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Birth is No Laughing Matter: On Laughing Gas as Pain Relief During Birth

Birth is No Laughing Matter: On Laughing Gas as Pain Relief During Birth

“Can you get gas and air at the hospital here?” is a question I am often asked during talks with clients from the UK. ‘Gas and air’ is actually a mixture of laughing gas and oxygen, which is offered to birthing women in hospitals across Great Britain, in order to ease labour pain. In Germany laughing gas is still only used in a few hospitals but seems to be slowly making a comeback, thanks to some forward-thinking medical practitioners.

Nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen is probably more commonly known from dentistry, but the anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) properties make it optimal for use during birth (and this has been known and practised for over 100 years already in other countries). A fixed 50:50 mixture of oxygen and laughing gas is administered via a breathing mask or a mouthpiece, giving the birthing woman control over the dose in terms of how deep she inhales (i.e. the deeper the inhalation, the stronger the dose).

According to multiple studies (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00129-013-3134-x), laughing gas has no proven negative side effects- not on the baby, nor on the birthing woman. Under the guidance of a doctor or midwife, it is easy to use and the effects of the drug disappear quickly and have no influence on labour.

I was offered ‘gas and air’ during the birth of my second child in Berlin. However, I had heard that a side-effect is vomiting and therefore turned it down. Whilst it’s true that nausea and vomiting are well-known side-effects of laughing gas, together with dizziness, light-headedness and euphoria, these side-effects disappear quickly once the woman stops inhaling.

Pain often has people doubled up and tense all over: Not a good state to be in during birth, which requires a woman to be relaxed and in a position to allow her neocortex (or thinking brain) to ‘switch off’. As an anxiety-reducing therapy, laughing gas is optimal because it does not interrupt the course of the birth and simply takes the edge off contractions. Where labour is taking a little longer, this type of therapy can allow the labouring mother to relax a little and cope with contractions over a longer time period. Also where the labour is shorter than expected, laughing gas can be utilized in placed of an epidural and even in the final, pushing phase can be highly effective.

The head of obstetrics in a popular Berlin hospital has reported that the acceptance of laughing gas during birth has been positive. He hopes that through the use of laughing gas therapy, the c-section rate can be reduced (in particular caesarean section due to failure to progress), since in using laughing gas women are generally more relaxed and as a result the birth progresses better.

In Berlin, laughing gas is used as a pain management therapy in e.g. Urban hospital, VivantesNeukölln and St. Joseph. It’s therefore definitely worth asking at the clinic of your choice regarding the possibility to use this method of pain relief. We have even heard that laughing gas is even available in different flavours- strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla!

What flavour would you choose? Do you have experience with laughing gas? We would love to hear your thoughts.

2 Comments
  1. Ich weiß gar nicht so recht, ob das hier in diesen Artikel reinpasst, ich schreib schreibe es einfach mal hier rein. An dieser Stelle erst mal vielen Dank für die vielen wertvollen Informationen, die man in diesem Beitrag / Blog finden kann. Das Internet ist ja voll mit Informationen zum Thema Schwangerschaft bzw. Leben mit Kindern und leider lassen sich viele werdende oder gerade gewordene Mütter gerade beim ersten Kind total irre machen. Da ich selber einen Sohn habe, weiß ich nur zu gut, wie ein Kind das Leben schlagartig verändert, bzw. auf was man jetzt zusätzlich noch alles achten muss, gerade was das Leben in der Familie angeht. Wie gesagt, Daumen hoch für den Blogbetreiber / Blogbetreiberin, für die Zeit bzw. Arbeit, die hier investiert wird. Gerade wenn man Kinder hat, ist es schon ein Kunststück sich für sowas Zeit zu nehmen. Liebe Grüße

  2. Danke für die guten Informationen zur Schmerztherapie. Die Erfahrungsberichte dazu würden mich auch interessieren. Eine Bekannte, die bald entbindet wird es vielleicht versuchen.

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