Laughing gas (also known as nitrous oxide) is useful for more than just calming your nerves at the dentist’s office these days.
According to the popular online pregnancy and childbirth resource WhatToExpect.com, more than 50% of laboring mothers in the UK and Australia use laughing gas as a tool to help manage pain and anxiety during childbirth. Currently, only about 1% of American mothers request nitrous oxide during labor – but that number is on the rise. And laughing gas isn’t the only childbirth trend that’s seen an uptick in recent years. Considering that about 40% of women choose to forgo an epidural (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that leaves many laboring mothers out there trying new and interesting ways to navigate the challenges of labor and delivery. Expectant mothers in the Dayton area are part of this trend too. “We see all kinds of things in obstetrics,” says Brenda Pearson, Clinical Nurse Manager of Labor and Delivery at Kettering Medical Center. “There really isn’t anything that surprises us anymore. If it’s safe, and our patients are happy, we will accommodate them.”
Popular birthing trends
A quick Google search for the phrase “birthing trends” will net the casual researcher results ranging from freebirth (birth without the assistance of any medical personnel) to birthing in a pool with dolphins in an attempt to help promote tranquility.
Among the most popular birthing trends are:
Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” Similar to what you might find in the dentist’s office, a medical professional places a small mask over the mother’s nose allowing her to inhale nitrous oxide: a colorless gas with a slightly sweet odor. Inhaling nitrous oxide promotes a feeling of euphoria (hence the name “laughing gas”) and is reported to help mothers feel significantly more relaxed and at ease without harming the baby. Additionally, nitrous oxide can be used as an anesthetic to help reduce pain.
Hypnobirthing The history of hypnobirthing dates back to the 1960s, with the Hypnobirthing Institute being founded by practitioner Marie Mongan. Since then, millions of women have turned to hypnosis and hypnotherapy in an attempt to manage pain during childbirth without drug interventions. On the website www.kghypnobirthing.com parents can search for hypnobirthing classes, and discover other avenues by which to use hypnosis during childbirth.
Lotus birth and delayed cord-clamping Proponents of lotus birth claim that leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the baby until they naturally fall off (usually a few days after birth) is a way to ensure the baby continues getting adequate oxygen and nutrients as it transitions from the womb to life outside the mother’s body. Another option is to simply delay cord-clamping until it’s clear that the umbilical cord is no longer pulsing, and therefore no longer delivering oxygen or nutrients to the baby.
Waterbirth According to the American Pregnancy Association, water birth has been on the rise for the last 30 years. Fans of water birth say that laboring in water, either in a hot tub or birthing pool, is an effective way of managing pain and anxiety during childbirth. According to the website AmericanPregnancy.org, “The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.” Regarding these and other birthing trends, Pearson recommends that women print out articles on the options they are interested in and bring them to their physician to discuss, saying that’s important to do your homework when considering alternative birthing possibilities.
Laboring in Dayton
In our area, Pearson says, “While epidurals are still popular with some of our moms, we’re definitely seeing the swing back to natural options and choices.” At Kettering, a new labor room is currently being designed that will include a birthing tub in order to respond to the large number of women requesting one. And laughing gas is on the way. “Yes, we’re definitely looking into the use of nitrous oxide for our patients who want a ‘little something’ to help them get through the birth process without an epidural,” says Pearson. “We’re looking to begin that next year.”