labor pain


Check Out ‘The Checkup’: Our New Health Podcast On Slate

You’ve read our posts. Now we invite you to listen to our podcast.

Beginning today, we’re launching a new podcast called The Checkup, a partnership between WBUR and Slate. (We wanted to call it Goldberg and Zimmerman, but they told us it sounded like an accounting firm.) We’re thrilled to announce that for the next six weeks, Slate will be posting it weekly among its extremely popular “Gabfests” and other ear fodder. (To listen to The Checkup now, click on the arrow above; to download and listen later, press Download and to get it through iTunes click here. )

The Checkup

Regular CommonHealth readers will be familiar with our blend of solidly reported, somewhat opinionated health-related news you can use (at least we think you can use it, since we can and have). Each segment will focus on a different topic — from sex problems and students’ mental health as they head back to school, to fitness snake oil and vaccine controversies.

Our first episode is “Three Myths of Pregnancy and Childbirth,” a subject near to our motherly hearts. It features interesting, relevant new research on bed rest during pregnancy, labor pain and cutting the baby’s umbilical cord, including information you may not read much about in the best-selling pregnancy bible “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.”

So download the podcast, produced by WBUR’s wizardly sound engineer George Hicks, give it a listen and let us know what you think.

AP: Laughing Gas For Labor Pain Coming To Dartmouth

Back in September, we reported a small but growing interest in the U.S. in using laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, to ease labor pain during childbirth.

Now, an AP dispatch says that Dartmouth-Hitchcok Medical Center will begin offering nitrous oxide as an alternative pain-killer for laboring women.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, where officials plan to order two machines, nurse midwife Suzanne Serat estimated that 10-20 percent of her patients might try nitrous oxide.

“We have a number of people who don’t want to feel the pain of labor, and nitrous oxide would not be a good option for them. They really need an epidural, and that’s perfect for them,” she said. “Then we have a number of people who are going to wait and see what happens, and when they’re in labor, decide they’d like something and then the only option for them is an epidural but they don’t need something that strong. So they would choose to use something in the middle, but we just don’t have anything in the middle.”

The hospital hopes to begin offering nitrous oxide for labor by summer. In the meantime, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is reviewing the effectiveness and safety of nitrous oxide compared to other pain relief methods.

As we mentioned in our earlier post, nitrous oxide (which is basically the same thing you get at the dentist’s office) doesn’t have the super-pain-relieving magic of an epidural. But, it’s been found to be safe and effective: and it definitely take the edge off, according to women who have used it, to the point that some laboring moms may never end up needing an injection of anesthesia in their spine.

[Nitrous] offers something closer to an elixir of dulled pain tempered by nonchalance, says William Camann, chief of obstetric anesthesia at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the co-author of the book “Easy Labor.” “The pain may still exist for some women but the gas may create a feeling of, ‘Painful contraction? Who cares?’”

Right now, nitrous oxide is used by about 50% of laboring women the United Kingdom; 60% in Finland and widely across Canada, according to a published review. But it’s available only in two U.S. hospitals.

Apparently, that may be changing.

U.S. Health Agency To Review Effectiveness Of Laughing Gas For Labor Pain

A federal agency seeks public comment for a review of nitrous oxide for labor pain relief

It appears that the federal government is now interested in exploring the effectiveness of laughing gas for labor pain relief, the subject of a CommonHealth post in September.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is seeking public comment in reviewing the comparative effectiveness of nitrous oxide (basically, the same laughing gas your dentist uses) as a way to manage labor pain. This is an option available to women in most developed countries, but it is only used in a handful of hospitals in the U.S.

Here’s Our Bodies Our Blog, writing about the agency’s process:

Recently, AHRQ has become more active in soliciting public input to the review process, and today they posted for public comment the key questions and background materials for a review that will be conducted soon, Comparative Effectiveness of Nitrous Oxide for the Management of Labor Pain.

Nitrous oxide is commonly available to women for labor pain relief in many other countries, but is almost completely unavailable as an option for women in the United States. The comparative effectiveness review on this topic will examine the available evidence and look at specific questions such as its effectiveness, adverse effects, effects on women’s satisfaction with their birth experience and pain management, and health system factors influencing whether nitrous oxide is available to women who would like that option.

The public is invited to comment on this list of key questions to be addressed by the review, and can also review some background information describing the current use of nitrous oxide in the United States, the nature of the available literature, and the outcomes the review will examine.

Public comment is being accepted through December 8, 2010 via this online form; the site also provides a document to download and submit by mail if you prefer.