Bring On The Gas?

A needle in the spine or a bullet to bite on: These are generally the pain-relief options offered to women in labor.
The majority of mamas opt to have an epidural to help ease the pain and discomfort of childbirth. Epidurals have lots of advantages: they’re extremely effective at minimizing pain, the medication doesn’t cross the placenta and affect the baby, they’re generally considered safe enough for wide use. But for mamas who’d prefer not to go this route for whatever reason, the options are few and far between. Until now, with reports of an old-fashioned labor medication making a mini-comeback.
Some midwives and a few hospitals around the country are beginning to offer their patients the option of nitrous oxide gas. Nitrous, a.k.a. laughing gas, is more frequently associated with dental work than labor and delivery. Safe enough to be used without an anesthesiologist’s oversight, nitrous can provide laboring moms with temporary pain and anxiety relief by creating the feeling of indifference to the pain. According to an article in Family Practice News, its effectiveness is extremely short and therefore doesn’t build up in the mother or baby, and it also reportedly doesn’t have any adverse affects on labor and its progression.
On the flip side, nitrous does have its disadvantages, as reported on “Good Morning America”: rather than block pain as an epidural does, nitrous just blocks the perception of pain, so it might not be sufficient for all women. Also, nitrous does cross the placenta leading to your baby possibly emerging from the birth canal a little sedated. And some moms might try the nitrous only to find it doesn’t do the trick and end up with an epidural any way. Given these major differences, is nitrous a better option?
Obviously it depends on the woman, her birthing philosophy, and her tolerance for pain. But for a mama like me who’s not excited about the some of the potential negative side effects of having an epidural – such as lower-body numbness interfering with the body’s ability to labor, possibly having a slower birth as the result of an epidural, and retaining fluid from the epidural post-delivery – nitrous oxide might be an appealing alternative. I know I’ll be discussing it with my doctor to see it my hospital offers it as an option.
What do you think, would you consider using nitrous oxide instead of an epidural?