Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief During Labor

When it’s time to give birth, you want an experience that’s safe, and let’s face it, as comfortable as possible. At Grand View Health’s Birth & Family Center, we offer women many options for managing pain, including nitrous oxide, which can help women relax and lessen the anxiety experienced during labor, particularly during contractions.

What it is

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that’s sometimes called “laughing gas.” Studies show that nitrous oxide can provide effective pain relief while being safe for mothers, babies and healthcare providers, with no severe side effects.

Nitrous oxide is the only pain relief method used during labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs. At Grand View Health, we use a 50-50 blend of nitrous gas and oxygen.

How it works

One reason laboring moms choose nitrous oxide is because it gives them some control over the experience. If you choose nitrous oxide, you will receive a mask that you can firmly hold against your face without straps. You determine when it gives you the best result (before, during or after a contraction) and how much you receive by adjusting the depth and frequency of the breaths you take. The gas is only released when you inhale, and the effects of nitrous oxide will be gone within a few breaths once you pull the mask away. You can use nitrous oxide as needed throughout your labor experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be out of bed when using nitrous oxide?

Yes, as long as you are steady on your feet.

Are there any sides effects?

Some women report feeling drowsy, lightheaded, nauseous or a little silly while using nitrous oxide. Please report any of these possible side effects to your nurse immediately. Side effects should go away quickly when you stop breathing the nitrous oxide.

Will I need additional fetal monitoring if I use nitrous oxide?


Can I use nitrous oxide and have intravenous (IV) opioid medications at the same time?

No, this would require a different level of monitoring for both you and your baby.

What are the best times to use nitrous oxide?

You can use nitrous oxide at any time during labor or after delivery, while undergoing a painful procedure such as a perineal repair or removal of placenta. You can use the nitrous oxide throughout during labor and delivery.

Nitrous oxide or epidural? Do I have to choose?

You may choose to use nitrous oxide prior to an epidural or other IV pain medication. It is perfectly fine to use the nitrous oxide first, and then move on to a different type of pain management.

Who should NOT utilize nitrous oxide?
  • Cannot hold your own face mask
  • Have a known vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Have received an opioid IV pain medication within the past hour
  • Have other medical conditions identified by your doctor that place you at risk