Can you laugh your way through childbirth? Nitrous oxide – or laughing gas, as it’s better known – is a completely viable option for pain management offered to pregnant women by many hospitals.

“Women feel empowered when they are given options for their pain management in labor. Nitrous oxide is just one option that is available to women at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo. The need for nitrous oxide use varies from woman to woman. Some just use it to bridge the gap to an epidural, and some will find it beneficial to manage their discomfort throughout labor. Discuss with your provider or labor nurse if nitrous oxide could be an option for you!” 

Linda Pollinger, RN, BSN, C-EFM

OB Staff Educator, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

Women who have undergone labor with the assistance of laughing gas have commented that labor pains become a little easier to tolerate, and anxiety about the pain itself disappears. Though used successfully by medical providers for decades, the effectiveness of laughing gas during labor seems to depend on the individual’s tolerance for pain.

How Does Laughing Gas Work?

During labor, laughing gas is self-administered through an oxygen mask that the patient inhales from, usually right before the start of a contraction. This gas has no taste or odor. 

“So will I actually laugh during labor?” The name is misleading, and few giggles are heard from moms-to-be who use laughing gas while delivering their baby. In fact, intravenous medication and epidurals are both able to offer women a stronger version of pain relief than nitrous oxide can. 

It’s important for labor and delivery departments to present a variety of options, including methods like nitrous oxide, to expectant mothers. This is because thoughts on what makes a successful birth story can differ greatly from woman to woman. 

Though some patients might not understand, many women are uneasy at the thought of completely losing sensation while they give birth to a child. Just as one woman may be comforted by the nerve block provided by an epidural, another may be looking to experience less of a medicated childbirth. 

Learn More About Labor & Delivery at Catholic Health

To learn more about the range of options available for an expectant mother on her pregnancy journey, please visit  

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152