What is Entonox and how does it work?
Entonox, or gas and air, is a 50-50 mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide (an anaesthetic otherwise known as laughing gas). The gas enters your blood stream dampening the pain, relaxing your muscles and making you feel a little light-headed, sometimes even making you laugh. You inhale the gas and air through a two-way mouth-piece or mask as you feel a contraction starting, breathing deeply and evenly. This gives time for the gas to build up in your bloodstream and provide maximum pain relief at the peak of a contraction. As you start to feel a little lightheaded your hand will automatically fall from your face with the mask and within a few seconds you should feel normal again.
When can I use Entonox?
You can use Entonox at any stage of labour but it is most often used for the end of the first stage of labour as contractions intensify in frequency and strength. When you reach the pushing stage of labour the midwife may suggest that you only use the Entonox at the beginning of a contraction to leave you free to concentrate on synchronising your pushing efforts with contractions.
How long you use the gas and air for will depend on how effective you find it. Some women love it and find it provides enough relief for the duration of labour, other women find that it's not enough when contractions are at their strongest, or don't like the feeling of lightheadedness that it causes.
- It's easy to use and completely under your control
- The gas is quickly flushed from your system
- The high oxygen content is good for your baby
- Minimal interference with your control over labour as you can stop using the gas whenever you like
- Can be used in conjunction with other pain relief, such as gas and air
- Can be used for homebirths
- Can be used in a birthing pool
- Some women love the lightheaded sensation and any impulses to laugh
- Doesn't impinge too much on mobility although it's not as mobile as a TENS unit and you will have to stay near the source during contractions if it's piped into the room
- May make you feel nauseous, or you may not like the lightheaded effect
- It's a relatively mild form of pain relief that may not be enough for you in the later stages (but you can always abandon it for something else)
- Use over a period of time can dry out your mouth, so you may need to be able to take sips of water or munch on ice chips between uses
In hospitals Entonox is usually piped to every labour room and so is readily available. For home deliveries you can arrange with your midwife for her to bring a tank of gas.