Entonox, more popularly known as gas and air, is a form of diversion from the pain of contractions during labour, and is more prominently used in the first stage of labour when contractions are light. Gas and air, itself sometimes known as laughing gas, is used to ensure you are left feeling calm and during labour. However, gas and air cannot be used to completely remove the pain of contractions and a more effective form of pain relief may be needed.

What is Entonox?

Entonox, or gas and air, is a colourless and odourless gas which is comprised of half oxygen and half nitrous oxide. Many women use gas and air to help with their breathing and it is effective in handling the pain from contractions. Many hospitals ensure that they have gas and air readily available for pregnant women to use during labour. Gas and air can also be used in a home birth to control the pain of contractions. If you do choose to have gas and air for a home birth then your midwife can bring it via a portable cylinder.

How do you use Entonox?

If you request to have gas and air during labour you will be given a mouthpiece or mask you need to breathe in at the start of each contraction. Many women find it is effective in reducing the intensity of contraction pains.

The mouthpiece is used to release carbon dioxide. As you exhale you may feel light headed and dreamy. If you remove the mouthpiece you will likely have your senses to return to you within moments. Many women find that using gas and air and holding onto the mouthpiece helps them to significantly control contractions.

Your midwife will likely show you how to use it properly. Many prenatal classes teach you about pain relief methods such as gas and air and it is beneficial to attend these classes to learn more. It may take 30 seconds to effectively feel the results of the gas and air. It is recommended to begin breathing in the gas and air when you feel a contraction coming on as this will help to take the edge off.

What are the advantages of Entonox?

There are numerous advantages to having gas and air, as discussed below:

  • It takes the edge away from the intensity of contractions.
  • It does not affect your baby.
  • It provides you with something to focus on and can aid as a distraction from contractions.
  • You can use it in a home birth, along with other pain relief methods such as Tens.
  • You can use it as much as you want throughout your labour.
  • It is easily accessible and most hospitals in the UK offer it during labour.
  • You can control the amount of gas and air you want during labour.
  • It does not remain in your system as the gas is released when you exhale.
  • It does not require additional monitoring which some women may otherwise find intrusive.
  • It is easy to use and doesn’t require much assistance.
  • You can use it in a birthing pool.

What are the disadvantages of Entonox?

There are some disadvantages to using entonox that need to be considered:

  • It can make you feel nauseous.
  • You may feel lightheaded.
  • It is a mild painkiller and may not be strong enough to decrease the pain of labour.
  • It may make you feel drowsy and exhausted.
  • It can dry out your mouth if you use it for long period of time.
  • Some women find they need to practice using it to ensure its effectiveness during contractions.

Can anyone use Entonox?

Unless told otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable to use gas and air as a safe method of taking away the edge of contractions. It is always best to discuss its usage beforehand with your doctor or midwife in regards to possible complications. If you are unsure whether it is suitable or not for your individual circumstances your doctor or midwife will be able to advise you.

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