The moment I found out I was pregnant with my older daughter, I called my obstetrician and requested the epidural be administered immediately.
"I just want to be clear," I told her, "that this will not be a drug-free birth. If that means I'm hooked up to some kind of machine for the next nine months so that no one forgets or screws it up, so be it."
At one point during labor, they turned off the epidural, because they didn't think I felt the urge to push enough. I disagreed and ended up with a c-section anyway. That hour that the epidural was turned off? Not my finest hour. In fact, it was my worst.
I never get why some women opt out of using drugs during labor and delivery. I mean, I know why they do it. I really do. But if my child's birthday is supposed to be the happiest day of my life, do I really want to spend it cursing out the very thing I'm welcoming?
Related: 15 unexpected ways to naturally induce labor
It turns out there might be a happy medium between the "au naturel" mamas and their "gimme-all-the-drugs" counterparts. If you thought you'd seen the last of nitrous oxide in high school, well, get ready for a good laugh.
In an article in Slate, science writer Christina Szalinski writes about how administering laughing gas during labor is par for the course in places like the U.K., Australia, and Scandinavia. While it's not said to relieve pain entirely, it does help distract from it or "make them care less about" it. The gas can be given at any time during labor, requires no IV hook-up or other cumbersome attachments, and has no major side effects for mama and baby.
According to the Slate piece, two companies are introducing nitrous oxide to maternity wards in the U.S. - with 12 hospitals and birthing centers using what's known as the Nitronox system. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists don't actually recommend it, but they're not violently opposed to it, either, telling Slate, "At this time . . . [we do] not have guidelines or recommendations on the use of nitrous oxide during labor."
Side effects are mild and may include things like nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. But if you were one of those kids who did whip-its in high school, you probably knew that already. Plus, it wears off almost as soon as it begins, so you're not stuck in it like an epidural (although, as I learned the hard way, they can turn that off, too).
For women who go into childbirth with the best of intentions (not the lazy ones like me, content to let everyone else do all the work), it might be nice to know they can have the best of both worlds.
If only they offered laughing gas as a panacea for what happens for the next 18 years after you give birth, too.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
-By Meredith C. Carroll
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