This is one of those news stories where my biases show, like woah, and I'm happy to admit it. In the UK, 50% of laboring women take advantage of nitrous oxide (good ol' dentist's office laughing gas) for pain relief. The rates of usage are about the same in Canada and even higher in countries like Finland. If you read up on the stuff, this isn't terribly surprising. Nitrous oxide gas doesn't totally eliminate childbirth pain, but studies show it does a great job of taking the edge off and without the long-term loopiness of injected narcotics or the limitations on movement (and the whole needle-in-your-spine bit) that goes along with epidurals. Plus, it's pain relief that's controlled by the woman, herself. You just take a hit off the gas whenever you find your contraction warrants it. No anesthesiologist necessary.
I'm due to give birth in less than two months and this is something I'd love to use. But I can't. Because there are only two hospitals in the entire United States that offer it as an option. They're both on the West Coast. (NOTE: Reader djmburr says his wife was able to use nitrous oxide at Baptist Hospital in Nashville earlier this year. So it sounds like there are more hospitals allowing this than making it into the news.)
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