Moms use 'laughing gas' to get through labor 

By Kate DeSa, RN  |  7/3/2019

Expecting women often craft well thought out plans for the births of their babies. Now, moms who are due to give birth at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck have an additional option to consider – nitrous oxide.  It's just another example of our commitment to providing a customized birth experience.

Nitrous helps moms cope with childbirth by taking the edge off labor pain and decreasing anxiety.  Women in labor use specialized equipment to inhale the nitrous oxide gas as they need it, so it's a very empowering form of pain management.   It's also covered by most insurances.

Most people associate nitrous or "laughing gas" with dental procedures. However, it's also a great, low-intervention pain management tool for laboring mothers. It's noninvasive – meaning we don't have to use an IV or needles. 

The mixture of 50 percent nitrous and 50 percent oxygen is self-administered. It has no color or taste and almost no odor. The mother is in control of how much or little pain control she needs, and nitrous doesn't interfere with additional pain interventions that may be required or requested, like an epidural, relaxation techniques or other anesthetic options. 

Patients tell us they like nitrous because of its fast-acting effect that subsides as soon as the mask is removed. They say nitrous helps them manage contractions and even while pushing. It doesn't make them drowsy, like narcotics do. 

We often hear that a major benefit is it allows more freedom of movement. You aren't tied to an IV pole or fetal monitoring. 

Here's how it works: You inhale it through a mask you hold yourself and breathe into as needed during contractions. There's a short delay of about 50 seconds before it works, so it's best if the laboring patient inhales as she begins to feel the contraction. She stops inhaling as the contraction lessens and repeats this cycle for as long and much as they need.  

Our birth center team is very skilled at coaching mom on using the equipment, so she can find a rhythm that works for her.

Kate DeSa is a registered nurse and director of the Neugarten Family Birth Center at Northern Dutchess Hospital. Find out more about delivering at the Birth Center at To schedule a tour, please call 845-871-3470