In America, women get only two choices for pain relief if they decide going au natural isn’t cutting it. They can use narcotic medication that may or may not take the edge off, but can only be used for a limited number of doses and not close to delivery because narcotics impair babies. Or, they can get an epidural. That’s about it.
In most of the rest of the developed world (which, not coincidentally, has far better maternal and newborn health outcomes than we do) women have a third choice: Nitrous oxide.
I attended the Nashville conference of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) this week. One session featured increased availability of Nitrous oxide in American delivery rooms. For many nurses, this was brand new information. For others, there was resistance because it’s different, unfamiliar and, they thought, untested. But considering that 49 other countries have better maternal health outcomes than the US, many American nurses are eager to hear alternatives.
Michelle Collins PhD, CNM Associate Professor of Nursing, Director, Nurse-Midwifery Program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing explained how the gas and oxygen mixture is used, it’s safety record, its long history as an effective analgesic in hospitals all over the world, it’s affordability, ease of use and a little about the reason why it’s not readily available here in the US-namely, resistance by American anesthesiologists who prefer that American women use epidurals. Fact is, since nitrous oxide is patient-controlled, it kind of cuts out the middle-man (anesthesiologists) and restricts women’s dependence on epidurals.
While nitrous oxide doesn’t provide complete relief the way epidurals often do, it does provide effective pain relief that can be used throughout the entire labor and delivery without negative impacts on the baby.
When you watch the two videos above, you’ll see that nitrous oxide made the difference between guys losing their minds and guys calmly doing the job that had to be done. You watch and decide if Nitrous oxide is something you might want to try and if so, tell your doctor and hospital to bring on the gas.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and children. And co-author of, The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Birthing Plan for a Safe, Less Painful, and Successful Delivery for You and Your Baby. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to email@example.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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