Laughing Gas For Labor Pain

Don't laugh: nitrous oxide could take the edge off the pain.

Laughing Gas For Labor Pain

Before giving birth, I was terrified of anything related to labor. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced that the baby was going to come out the way they said she was. After doing some homework, a graphic documentary and three months of childbirth classes, I determined that I wanted to have an intervention-free delivery. I felt like my best bet was to be as well-informed and in control as possible. Unfortunately, the pain relief options available to me (Demerol and the infamous epidural) didn’t seem like they would leave me in control. Little did I know, nitrous oxide, the pain reliever that we associate most with dentist visits, could have helped.


The treatment, which has a two-hundred-year history in Europe, was also used in the United States early in the 20th century. But it was quickly replaced by more potent analgesia. Nitrous oxide -- also known as laughing gas -- is now making a resurgence in the U.S. as an option to manage pain during labor and is currently available in only about a dozen hospitals and birthing centers nationwide. Before you start humming the music from “Little Shop of Horrors,” though, you should know that although it’s the same gas that you get your cavities taken care of, it’s delivered in a strict ratio of 50% oxygen, 50% nitrous oxide, according to Drs. George Mussalli and Jaqueline Worth of Village Obstetrics. This regulation means that you won’t be singing any show tunes — and you can actually administer it yourself.

Using a mask similar to the ones used for asthma treatments, laboring mothers can inhale at will. It’s very different from the “all-or-nothing” approach that the epidural and Demerol provide. With either of the standard pain relief options, patients often worry about things like “is it too early in my labor to get pain relief? Is it too late? What if I have a bad reaction to it?” Nitrous oxide has the benefit of being available at any point in labor, even after you deliver the baby. That means that you can have something to distract you from the post-delivery cleanup, stitches, and that fundal massage.

Leaving someone who's in pain in charge of their own pain relief sounds worrisome. So is it possible to overdo it? Dr. Mussalli asserts that it's not. “You have to create a very tight seal with the mask,” he said. “If you’re too groggy, you won’t be able to hold the mask. It’s kind of its own fail-safe.”

Nitrous oxide also addresses some of the other concerns parents often have around the use of narcotics and anesthesia during labor. The substance leaves the mother’s system fairly quickly and seems to have no impact on the baby’s heart rate or APGAR scores. The side effects also seem to be mild, with patients rarely reporting adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting and unsteadiness. Dr. Mussalli stated that given the relatively flexible nature of this particular pain relief option, it would be an ideal way to soothe patients with anxiety, fear of needles and those who were waiting for their window to receive an epidural.

If this seems like an option that you’d be interested in pursuing, Drs. Mussalli and Worth advise you to talk to your midwife about it early in your prenatal care. “It’s not widely available,” Mussalli said. “However, the equipment and the gas are not very expensive for the hospital to obtain.” It’s also not an expensive option for the patient, with the service frequently being offered at no cost or billed directly to insurance.

Personally, I loved the feeling of accomplishment that I got from having an unmedicated labor, and I would want to do so again. However, I would definitely want my hospital to have this available. I didn’t feel like I had a viable option for pain relief that would minimize the impact on myself and my baby, and so the harder labor got, the more afraid I felt that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I love the idea of having an option that’s totally under my control, and one that would empower more mothers to take the reins in their care.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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