Nitrous Oxide

What is it?


Nitrous oxide is a mixture of 50% nitrous and 50% oxygen gas used as an analgesic during labor and birth. An analgesic causes reduction and relief of pain, similar to the effect of taking Tylenol. An analgesic does not numb or take away sensation. Instead it helps with relaxation and relief. Anesthesia is a medication that causes the loss of sensation, such as the epidural used in childbirth. We do not have anesthesia available at our birth center.


Nitrous Oxide is used routinely for laboring and birthing women in the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2012 Nitrous Oxide machines became more readily available in the US, and it is growing in availability and popularity. We are currently the only local provider with this pain management option.

Laboring on the Ball
Laboring on the Ball

Used in a variety of positions within the center

Use in Tub
Use in Tub

Adds to the relaxation effect of the water birth

Patient Use
Patient Use

Patient use during labor contraction

Laboring on the Ball
Laboring on the Ball

Used in a variety of positions within the center

​Why choose Nitrous Oxide?

  • Effect of “taking the edge off” while still alert and participating in the labor.

  • Lowers anxiety and eases muscle tension during contractions and birth.

  • Does not stall or slow labor progress.

  • No effects to the baby.

  • You are in control! By administering it yourself you maintain complete motor and sensory function.

  • Does NOT require further interventions. No IV or continuous monitoring required.

  • Quick, easy onset of relief with rapid return to normal.

  • Available postpartum to give pain relief during perineal repair.

Photo Credit: Jerri Hoag Photography

“I loved using it and wish I had it with my other births.” - Kate on using Nitrous Oxide at GBC



How will I feel? When inhaled, nitrous oxide aids with relaxation and offers a “take the edge off” kind of relief. It has a rapid onset and provides relief within 30-50 seconds.  Between 5-30% of women report other possible side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, and dizziness. If you experience an adverse side effect you return back to normal within a few minutes of breathing room air.


Is this the same thing as the laughing gas at the dentist’s office? No, the 50/50 concentration of Nitrous Oxide gases is unique to labor and birth. It is less concentrated than the dosage used at a dentist’s office or in a surgical setting.


Where can I use it? Our nitrous oxide unit is portable and is able to be with you anywhere you chose to labor.  You are able to use the tub, sit on the birth ball, and stand bedside (as long as you are steady on your feet). It is also important that you are able to let go of the mask if you start to feel nauseous or drowsy, no one else can hold the mask for you. There will be a staff member present with you at all times while nitrous oxide is in use.


Does it affect the baby? No, the nitrous oxide is inhaled and exhaled through the lungs. Because it is not absorbed through the circulatory system, it does not cross the placental barrier and reach the baby. Studies show that there is no effect on a baby’s heart rate or APGAR scores following birth. Due to the short lived nature of the effects it can be used during pushing, which is unlike other pain relief methods.


Cost: We will not bill insurance for Nitrous Oxide use. It is a cash pay service arranged ahead of time and costs $200.


Nitrous Oxide use will be discussed prenatally with your midwife and in our childbirth classes. If you have any interest in using Nitrous Oxide we recommend you sign a consent and make a $50 deposit during your prenatal care. We prefer it be arranged prenatally because during labor is not a good time to have that discussion and sign consents.


You must have the consent signed and deposit made prenatally to use it during your labor. If you do not end up using nitrous oxide your full deposit will be returned to you.


The $50 deposit covers your personal mask and tubing and a trial period of 30 minutes with the gas. If you decide you do not like how it makes you feel, and you do not wish to continue  use  you will not be charged anything additional. 

If you find it helpful and desire to continue use for more than 30 minutes, you will be billed an additional $150 following the birth.


Who should not use Nitrous Oxide?


  • If you are not able to hold your own mask

  • If you have a severe Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Recent middle ear surgery or infection


Blog entry features a mother’s experience of using nitrous oxide in labor:


Take a few minutes to hear a firsthand mother’s experience and see what it looks like when someone is using nitrous oxide during labor. The Birthing Suite at Monadnock Community Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the United States to offer women nitrous oxide as a pain management option. The Pro-nox equipment featured in this video is the same unit we have at the birth center.