Is Using Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief During Labor Safe?

Can you tell me more about using nitrous for pain control during labor? I found out that lots of people use it in the UK but I can’t find any hospital around me that offers it. What’s the deal? Is it not safe?

—Sarah B.


Hospitals in the U.S. are beginning to have nitrous oxide available to women for pain relief during labor and birth. It is unfortunate that this option is not currently available in all hospitals and birth centers in the U.S. The experience of labor pain differs among women, and the response to pain is highly individual. Evidence supports the use of nitrous oxide for labor and birth. While nitrous oxide is not without side effects and will not be agreeable to or effective for every woman in labor, it is an inexpensive, simple, reasonably safe, and effective way to relieve pain in labor. Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and Certified midwives (CMs) believe that women should have access to a variety of approaches to promote comfort and reduce pain throughout labor. We hope this option will soon be available in more birth settings in the U.S.

Read more about the use of Nitrous Oxide in Labor in this document from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.


Answered by Eileen Ehudin Beard, CNM, FNP, MS, ACNM Senior Practice Advisor


Disclaimer: Ask a Midwife does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided by Ask a Midwife is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your midwife or other health care provider. If you believe you have a medical emergency, you should immediately call 911 or your health care provider.

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