Use of Nitrous Oxide During Labor

Use of Nitrous Oxide During Labor

Birthing individuals around the Triangle are beginning to take notice of the Nitrous Oxide as that is available to them in their birthing rooms as a comfort measure during labor, both at hospitals and birth centers alike. The use of nitrous is wonderful during labor as it gives the control of when and how to receive it completely up to you. You simply inhale the gas through a mask on an as-needed frequency. Unlike receiving an epidural, you can discontinue the use of the pain management drug as needed. Furthermore, unlike the IV medications (opioids) that can be given, nitrous is much more effective in reducing pain felt by the laboring person. 

What Exactly is Nitrous Gas?

The Nitrous gas, or more commonly known at laughing gas, that pregnant individuals are given while in labor is a mixture of nitrous and oxygen gas. The birthing person takes a breath into the face mask on as-needed basis to receive a bit of euphoric moment that “helps you sort of forget about the pain for a little bit” (Gourlay). We often say that childbirth is much as mental as it is physical, so that nitrous is able to relax your mind at the peak of a contractions. 

There is a technique to breathing both through the contractions as well as maximizing the effects of the nitrous is something that needs practicing, and most of our clients find it easy to plan to breath in the nitrous about 15 seconds or so prior to the peak of the contraction to receive the maximum benefit. The benefits of the gas are felt from 15-30 seconds for most people. 

Safety of Nitrous During Labor

Nitrous gas is considered very safe for birthing individuals and their babies. However, you should always confirm that nitrous gas is recommended with your specific health history. Leading researchers are finding that not only is it a safe and effective tool for coping with labor, it also “does not interfere with the release and function of endogenous oxytocin, and has no adverse effects on the normal physiology and progress of labor” (Rooks, 557). 

Furthermore, the impacts of the nitrous gas are minimally felt on your baby, both still in utero and once born, which is a great relief to new parents when thinking about pain management tools and the effects they may have on their newborns. “While the gas does pass the placenta, it has been deemed safe for babies, fetuses and neonates. Studies have consistently found no negative effects on Apgar or neonatal-neurobehavioral scores of neonates exposed to N2O while being born, whether the mother had used it for only 5 minutes or 5 hours” (561)

Benefits of Nitrous

  • Can be discontinued at any time, and within five minutes all traces are the gas are out the birthing person’s blood stream (Nitrous Oxide for Labor Analgesia)
  • Safe for birthing person, fetus, and neonate (Rook, 557)
  • It does not interfere with the release of labor stimulate hormones such as oxytocin (557
  • Significantly cheaper than receiving an epidural (Gourlay)

Where is Nitrous gas available during labor in the Triangle?

Many of the area hospitals and birth centers have nitrous available for use during labor. You should always check with your medical team if nitrous is safe for you. 

The following are birth centers that offer nitrous gas:

  • Women’s Birth and Wellness Center
  • Baby+Company 

The following hospitals offer nitrous gas in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill:

  • NC Women’s Hospital 
  • WakeMed Raleigh
  • WakeMed North
  • WakeMed Cary
  • REX Hospital

We hope this been helpful while considering the use of Nitrous gas as one of your comfort measures during labor. Please note: we are not medically professionals, so this only for informational purposes and you should always consult your medical team. 




Gourlay, Kristin. “Laughing Gas Gives Women Another Option To Manage Labor Pain.” NPR, NPR, 7 Nov. 2016,

Nitrous Oxide for Labor Analgesia, American College of Nurse-Midwives—Division of Standards and Practice. Maryland: August 2011. Web.

Rooks, Judith P. “Safety and Risks of Nitrous Oxide Labor Analgesia: A Review.” Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, vol. 56, no. 6, 2011, pp. 557–565., doi:10.1111/j.1542-2011.2011.00122.x.