One thing about using nitrous oxide during labor

I’ve long thought that dental work has parallels to obstetrics in that finding a good doctor (or midwife? What would a tooth midwife be?) in either category can mean the difference between being OK with your regular appointments or being intensely fearful of going in to have anything checked out. My mouth is what I jokingly call a “million dollar mouth” insofar as it’ll eventually cost me a million dollars to fix all of the issues with my teeth. The last 2 months I’ve had ongoing tooth pain with my top molar– first, a chipped filling that resulted in a crown prep, a CAT scan that revealed the root canal that was done 2 years ago wasn’t done correctly, TWO root canals to try to clear up a massive infection that was raging in the neglected canal, and all of that culminated in having the damn tooth pulled last Friday. Seriously. All that work and the stupid thing was fractured and couldn’t be saved.

While spending hours and hours in the dentists’ chairs, I’ve written a version of this blog post over and over in my head–the problem being that I was under the influence of nitrous oxide, so when I came to me senses, the brilliant blog posts left my head. HOWEVER….I did have a MAJOR ah-ha moment on Friday that I needed to share.

See, as more and more hospitals and birth centers add nitrous oxide as a pain management option, there’s one thing that may be obvious about using it, but it may not be very obvious to everyone. Nitrous oxide requires active participation by the user in order for it to work; epidurals and analgesics work systemically without the user actively doing anything to feel an effect.

Bottom line? If you’re using nitrous for labor pain and anxiety management, you gotta breathe it in. The best results happen when you focus all of your attention on breathing in the “gas and air” mixture. If you don’t breathe it in, you’re not going to feel anything significant.

You see, when they were getting ready for the extraction, I really wasn’t feeling the effects of the NO2; it turns out, I wasn’t really breathing much because I was so nervous. After the nurse pointed out I needed to focus on my breath, it look less than 30 seconds of deep breathing to feel the wave of relaxation rush over me.

I needed to breathe.

So I do know that the mixture of nitrous to oxygen used during labor is different, and unlike the cannula (see the first picture) used by dentist offices, moms self-administer the nitrous oxide via a mask (see the second picture) or a mouthpiece (an example is shown in the third picture), but my point still holds: If you’re going to give nitrous oxide a whirl, you’ve gotta actually breathe it in, or it won’t work.

Breathe on, people!



What do you think about this? Have you tried “gas and air” during your labor and birth?  Is it something you want to use? 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE
Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.


  1. says

    I am glad this is becoming more of an option for women in labor. Personally, I panic with how it makes me feel, and that isn’t something I would want to stir up while coping with birth. Great points, though, that must be considered.

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