Brigham and Women’s Hospital Will Offer Laughing Gas During Labor

Patients report that although they can still feel the pain, they just 'don't care' about it as much.

Just a couple of years ago, only a few hospitals in the U.S. were offering laughing gas in birthing rooms, even though it’s widely used throughout the world. In fact, according to a recent article in Slate, many women—in some cases more than 50 percent—in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and Scandinavia use laughing gas (nitrous oxide) during labor. But the U.S. has been slow to catch on, until now.

Starting August 5, Brigham and Women’s Hospital will become the first hospital in Boston, and only one of a dozen or so in the nation (there was only a handful just a year ago) to offer nitrous oxide in birthing rooms.

Because the gas is naturally occurring and does not build up in the system, those who want to have a “natural childbirth” can still use nitrous oxide as means to take the edge off. Patients simply inhale the gas before a contraction.

Elizabeth Kester, a registered nurse who manages the Women and Children’s Health Services at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire, which was the first hospital in New England to offer the gas during labor, told the Atlantic:

“If a woman uses nitrous she’ll say ‘I feel pain,’ but, she’ll say, ‘I just don’t really care.” That ambivalence, is due to the dissociative effect of the gas, Kester says.

“If a woman doesn’t like the way she’s feeling with the gas, she can just take off the mask and it’s gone,” Kester says. “With narcotics or an epidural if a woman doesn’t like the way it feels, she kind of out of luck.”

Below, a video explaining exactly how it works: