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Nitrous During Labor: Pain Relief for Out-of-Hospital Births

Birthroot midwives, Ann Tive and Sarah Day show off their nitrous machine!

Birthroot Midwives Now Offering Nitrous During Labor

Birthroot midwives Ann Tive and Sara Day talk to Doulas of Bellingham about nitrous during labor.

I recently had the honor of sitting in on a discussion between Ann Tive and Sarah Day of Birthroot Midwives and Doulas of Bellingham owners, Molly Siemears and Christi Banks, while they explained the benefits of nitrous during labor for their clients. Birthroot Midwives are the first (and so far only) birth workers in Whatcom County offering this pain relief option. What a great step forward for the Bellingham birth community!

Birthroot midwives, Ann Tive and Sarah Day show off their nitrous machine!
Ann and Sarah from Birthroot Midwives

I have photographed a handful of births where nitrous was used. One down in Skagit County, at Mt Vernon Birth Center, and the others were the births of my grandsons in New Zealand. You can see my grandson Abel’s birth here and Monty’s birth here.

Mt Vernon Birth Photographer, Renee Bergeron, captures Alilish's beautiful birth center birth.
Nitrous being used during labor at the Mt. Vernon Birth Center
Woman using gas and air (nitrous) during labor in New Zealand.
My daughter, Tilly, using nitrous during her prolonged labor

Benefits of Using Nitrous During Birth

Nitrous during labor is the only pain relief offered to women birthing outside the hospital. Traditionally women choosing to birth at home or in birth centers haven’t had any pain relief options open to them besides massage, hot showers, and tubs. Countries in Europe and New Zealand have been using nitrous through labor for pain relief for years and it is well studied and considered safe.

Doulas of Bellingham working with Birthroot midwife, Ann Tive.

Nitrous goes into the system quickly and exits just as quickly. There is no crossing the placental barrier and no effect whatsoever on the baby. The only known side effects of using nitrous and labor are dizziness and nausea and for a small number of women. The great thing about nitrous is nausea and dizziness will disappear within seconds of removing. The nitrous used by Birthroot Midwives is a mixture of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrous.

Molly Siemears of Doulas of Bellingham tries out the nitrous mask.
Molly from Doulas of Bellingham tries out the mask.

Using Nitrous Can Take Some Practice

The flow of nitrous during labor is controlled 100% by the laboring woman. In order to keep it as safe as possible, the woman must hold the mask herself to her face. This ensures that she is only getting the amount of gas that she is comfortable with. It sometimes takes a bit of practice through a few contractions for women to get the hang of it. Thankfully nitrous is easy to set up and can be offered to the woman within five minutes of her requesting it.

As a safety precaution a woman in labor must hold the mask herself.

Nitrous Has No Impact on Labor Patterns

Unlike IV drugs, an epidural, or spinal, nitrous does not have any effect on the labor pattern. It is short-acting which means the mother is only feeling the effect while she is actively inhaling the nitrous. It is self-administered for safety and there is no crossing of the placental barrier. Nitrous takes 45 to 60 seconds to take effect and it disappears just as quickly.

Ann Tive teaches the Doulas of Bellinhgam about using nitrous during labor.

Uses for Nitrous- It’s Not Just for Labor

Nitrous isn’t just available for labor with the Birthroot Midwives. For women who need stitching after birth nitrous can be a helpful tool. It not only helps with the pain but works to reduce anxiety.

Nitrous is now availble for women giving birth at Birthroots in Bellingham, WA.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of nitrous varies greatly from facility to facility. Right now the Birthroot Midwives are charging $50 for the disposable tubing and mask and then a flat rate of $300 for any women who choose to use nitrous.

I am so excited to see this option offered to our birth community here in Bellingham.

Doulas of Bellingham and Birthroot Midwives working together to improve birth in Bellingham.
Christi Banks, Sarah Day, Ann Tive, and Molly Seimears.

Way to go, Birthroot Midwives!

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