General, Research, Technology

Sometimes “laughing gas” is used during childbirth: is it dangerous for babies and mothers?

According to the Federal State Statistics Service, in 2018 in our countryMore than 1.5 million babies were born. In the United States, this figure is even higher, and most mothers experience terrible pain at the time of birth. To facilitate this process, doctors offer expectant mothers various pain relief methods. In the United States, so-called epidural analgesia, which involves the introduction of painkillers into the spine, is very popular. In Russia, painkillers are administered intramuscularly or intravenously, but sometimes inhaled anesthetics are also used. Patients inhale a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen, fall into a slight intoxication and are distracted from pain. In the United States, this method has not been used since the mid-20th century, but now it is gaining popularity again. In this regard, scientists from the US state of Colorado decided to test its effectiveness and safety for newborns and mothers.

For the first time, labor pain relief was used in 1847 by obstetrician James Simpson. He gave women inhale different substances, but then it turned out that they often lead to suffocation of babies


  • 1 Pain during childbirth
  • 2 Anesthesia for childbirth
  • 3 What is laughing gas?
  • 4 nitrous oxide reviews

Birth pain

Pain during labor occurs in at least tworeasons. The main causes of pain are, of course, distention of the cervix and vagina, as well as rupture of soft tissues. Scientists also believe that during childbirth women experience the so-called "corticogenic pains" that occur in the cerebral cortex due to intense fear and stress.

The fact that the cerebral cortex plays an important role in the occurrence of pain sensations was announced in 1949 by the Soviet psychiatrist Ilya Velvovsky

In general, it is believed that during labordoes not perceive pain as an indicator of some kind of problem and over time, women forget about these horrors - apparently, this is how nature took care of the continuation of the human race. Therefore, the decision to anesthetize during childbirth is made individually and in some cases, expectant mothers do without anesthesia.

It sounds strange, but loud curses can be a good painkiller. This can be read in the material of my colleague Artem Sutyagin

Anesthesia for childbirth

As a rule, anesthesia during childbirth is used forsevere pain, which can lead to a violation of the woman’s breathing, premature fatigue and even death of the child due to lack of oxygen. There are three main methods of pain relief during childbirth: intravenous or intramuscular administration of anesthetics; blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain (epidural anesthesia); inhalation analgesia with a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen.

Nitrous oxide is often used in dentistry.

The first two methods have a number of contraindicationslike intolerance to some anesthetics, so they can be potentially dangerous for both the child and the mother. Before using them, a consultation with a doctor is mandatory, otherwise problems can hardly be avoided. But with inhalation anesthesia, things are much simpler - when you inhale a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen, a person experiences mild intoxication and drowsiness.

What is a laughing gas?

The so-called "laughing gas" has a weaknarcotic activity and it can be used in relatively large quantities. It also does not cause irritation of the airways and leaves the body through the airways about 5 minutes after the procedure is completed. Depending on the situation, inhalation is carried out constantly with breaks of 30-40 minutes, or in between contractions, so that by the next attack of pain the highest degree of analgesia is achieved.

My colleague Ilya Hel spoke about this method of pain relief in an article about 10 inventions of the industrial revolution

Laughing Gas has been used in medicine sinceXIX and already pretty well studied. However, in the 1950s, the United States began to use epidural anesthesia, which involves the introduction of anesthetics into the spine through a catheter and blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. According to Priscilla Nodine, MD, recently nitrous oxide has been used again in some US clinics, so researchers are curious how safe and effective it is.

Medical nitrous oxide can be effective in dentistry, but during labor it may not be enough

As for security, in fact, specialno doubt about it. Yes, “laughing gas” in its pure form can lead to a deficiency of vitamins, poor breathing, and even damage to the fetus. But for medical purposes, it is necessarily mixed with oxygen and passes through filters, so the entire negative effect from it almost completely disappears.

Nitrous oxide reviews

But here is the effectiveness of nitrous oxide in terms ofpain relief raises questions. Researchers from the state of Colorado conducted research work involving 463 women who chose inhaled pain relief as their primary method of anesthesia. According to the Journal of Midwifery & Womens Health, 69% of them asked for another type of anesthesia during the birth process - the epidural method, which blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Almost all of these women replied that they were forced to choose a different method of pain relief because of the weak “laughing gas” effect.

In some cases, anesthesia during childbirth is not used at all.

This is not particularly surprising, becauseduring childbirth, a mixture of 50% nitrous oxide and the same amount of oxygen is usually used. Such a concentration can relax women, but she is not able to completely relieve them of pain. It is noteworthy that women who survived a difficult birth almost always refused inhaled pain relief and chose something “more serious”.

In general, not only affects the severity of childbirthtechnical equipment of hospitals, but also the attitude of staff towards patients. During one of the sociological surveys, it was found that the poor attitude of doctors to expectant mothers greatly influenced the birth process, because women were very stressed.

If you are interested in the news of science and technology, subscribe to our Telegram channel. There you will find announcements of the latest news from our site!

Having a baby is very serious andresponsible process. With improper bearing in the development of the fetus, serious errors can occur, which have terrible consequences. For example, a girl with a second mouth was recently born in the United States. Fortunately, the problem was solved surgically. How this happened, read in our material.