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Laughing Gas For Labor Is No Laughing Matter

MIAMI (CBS4) – Many women in labor ask for some type of pain relief.

But would you believe laughing gas?

Nitrous oxide has been used for years in dental offices to control pain and relieve anxiety. Now it's becoming more available to women giving birth.

"It's really about having more choices, more low tech, more less invasive options for pain relief," said professional midwife professor Judith Bishop.

Bishop said nitrous is a safe option for women seeking an alternative to epidurals or narcotics.

"Nitrous, unlike narcotics, doesn't build up in the baby. It doesn't build up in mom. It's a quick on, quick off," said Bishop.

However, it is not a pain killer.

"It just takes them to a place where they can handle the pain they feel good about their experience," said Bishop.

"I felt that way, sort of like in a cloud," said new mom "Shawna" who did not want an epidural or drugs.

After 18 hours of intense labor, she gave nitrous a try.

"I think it helped me a lot just in terms of feeling more relaxed," said Shawna.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Jennifer Lucero said unlike other options, nitrous can be used at any time.

"They can use the nitrous when they want it and not use it when they don't. They're able to walk around," said Lucero.

The use of nitrous oxide is far more popular in the United Kingdom where it is used by 60 percent of women in labor. Nitrous is also common in Australia, Finland and Canada where approximately half of the women in labor used it.

It has been used for several decades with "good safety outcomes" for both mother and child, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

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