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Laughing Gas For Birthing Mothers? [Click to read more]

By Naomi Rendina for M.O.M.
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Recently, the use nitrous oxide in the delivery room has been questioned and even projected as the “next big thing” in American obstetrics. What many people are failing to recognize is that nitrous oxide has had a presence in the delivery room in the US before, and it failed to catch on. Starting in the 1880s, analgesics like chloroform or ether, were used to help take of the edge and anxieties of the birthing process. It was followed by the introduction of scopolamine, which completely knocked out a birthing woman, leaving her with no memories of her experience. By the 1950s, women were overly medicated in their birth experiences, and a backlash against the medicalization of childbirth began.

It seems as though American women are interested in the idea of laughing gas in labor. The skeptics believe the nitrous harms the baby, when, in fact, it takes one breath of room air to clear mother and fetus of nitrous. Some women find it silly that the analgesic that we’re most accustomed to in the dentist’s chair has potential in the birthing room. Other women are happy to see an alternative to pain management that is minimal, and low-risk.

The Atlantic ran an article recently, as did Slate, talking about nitrous in the delivery room.

For more information on the use of anesthesias and analgesics in the delivery room over the last 120 years or so, please see Jacqueline Wolf, Deliver Me From Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America.34712

Do you think that re-introducing nitrous (or another inhaled analgesic) into the delivery room is a good idea? Do you think it would facilitate a movement towards more natural, de-medicalized births?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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