We would like to share as much information with you as possible about how nitrous oxide (laughing gas, dinitrogen oxide) works during labor. If you’re interested in using it during your upcoming labor, your midwife or doctor will inform the anesthesiologist on-call.  The anesthesia doctor will explain all about it and show you how to use the equipment (a hand held mask).Nitrous Oxide with the South Denver Midwives Littleton CO

The South Denver OB-GYN and Midwives team at Littleton Hospital will have nitrous oxide available as a pain relief option for women in labor starting May 16th, 2016, soon to follow at our Castle Rock Location.


  1. Littleton is the first private hospital in Denver to offer nitrous oxide for labor.

  2. Nitrous expands pain relief options for laboring women.

  3. It relieves anxiety and decreases the sense of pain.

  4. Nitrous oxide is non-invasive.

  5. It is self-administered, so you have total control over the timing and amount of nitrous you receive.

  6. Nitrous oxide is the only pain relief option that can be started during transition or pushing.  If you arrive too far into labor for an epidural or IV pain medicine, nitrous does not affect the baby and it can be used up until the moment the baby is born.

  7. It has been used for labor in Europe, Canada, Australia, and around the world for decades.

  8. South Denver Midwives and South Denver Ob-Gyn are the experts in nitrous at Littleton.  We have been working with anesthesiologists, nurses, and administration for almost 2 years to bring nitrous to Littleton.

  9. Pain relief is effective within 30 seconds of inhalation.

  10. Patients can transfer to South Denver as late as their due date if they want a facility that has nitrous.

Nitrous Oxide and Labor: Frequently Asked Questions

What is nitrous?

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that relieves pain and anxiety.  It is also called laughing gas.  When it is used for labor pain it is a set mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask.  Nitrous oxide has been used in labor since the 1930s and is widely used in Canada, Australia, and throughout Europe.

How does it work?

You hold the mask to your face and start to inhale the gas mixture 30 seconds before a contraction begins. You inhale the gas only when you’re having a contraction, so it is intermittent not continuous.

How will I feel?

Most women report it “takes the edge off” the pain and helps them cope better with contractions. You will still feel pain but you may not care as much about it. Some women feel more relaxed or sleepy because nitrous decreases anxiety. You will stay awake and be able to walk and talk.

Are there side effects?

The most common side effects are feeling lightheaded, dizziness, and nausea. It is important to have someone with you when you’re getting up to move around. There is anti-nausea medicine available if needed.

Does nitrous oxide affect the baby?

No. There are no known effects on the baby. As soon as you stop breathing the gas the effect is gone within a breath or two.

Will it affect my labor?

No. There is no evidence that nitrous slows down or speeds up labor.

Will it affect breastfeeding?

No. There is no evidence that nitrous effects breastfeeding.

Can I use nitrous and have IV narcotics or an epidural at the same time?

No. You can use nitrous, then later use IV pain medicine or get an epidural, just not both at the same time.

Are there any reasons I could not use nitrous?

Yes, just a few.  You cannot use nitrous oxide if you:

-Cannot hold your own mouthpiece or facemask

-Have a known B12 deficiency

-Have received IV narcotics within the last 2 hours

-Have had recent sinus or middle ear surgery

-All of the nitrous oxide machines are in use by other patients

Additional Questions About Nitrous?