| Analgesics

Opioids vs Nitrous Oxide

No Adverse Outcomes

Pre-COVID, half of Australian women giving birth utilized nitrous oxide for pain relief, 40% had epidurals, and 12% used opioids. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reports that post-COVID, nitrous oxide was withheld to lower transmission risk, and opioid use “significantly increased.” The good news is, there was no additional time in length of labor, no rise in the need for an epidural, no increase in the rates of Caesarean section, no change in complications or the alertness in newborns.

Of interest, another factor in the N2O discussion: carbon footprints. During a 4-hour labor, use of nitrous oxide is the equivalent of driving a car for 1500 kilometers (932 miles); while the epidural equivalent is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). The study concluded, “Should N2O be withheld from clinical practice, this action appears to be safe for labouring women with regard to the maternal and neonatal outcomes assessed in this study.” Although the study group was from only one Australian “centre,” the findings matched Australian national data.


Read the journal article.

Read the press release.

Holly Caster