Gas & Air is a very popular form of pain relief for supporting women in labour and many women report excellent satisfaction with its use!
It is a mixture of oxygen and a gas called nitrous oxide, and it is breathed in through a mouthpiece.
There are a couple of really handy and vital facts to know about gas & air, which make a big difference to its effective use. The gas is breathed in for the contraction only and you stop using it and rest in between the contractions. These are my handy hints I prepare clients as well as birth partners with….
Firstly, as it is a gas and you use a mouthpiece to breathe it is – it can make your mouth feel very dry. If you anticipate this and have sips of water to hand, this can help in the initial stages.
Secondly, the pain relieving effect of the gas is slightly delayed after 10-20 seconds of use, so women need to start breathing it is as soon as a contraction begins – this way the full effect happens by the time the contraction reaches its peak. There too is a slight delay in it wearing off for 10-20 seconds after stopping it.
Thirdly, the gas can increase a nausea feeling, especially in the first few contractions of use, and this can be quite unpleasant and frankly undesired. I encourage women to anticipate this and push past the nausea as it often soon settles once you become established in using the gas effectively.
Fourthly, entonox does not remove the pain of labour completely – it simply is a tool/aid for helping to support you by making you feel a little “removed” from reality during the contraction.
Fifthly, I encourage clients to push past the initial challenges of how the entonox makes you feel, and usually quickly, within around 10 minutes of using with regular contractions, it becomes your new best friend! The role of your birth support partner is vital in “cheer leading” you along at these stages!
It is also useful if the midwife or Doctor needs to examine you and you are feeling uncomfortable or anxious, as well as other times, for example when you are have stitching post birth. Its a good “pick me up”!