Popular pain relief used during labour could be discontinued due to carbon footprint
First, it was reported that there was a supply issue with epidurals, and now we hear another popular pain relief during birth is being ditched!
Apparently, women are being encouraged to avoid nitrous oxide, ‘laughing’ gas, due to concerns about its carbon footprint.
This gas is used by more than 50% of women during childbirth, followed by epidurals (40%) and opioids (12%).
Gas could be phased out during labour due to environmental reasons
The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists wants to reduce the use of laughing gas due to environmental reasons.
A recent study found that nitrous oxide during four-hour labour creates a carbon footprint equivalent to driving an average car for 1,500km. Meanwhile, an epidural is apparently the equivalent of driving 6km.
In fact, nitrous oxide (N2O) accounts for 6% of overall global gas emissions.
“While it may be innocuous for the pregnant woman and unborn baby, that is certainly not the case for the environment,” says the report.
“By educating medical staff and pregnant women about the carbon impact of N2O … we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the labour ward and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Instead, some medical professionals suggest women should opt for opioids or non-medical birthing techniques, such as a TENS machine and hypnobirthing.
Is laughing gas the best pain relief during labour?
But many medical professionals have argued that labour pain is no joke, and mothers shouldn’t be guilted into not using it.
Anaesthetist Dr Alice Gynther, who was a co-author of the report, stresses the intention isn’t to make women feel guilty.
“We very much believe that women should make autonomous choices about their pain relief, according to factors important to them,” she added.
“Given that it’s not a fantastic drug [a mild painkiller with significant side effects such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting], and it has this climate impact, we think it’s worthwhile explaining … the potential risks in an informed consent discussion.”
Labour wards aren’t the only ones who use laughing gas; dentists regularly use it as well.
More on nitrous oxide (gas) during labour
When it comes to giving birth, most people have only heard of epidurals when it comes to pain relief in labour. However, there are actually many options for pain relief available.
Pros of gas
- You don’t need a doctor’s order to start
- Excellent for breathing and relaxation
- You can use it in the bath/shower/pool
- Harmless for baby (quickly leaves your body)
- Can be used at any time in the labour
- It can take a few contractions to work and to get into a regular rhythm of breathing
- Could cause dizziness, dry mouth and vomiting
- Doesn’t taste very nice
Pros and cons of 6 pain relief options available when giving birth
For more on the different stages of labour.
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