Birthing options: 5 ways to give birth
Birth plan: Hospital birth with gas and air

Birth plan: Hospital birth with gas and air

Hospital birth with gas and air

Name: Hospital birth with gas and air

What it is and how it works: Entonox, aka gas and air (also known as laughing gas), is half oxygen and half nitrous oxide. While it doesn’t block out pain completely, it is known to have a soothing effect when inhaled during labour.

What are the benefits:
Gas and air is readily available, easy to use, fast-acting and controlled by the woman in labour. It only stays in your system as long as you are breathing it in, so any side effects stop as soon as your lungs clear out the Entonox.
It’s perfectly safe for your baby and doesn’t require extra monitoring, so you can combine it with other natural methods of pain relief (such as labouring in the water, for example).

What are the negatives:
Nitrous oxide can cause nausea, drowsiness and light-headedness.
It may take a while to get the hang of so that it’s most effective when needed most and using it for long periods may dry out the mouth. Finally, it is only a mild painkiller.

Are there cost implications?: No.

Available on private/NHS/both?: Yes.

Expert opinion/testimonial comment:

Caroline Flint, midwife, The Birth Centre
'It’s been used for many years and it’s what the vast majority of women go through and they manage perfectly well. It’s a bit basic and a bit bare [in the hospital] so it’s often a good idea to take a few pillows and maybe some music with you. Gas and air is pretty harmless but it’s also very useful for distancing you from the pain. It also gives the baby oxygen which is good as well.'

Dr. Pat O’Brien, obstetrician, University College London Hospitals
'You breathe it in during the contraction and it eases the pain a bit. If labour is going on for a long time, it can make you feel very sick and spaced out.'

Image © Stockbyte

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