Could Gas and Air Make You More Open To Suggestion during labour?

The situation may arise during labour whereby gas & air may be required. Now you may have heard of gas and air (the official name is nitrous oxide) as it’s the most commonly used pain relief during labour in the UK. You will find that friends who talk about their birth experience will have a funny story to tell about the ‘laughing gas’.

Gas and air is a popular pain relief because it is easy to use and once you have stopped taking it, it leaves your body quickly. A lot of new mums do not stay in overnight after taking this form of pain management. But while it helps some people during birth, for others they don’t enjoy the experience (feeling sick or light-headed is a common side effect). For some mums-to-be, they find it a useful tool alongside other forms of pain relief such as moving around the room, hypnosis and massage.


How could gas and air affect my decision making?

The thing about gas and air is that there hasn’t been much research into how it affects the mum-to-be’s ability to make clear decisions. Some studies on the form of pain management have shown mums might be more inclined to agree to ideas and be open to suggestion after gas and air. After all, the nitrous oxide leaves some birthing mothers feeling dazed and sleepy.

And if you are planning to use this form of pain relief during labour, you might not realise how powerful a suggestion can be during birth. It can lead you to make unplanned choices. Of course, I’m not saying suggestion can force you to do something you don’t want to do. But it can certainly affect our decision making and confuse us if it’s said with intention. And ultimately we want to keep our baby safe so we might follow a suggestion to achieve this

So who might make a suggestion? 

Now while health care providers such as doctors and midwives are there to protect and guide us during labour, they can offer suggestions that might cause us to have interventions that we did not research or agree to prior to the birth. And with gas and air in our system, it might sound appealing.

Direct and indirect are two types of suggestions they might make during labour. For instance, a midwife might suggest they break your waters as it’s very easy to do and the contractions will speed up. Without gas and air, you would be able to say clearly this is not what you want unless the baby is in harm’s way. But without a clear mind, this type of language might make you decide to go with this decision.

Also, an indirect comment such as women often decide to have their waters broken if labour slows down to get contractions going can make you think there is something to worry about. Referring to other labour stories could also affect your decision. While it might have worked in some circumstances, it’s always worth thinking about you and your own unique experience. With gas and air, you might not go through the full decision process.

Should I not listen to suggestions?

Of course, I’m not saying all suggestion is bad. I found that some gestures and suggestions during labour did help and guide me on my way to the birth of my baby while using helpful techniques learned from hypnobirthing classes in Surrey. And positive language does often lead a birthing mother to have an enjoyable experience. Compassion and kindness help during labour. A good form of direct suggestion would be that while it’s completely normal your contractions have slowed down, shall we talk about what choices you have now. And an indirect suggestion could also be that while some women choose to ask for further help, other mums choose to wait and some consider their options when contractions slow down. This type of language will help you to make a personal, informed decision.


So how do you ensure you aren’t led by suggestions?


It’s so important that you are ready to stop and think before going ahead with a suggestion. Take some time to plan how you might react in a particular situation. In my experience, I would stop and think for a few minutes about the decision and how it would affect my birth. Ensure an intervention is your decision, not something that you have been pushed into.


If you are going to use gas and air and are faced with a suggestion, do make sure you think about the benefits, risks and alternatives before making your decision. As we say in hypnobirthing, you need to use your BRAIN as a decision-making tool for the birth. And not just you; make sure your birthing partner is aware of what you want during labour. I made sure my partner knew that any decision needed to be discussed in a peaceful, stress-free environment. If you decide to take up a suggestion, it’s worth writing down why so that you are aware of what you are doing and what might happen next.


To use gas and air or not to use gas and air?


Of course, I see the benefits of using gas during labour. But when it comes to suggestion, if you are taking gas and air and do need to make a decision, it’s worth stopping for a short period so that you have a clear head to reconnect and decide on your birth experience. The two can work together; just make sure you plan ahead if gas and air is part of your journey.


I hope this helps you to make a decision on whether gas and air is right for you!