A couple go to their first pre-natal class. The husband is told to wear a bag of sand so that he has an idea of what it feels like to be pregnant. The man stands up and says, “This doesn’t feel so bad.” The instructor then drops a pen and asks him to pick it up. “You want me to pick up the pen as if I were pregnant, the way my wife would do it?” asks the husband. “Exactly,” replies the now smiling instructor. The husband turns to his wife and says, “Honey, pick up that pen for me.” Well, no man will ever be able to fully understand all that a woman goes through in a pregnancy, especially the labour and delivery part. But now there is a growing movement to put a smile on the face of the mother-to-be during her time of painful contractions. It involves nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas). Laughing gas was invented in the year 1798 by the brilliant young English chemist, Humphrey Davy. And so, as with most innovations, necessity was indeed the mother of invention. The twenty-one year-old Davy had a toothache and was trying to come up with some form of pain reliever to tide him over until the dentist could see him. He records in his diary the first-ever use, “At the moment when the toothache was the worse, I breathed in nitrous oxide. The pain not only quickly diminished, but I entered into a state of intoxicating pleasure, kind of like that of a happy drunk.” The use of nitrous oxide for labour pain is not something new. This was a common practice in North America back in the 1930s before the arrival of other options such as epidurals. Today, in many countries, up to 80% of women use it in the delivery room. Dr. Michelle Collins, Director of the Mid-Wifery Program at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing states, “The interest in it here has really caught fire. Mothers are demanding more delivery room options, and if those options are safe, they want them even more. It’s empowering women to have control of their labour and their pain relief. They want to feel more in charge and that’s how it should be. Here’s how it works: Nitrous oxide moves very quickly, reaching the brain within 20 seconds. A woman inhales it through a mouthpiece. Yet unlike in the dentist office, she decides when and how often to use the odorless, colorless gas. At the start of the contraction, you breathe it in so at the peak of the contraction you get the most pain relief. Nitrous wears off within a few breaths of when you stop inhaling it, thus the effects end with the contraction and the gas exits just about as quickly from the body. There are no hangover effects. And unlike epidurals, you can stop it at anytime. Plus, it doesn’t slow or halt labour. Nitrous oxide can also be used at any time during labour, even later in the process when other medications aren’t always an option. And finally, it has no ill effect whatsoever on the baby.”
The bottom line? My question is, Can you still use it after child birth, say for the next eighteen years or so?