Does laughing gas actually make you laugh

Birth: Less pain with nitrous oxide? | Eltern.de

Yes, contractions hurt a lot. But: The pain can be alleviated. For example with nitrous oxide. You can find out everything you need to know about the alternative to PDAs here.

Is it not long until the calculated due date of your baby? And your thoughts revolve more and more about how the birth will feel like? You know, of course, that contractions hurt a lot. And that's what you're a little scared of. Sure, there is the PDA. It takes the pain reliably, but it is also a medical intervention: an anesthetist inserts a hollow needle between two spinous processes of the spine and then pushes a narrow catheter into the epidural space (this is the area above the hard skin of the spinal cord, not the spinal cord itself ) in front. From there the anesthetic works. It attaches to the nerve fibers and prevents the pain from being passed on.

But what if you do not want this form of treatment or if it is not possible for medical reasons when your child is born? Are there any gentler ways to relieve pain?
Yes there is. For example with laughing gas. You may have heard of dentists using it during treatment to help their patients feel less pain and feel more relaxed. In fact, the pain reliever was also used in obstetrics until the 1970s. Back then, most delivery rooms were equipped with simple sockets. A hose with a mouthpiece could be connected to it, and the woman giving birth already had access to the anesthetic gas. However, problems with the mix ratio and the reputation of the party drug brought laughing gas into disrepute. The PDA prevailed as the most effective method of pain treatment and nitrous oxide faded into the background.
But in the last few years the gas has been found again more frequently in German delivery rooms. The reason: More and more women want their baby to be born as naturally as possible and reject an invasive procedure such as a PDA.

What is nitrous oxide anyway?

Laughing gas, also called nitrous oxide or N2O for short, has been used as a short-term anesthetic in medicine since the middle of the 19th century and is standard in many countries such as the USA, Canada and Great Britain. The advantage: It has a relaxing effect, is not toxic and leaves the body very quickly after the treatment.
In obstetrics, the slightly sweet-smelling gas is offered in the form of a solid mixture of 50 percent N2O and 50 percent oxygen for inhalation.

How is nitrous oxide used during childbirth?

The feeling of pain during childbirth differs from woman to woman. Some have unbearable contractions right from the start. Others only reach their limits at the end of the birth. The good thing: nitrous oxide can relieve pain and you can inhale it at any time during childbirth. Clinics that offer this treatment usually already have mobile devices for use. In contrast to the past, the gas-oxygen mixture is now already filled into pressure bottles. So if you decide to treat pain with nitrous oxide, midwives and doctors don't have to prepare a lot, relief is quickly in sight. You get a mask that you put over your mouth and nose and you can inhale the relaxing gas immediately. The effect starts after just a few breaths. The good thing: you stay mobile at all times when using laughing gas, unlike when giving birth with a PDA. This means that you can move around the delivery room as you want and as it is good for you.

Important: The effect of laughing gas starts approx. 30 seconds after the first inhalation. Therefore, it makes sense to start right at the beginning of the contraction.

How does nitrous oxide work during childbirth?

Another advantage of treatment with laughing gas: It only works as long as it is inhaled. If you take the mask off, the effects will wear off immediately after two to three breaths. Depending on how you feel, you can decide for yourself when and how much of the pain reliever you need to endure the contractions. It doesn't matter if you stop and see if you have enough strength again to endure the pain without anesthesia.
By the way: even if the gas mixture is referred to as laughing gas, it does not cause you to lie giggling on the floor during the birth. Instead, you perceive everything a little more subdued. Kind of like you're getting a little high. In addition to relieving pain, laughing gas also has an anxiolytic and relaxing effect - both of which are beneficial for the birth of your child.
Important: The gas cannot completely shut off the pain, but it reliably takes the pains out of the contractions. Another advantage: By inhaling and exhaling into a mask, you are a little more concentrated with yourself and your breathing. You probably don't even notice what else is going on in the delivery room, whether someone comes in or out.

Do I have to laugh when I inhale the gas?

Even if the name suggests it: No, you won't be laughing in the delivery room. There are different opinions about the origin of the designation. Most plausible, however, is the assumption that the name derives from the states of euphoria that arose when the gas mixture, which was previously dosed at a higher dose, was inhaled.

What are the risks and side effects for me?

As an anesthetic, nitrous oxide has almost no side effects. However, while taking it, you may experience mild euphoria or a feeling of drowsiness. Few women report nausea or dizziness. However, since the effect of laughing gas wears off immediately when it is no longer inhaled, long-term side effects are unlikely. In contrast to the past, the mixture is now available ready-made in pressure bottles. This eliminates errors in the application.

When can laughing gas not be used for pain relief?

Nitrous oxide for pain relief cannot be used if you have heart disease or are deficient in folic acid or vitamin B12.

Danger: Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in strict vegetarians. However, since the body needs the vitamin to break down the nitrous oxide in the body, it is better to talk to your midwife or doctor about it beforehand.

What is the risk to my baby?

According to the manufacturer of the gas-oxygen mixture, the baby remains unaffected due to the short half-life of the type of anesthetic. However, medical professionals expressed themselves much more cautiously in a joint statement by the German Society for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine (DGAI) and the German Society for Gynecology and Obstetrics (DGGG). They write: “The Apgar values ​​and neurophysiological test results of children whose mothers used nitrous oxide during childbirth do not differ significantly from those who were not exposed to nitrous oxide.” But: “It cannot currently be ruled out with sufficient certainty That laughing gas has the potential to harm mothers, newborns and staff. "

What are the advantages of nitrous oxide compared to a PDA?

  • Laughing gas works immediately. Just four to five breaths are enough to achieve the full effect.
  • You can decide for yourself when and how much nitrous oxide you want to inhale. To give up a contraction and feel whether it might not work without it? No problem!
  • In contrast to the PDA, you are still mobile and can move freely in the delivery room. If you want, you can even give birth on the birthing stool or in the bathtub.
  • You can still use nitrous oxide in the last phase of the birth. Midwives often quickly decline a PDA because the baby is usually already there by the time the anesthetist comes, has made his preparations and has placed the PDA.
  • The pain reliever has few or hardly any side effects and also has a calming effect.
  • You do not have to be given an injection or access to use it.
  • Due to the new pressure bottle systems, overdosing is not possible.

What are the disadvantages of laughing gas compared to a PDA?

  • The effect only lasts as long as you inhale the laughing gas. This means that you must hold a breathing mask over your mouth and nose during labor.
  • You are not pain-free while inhaling the gas. But: the contractions become more bearable.
  • Nitrous oxide should not be used for more than six hours to relieve pain.
  • Some women complain of nausea or dizziness when inhaling nitrous oxide. The symptoms subside immediately when the gas is no longer inhaled.

Where can I give birth with the help of laughing gas?

More and more clinics in Germany are offering pregnant women childbirth with nitrous oxide. If you are interested in this form of pain treatment, it is best to ask your gynecologist or midwife which clinic in the area offers this pain reliever. Or ask the staff on site at an information evening held by the hospital.


Are you still not sure whether laughing gas is the right pain treatment for you during childbirth? Would you like to know more about other mothers' experiences with it? Then ask the users in ourForum.


#Subjects