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Laughing gas back in delivery rooms?

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Labor pain is nothing to laugh at. Yet.

The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, during childbirth fell out of favor in the United States decades ago, and just two hospitals — one in San Francisco and one in Seattle — still offer it. But interest in returning the dentist office staple to the delivery room is growing: respected hospitals plan to start offering it, the federal government is reviewing it, and after a long hiatus, the equipment needed to administer it is expected to hit the market soon.

Though nitrous oxide is commonly used for labor pain relief in Canada, Great Britain and other countries, it’s been all but abandoned in the United States in favor of other options, such as epidurals, said Judith Bishop a certified nurse midwife at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and leader in the effort to reintroduce nitrous oxide for labor.

“I think we eliminated it because we went for the more specialized, higher-tech options,” said Bishop.


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