Entonox - Gas & Air
Entonox can be used for pain relief during labour and is the most common form of pain relief used
At a glance
- Entonox is most commonly used method of pain relief
- Reduces the pain without blocking it out entirely
- Administered via a mouthpiece or mask
What is Entonox (Gas and air)?
Entonox or gas and air (also known as laughing gas) is the most commonly used method of pain relief during labour. It is a colourless and odourless gas comprised of oxygen and nitrous oxide in equal parts.
What does Entonox do?
Gas and air reduces the severity of labour pain without blocking it out altogether. Many women prefer this method of pain relief because it’s easy to use and they can control how much or how little they use.
Will I be offered Entonox during labour?
Yes. Hospitals frequently pump gas and air from a central supply so that it is easily available to patients on labour wards.
If you’re planning a home birth or are attending a birth centre without a central supply system, ask your midwife to provide gas and air in a portable cylinder.
How is it used?
Entonox is administered via a mouthpiece or mask that you hold yourself. Each dose takes around 15-20 seconds to work, so it’s best to inhale just as a contraction begins. Slow deep breaths are most effective.
Are there any side-effects?
The good news is that used properly under medical supervision there are no harmful side-effects for you or the baby. However, Entonox can make you feel light-headed and sick. In some cases, women complain of feeling drowsy and/or unable to concentrate.
Pros of using Entonox
- Fast acting and widely available
- Safe for you and your baby.
- You can keep it with you for as long as you need to.
- Your baby won’t need extra monitoring while you use it.
- Can help establish a pattern with your breathing.
- You can control how much you take and it doesn’t stay in your system for long.
- It can be used at home or in the bath or birthing pool.
Cons on using Entonox
- Pain-relief is mild.
- Can make you feel sick, drowsy and light-headed.
- Can cause pins and needles or temporary muscle cramps and spasms in your wrist or ankle joints.
- Can make your mouth feel dry.
- Using the mouthpiece or mask may prevent you from moving around to find a comfortable position during labour.
Tips for using gas and air
It takes around half a minute of breathing for the gas to enter your bloodstream so you may not feel the full benefit unless until you’ve been inhaling and exhaling deeply for at least sixty seconds.
You may need a bit of practice to get the timing right too. Commence breathing the gas and air as soon as you feel a contraction start. Waiting until it really hurts and then taking a breath will mean the pain-relief will only kick in between contractions.
You can use gas and air throughout labour. However during the very early stages of labour it’s best to try other things such a breathing exercises, a birthing ball or just walking around to alleviate the pain. Entonox is best used once labour is in full swing.
Keep your lips and mouth moist by using lip balm and taking sips of water between contractions.
Despite it’s popularity, gas and air isn’t for everyone. If you find it just isn’t enough to relieve the pain, don’t hesitate to try a different method of pain relief.
During the second stage of labour when you are pushing the baby out you may find it easier to focus on pushing without gas and air.
Sometimes gas and air is administered using a rubber mask that can make some women feel queasy. If that’s the case, ask your midwife to swap to a mouthpiece instead.