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Common Birthing Injury – The Epidural Alternative

The intense pain of childbirth is handled in a variety of ways. From the holistic approach of deep breathing and meditation to the medical administering of an epidural, the American health system uses a number of different methods to help women through the challenge of labor and delivery. However, one widely used alternative in European countries is gaining ground in the United States. Nitrous oxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is commonly found in your local dentist office. According to a report in The Atlantic, domestic hospitals are increasingly considering its use for women.

Laughing gas, as it is often called, allows women in labor to experience a feeling of calm and relaxation. The substance is currently used in Finland and Canada, as well as Australia and the United Kingdom. As stated in the article, it has been in use for generations within these countries. However, as of 2011, only one percent of American hospitals were reportedly using it. According to the article’s authors, its usage never “caught on in the U.S.” But that seems to be changing as the number of hospitals using the gas continues to grow. The report states that 19 hospitals and 14 birthing centers are currently preparing to offer laughing gas to their birthing mothers.

How the Process Works

In the delivery room, the expectant mother is given the gas by face mask or mouthpiece. Right before a contraction, she will inhale deeply and take in a good dosage. Within 30 seconds, the effects of the laughing gas are felt. Elizabeth Kester is a registered nurse with the Women and Children’s Health Services at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire. This was the first New England medical center to expectant mothers nitrous oxide. She is quoted in the article as stating, “If a woman uses nitrous she’ll say ‘I feel pain,’ but, she’ll say, ‘I just don’t really care.”

One of the attractive aspects of the laughing gas is that it reportedly gives women some control over their pain management. “If a woman doesn’t like the way she’s feeling with the gas, she can just take off the mask and it’s gone,” Kester says. “With narcotics or an epidural if a woman doesn’t like the way it feels, she kind of out of luck.”

Effects on the Baby

According to the article, the widespread professional opinion is that nitrous oxide presents no danger for the baby, because it is taken into the mother’s lungs. While it does move through the placenta, it is reportedly removed as soon as the mother takes in a breath of fresh air. However, recent studies on lab rats reportedly show a link between gas exposure in utero and long term neurological effects. Though the doses used in the study far exceed what a pregnant woman would generally receive, it still raises a question of safety that should not go ignored.

If you or your baby was injured from the administration of pain medication during delivery, contact birth injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti today.

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