Nitrous oxide is the most common method of pain relief in connection with childbirth. It is rapidly effective, without limiting the mother's mobility during delivery and quickly disappears from the body. Nitrous oxide can be combined with all other forms of pain relief.
There are no known adverse effects on breathing, circulation, labour or other bodily functions. Nor are there any known adverse effects for the child. Nitrous oxide is, furthermore, the only medication-based method of pain relief over which the woman herself has control.
Childbirth pain is different from other types of pain. It gives a positive signal that delivery is progressing and that the baby is on its way. The pain does not come suddenly. It comes gradually, increases in intensity and fades away. The rhythm of labour helps the women to become accustomed to the pain, to learn how to cope with it on her own.
Methods of pain relief
Methods of pain relief are usually divided into natural and medical methods. The natural ones mean that the body's own pain-relieving systems are utilised. The body is stimulated to produce various pain-relieving substances, including endorphins (the body's own morphine). The pain can also be inhibited by other nerve impulses being stimulated, for example through heat, small electrical impulses (TENS) or injections (sterile water). The natural pain relief methods generally provide the best relief at the start of the dilation stage.
Nitrous oxide is one of the generally acting methods of pain relief, but unlike morphine-like products the supply is controlled by the woman herself.
A mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is inhaled through a face mask, nasal cannula or mouthpiece. A common concentration is 50-70% nitrous oxide in oxygen, but the concentration can be regulated according to need. Linde Healthcare's equipment VENTYO®, for example, is intended for this purpose.
The nitrous oxide is taken up in the blood on inhalation. The gas is carried with the blood circulation to the organs of the body that receive and pass on pain impulses and exercise their effect there. The pain-relieving effect is felt after just five to six breaths. It decreases rapidly when breathing in the mask stops.