Nitrous at Salem Hospital

Did you know that Salem Health Family Birth Center offers nitrous oxide during labor?


What does this mean for you?

Let's break it down.

Nitrous oxide is an odorless, colorless gas that you may most often hear about for dental procedures, but it has been used for labor pain relief across the world. Sometimes referred to as "laughing gas", nitrous helps to reduce both anxiety and pain.

How does it work?

The staff will bring the nitrous unit into your room. You hold your own mask and inhale the nitrous. Research shows it works best to start about 30 seconds before a contraction (which allows the gas to reach its peak close to the same time as your contraction- providing the best relief.) It is also beneficial in moments where anxiety is impacting the ability to cope well with labor.

Who administers the nitrous?

You. And only you. Actually, that's an important piece to the use of nitrous. You're the only one who can hold the mask. If others in your room choose to hold the mask for you or use the nitrous themselves, you risk having the nitrous option removed.

Can everyone use nitrous?

Nitrous isn't recommended for those who are unable to hold the mask themselves (including those who have recently used IV pain relief options.) Those with a B12 deficiency should not use nitrous. Staff may also take high BMI into account to decide on the use of this option.

Does nitrous have side effects?

Prolonged use may lead to nausea in some women. It can also cause some people to report feeling 'unsteady' when up and moving after use. Due to this, it's important to have assistance getting out of the bed/chair after the use of nitrous.

What about side effects for the baby?

There are no known effects on the baby. Because nitrous is cleared from the body through your lungs, the effect of the nitrous is gone within a breath or two.

Can nitrous be combined with IV pain medication?

The combination of the two can slow your breathing. You're welcome to use IV pain medication after the use of nitrous, but you cannot use nitrous soon after the use of IV pain medication.

Does insurance cover nitrous?

Here's the beautiful thing- Salem Health sees this as an opportunity to improve your birth experience. They are currently not charging for this option.

Our experience:

  • Nitrous seems to work better for anxiety than for pain - mainly because it requires you to take slow, deep breathes to get the effect it offers.

  • People seem to get a 1-2 hour window of benefit before they decide to move on to another option.

  • It’s a great option for people who are hoping to delay or avoid an epidural, but need something to get through a portion of labor.