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Entonox (gas) for pain relief during labour

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
Created on Oct 10, 2023 · 2 mins read
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As your due date approaches and you’re thinking about your labour, you might be looking into what pain relief options are available. While an epidural is a widely known form of pain relief in pregnancy, Entonox, or ‘happy gas’ or ‘laughing gas’ as it’s sometimes referred to, is actually the most common.

What is Entonox?


Entonox is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen that you breathe in via a mask or mouthpiece and is designed to take the edge off the pain of labour and contractions, rather than take it away completely.

When can I use Entonox?


Most hospitals and birthing centres have a constant supply (and if you are having a home birth your midwife may be able to bring some to you) so you can have the gas at any stage throughout labour.

That said, it is recommended you don’t use it for extended periods of time so it’s recommended that you wait until active labour until you really require pain relief.


How do I use Entonox?


You breathe in the gas via a mouthpiece which you hold/control yourself. It can take a few goes to get the timing right as you want to breathe the gas as your contractions begin.


What are the advantages?


  • Fast working
  • Easy to use
  • Can be used at any stage of labour
  • Controlled by you
  • Won’t interfere with or slow down your labour
  • Effects wear off quickly once you stop breathing it in
  • Helps make pain manageable
  • You can move around during/between contractions
  • Safe for baby
  • Giving you extra oxygen

What are the disadvantages?


  • It might not work for you at all
  • It might not be enough pain relief
  • It can make you feel nauseous
  • Can make your mouth and lips very dry
  • May interfere/react with other medications
  • Timing the gas with the contractions can be difficult

While Entonox is the most common form of pain relief, many women try it but don’t like it as it makes them feel ill or find it is not enough. They may opt to go without pain relief or move on to something stronger such as an epidural.


Related posts

Everything you need to know about epidurals
10 good things that happen during labour and birth
Common fears about birth

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