Labor
Boston’s Brigham and Womenâ€™s Hospital started offering nitrous oxide or â€œlaughing gasâ€ to women in labor for pain management this week and I fully admit that I am jealous, because I wish this had been an option when I was pregnant.
The application of the gas is simple. The laughing gas is controlled by the patient as she inhales through a mask at the start of a contraction. The gas takes effect about thirty seconds after you breathe in and wears off about 30 seconds after the mask is removed, and the mask can be taken off in between contractions.
Laughing gas doesn’t completely block pain the way an epidural can, so it is unlikely that laughing gas will replace epidurals, but according to Dr. Bill Camann, director of obstetric anesthesia at Brigham and Womenâ€™s, it may be helpful for dealing with the earlier stages of labor and as labor progresses the patient can switch to an epidural if she wants to.
I really wish laughing gas had been an option when I gave birth. I consider myself to be strong and having suffered third degree burns I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance. But between the horror stories I heard from friends, unhelpful strangers and reality TV birthing shows I was really scared of having a painful labor. All those terror tales I heard about the epidural not taking effect in time or women being told it was too late to have an epidural worried me to the point that when my doctor asked me about my birthing plan, I asked for an epidural without giving it a second thought. In the end, the epidural worked almost too well- I couldn’t feel anything. It was so effective that I couldn’t even feel my contractions, and after three hours of pushing with no movement, my twins were born via c-section.
While obviously I am thrilled that my children were born healthy, there is a part of me that is unhappy with my labor story. I can’t help but wonder if I could have avoided the c-section had I not had the epidural. Perhaps if laughing gas had been an option during my pregnancy, I would have realized the pain was manageable and I could have had my babies vaginally.
I’ve talked with other moms who are unhappy with their own birthing stories and a common frustration that I relate to is the feeling that you weren’t in control of what was happening. Because epidurals block sensation to your lower half, once you have one you’re confined to the bed. Having a laughing gas mask which can be removed and grants the freedom to walk around, sit or use a birthing ball could be helpful for women like me who feel less anxious when they have autonomy.
I’m done having kids, but if I wasn’t, I would definitely want to explore laughing gas as an option for pain management during labor.