Can you have a natural birth and use Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous Oxide Twin Cities

I’ve had this blog post tumbling through my head most of the week, and so it needs to be written so my brain can start processing other things…like different blog posts.

So, I don’t know if you know this, but we’re really lucky to have some of the things we do in the Twin Cities. Within the next week or so, almost all of the the hospitals in the area will have nitrous oxide as an option (Although it looks like the wait will be a number of months for St. John’s and Woodwinds), and I’m pretty certain that all of the birth centers have it available. Do you know how rare that is in the US? I know it’s popped up a couple of other places, but not in the widespread availability we have here. Ever since it first showed up as an option, I’ve been including it in our discussions of pain medication and interventions in classes, discussing the pros and cons. It is a medication, after all. But…..

Philosophically to ME anyway, using nitrous just doesn’t seem to be on the same plane as narcotics or epidurals. It doesn’t have any meaningful long term effects on mom or baby within a minute or two of not using the nitrous. It doesn’t involve restrictions on labor beyond the mom having to be the only one touching the mask and she must administer it herself. And the analgesic effects are only felt with active use, meaning a mom must actively breathe it in. The risks are low, the benefits are high, a mom can use it off and on throughout her labor as needed. It doesn’t work for everyone, though, and not everyone likes it.

You know what it reminds me of? Hydrotherapy, i.e. soaking in a tub or using a shower. The ease of use is about the same, the risks are low for both, you’ll still find providers actively against the practice. (ha!)

What worries me is that, as more people use nitrous for their labors and births, that this option– which was first embraced locally by birth center midwives– becomes another thing for “natural birth” proponents to place into the “bad” category. First of all, I’m not sure on any given day what people are labeling as “natural” (vaginal?), but the process of making decisions for birth isn’t a binary one. Things aren’t either good or bad. Pitocin isn’t inherently bad. Epidurals aren’t inherently bad. You can’t make decisions about birth that way. Birth and the process of making decisions IS a continuum. It’s always best to start from the place of the normal biological process of birth and then build in an understanding of where interventions, including pain management options, fall on that line. However, I’m concerned that parents aren’t choosing to take birth classes that help them understand the full scope and use, opting instead to take classes with little to no actual content, but endorsed by the hospital, or to take a class that does lean heavily on labeling certain interventions “bad”.

Using nitrous oxide is on one end of the pain management spectrum. Epidurals are on the other end. Both totally have their place in this world. As nitrous becomes an option everywhere and more families are informed about their pain management options, I’ll be interested to see how it ends up being labeled in the good/bad universe of birth options. For now, I’m going to very loudly and very firmly hold it as an option that may work for some people, that is fast acting, and has very few side effects when used properly…just like hydrotherapy.

That’s what I have for today. Thanks for listening.

Warmly,

Veronica

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.

5 things that $800 stroller can’t do

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photo credit: stobor via photopin cc

OK, so I have a confession: I’m sure he’s  REALLY nice guy, but….I’m not a fan of The Baby Guy. The baby gear industry racks up 50 BILLION dollars worth of sales every single year. Fifty BILLION dollars. As the NYT times review on this book about the baby gear industry points out, this is an industry that preys on parents fears and anxieties, with ever-skyrocketing prices that all sell the illusion that the right products are NECESSARY to make it through pregnancy and postpartum.

I’m not trying to shame anyone. Hey, any industry that makes billions of dollars is really hard for anyone to compete with. And like I said, Jamie Grayson is, I’m sure, a perfectly nice guy, but you have to stop for a moment and wonder what exactly you’re hoping to get from his advice. What specific things do you hope to gain from only having the priciest gear piling up in the nursery? Beyond the gorgeous articles and glowing reviews telling you that you MUST HAVE THIS STROLLER AND THESE VIEWS, there are a few things I want to point out:

1) The $800 stroller can’t help you learn how to have a safe and healthy birth and help you find a care provider and birth place you are happy with

2) The $800 stroller can’t support you at home during early labor

3) The $800 stroller can’t help you with breastfeeding

4) The $800 stroller can’t help you recognize the signs of postpartum depression or anxiety and then refer you to qualified help

5) The $800 stroller can’t come over to your house, make meals for you, clean your house, and answer your questions about how to take care of your baby

So, I invite you think about where you put your dollars. How much will you actually gain from those items you scan in the baby store onto your registry? I’ve been there too–with baby #1, I made sure we had all the STUFF (though 9 years ago there wasn’t as much stuff as there is now); by baby #2, I went and got a couple of not-pink sheets, maybe a new changing table cover, a few lap pads–and that was it. Everything else was unnecessary.

What DOES help with the fear, the anxiety, and the uncertainty?

1) Take evidence-based childbirth classes

2) Hire a birth doula (remember, a doula isn’t a substitute for childbirth education)

3) Take breastfeeding classes and find a breastfeeding support group

4) Make sure to be open with a loved one or friend if you feel like you’re experiencing anxiety and depression, and know help is out there

5) Consider hiring a postpartum doula

You know, believe it or not, you can put THOSE things on your baby registry. Ask for money to pay for doulas and classes. I’m sure Pinterest has some ideas for cute things people can do to gift you these services.  And while the expensive stroller looks impressive, navigating pregnancy, birth, and beyond takes more than things– it takes actual support.

If you want to see a sensible list of what you should put on your baby registry, head on over here and find my FREE checklist.  It’ll get the piles of presents under control.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!

Warmly,

Veronica

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.