Laughing Gas for Labor Pain

A popular option to help manage pain during childbirth in other countries gains traction in the U.S.
Karin Heineman, Executive Producer

(Inside Science) -- Nitrous oxide is more commonly known as “laughing gas” sometimes given at the dentist’s office to help alleviate some pain and anxiety. But what about for a mother giving birth? It’s been used in Europe for many years as an option for soon-to-be moms.

Barbara Orlando, M.D., one of the lead authors of a study and assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, has been researching the use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to manage labor pain. Nitrous oxide is an inhaled anesthetic gas that doesn’t necessarily eliminate labor pain but has been shown to help reduce anxiety and make patients less aware of pain.

Researchers say laughing gas does not affect the baby, based on Apgar scores, which are an assessment of a newborn’s overall condition and health one minute and five minutes after birth. The number ranges from zero to 10, with scores of seven to 10 considered healthy.

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Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.