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How does gas and air work? / What do you do?

(24 Posts)
Bartimaeus Mon 18-Jul-11 08:25:04

I'm going to give birth in France, where the only pain relief they mention is the epidural.
fter my antenatal class last week I asked if they had gas and air, the midwife said they have a gas which is 50% oxygen and 50% something else (didn't catch what) so I'm guessing this is the gas and air.

BUT, she was very surprised when I said I'd like to try just using that and that lots of women in the UK do it.

She didn't explain how it works though, can anyone explain it to me? When do you use it? What effect does it have?

Northernlurker Mon 18-Jul-11 08:30:19

It spaces you out, sort of removes you from the pain a bit. I found it quite good. You need to take some good breaths of it at the beginning of a contraction and then stop so that the effect peaks at the peak of the contraction. I got dh to count through the contractions to help me with this.
You need to start using it when labour is well on it's way. It can make some women sick as the only side effect really. It is short lasting so no impact on baby.

Piffpaffpoff Mon 18-Jul-11 08:30:42

I'm sure someone will be along with a scientific explanation in a minute but for me the primary benefit was that it gave me something to focus on during each contraction. As soon as I felt one coming I would start a big deep breath in, sucking on the G&A. I counted to 10 breathing in and then exhaled as slowly. That usually saw me through the contraction and by focusing on this I focused less on the pain and didn't get in a panic. The gas itself just made me feel a bit woozy and out of it, a not entirely unpleasant sensation!

Petalouda Mon 18-Jul-11 09:06:25

I used G&A in the ambulance when I was transferred from mat unit to Big Hosp (not as dramatic as it sounds).

In my experience, G&A works by taking your mind off the contractions, so instead of thinking about how much it hurts you're thinking "wtf is this actually supposed to be doing because it's actually doing nothing and now the mouthpiece is falling off can someone fix this please... oh that's another one over". Oh, and the overwhelming desire to crack inappropriate jokes with the ambulance men.

Best pain relief for me was pushing. I don't remember any pain then.

But, that's the only 'pain relief' I had. (I'm v stubborn and didn't want anything that might make me feel sick)

However, I had a spinal block for repair surgery and remember thinking "Brilliant! I'm so having an epidural next time if it's like this!"

That probably doesn't help does it! hmm

Secondtimelucky Mon 18-Jul-11 09:16:39

Different people experience it different ways. I seem to be at the extreme end of the scale in that I feel high as a kite. Only downside of my lovely homebirth with DD2 was that, for various reasons, I didn't get to use it!

I think it used to be given with a mask (like an oxygen mask) but generally now it is a mouthpiece. You suck in as you feel a contraction start and take as many breaths as you need.

Bartimaeus Mon 18-Jul-11 10:27:02

Thanks, makes sense with the breathing in as a contraction starts.

malinois Mon 18-Jul-11 10:38:20

It's a 50/50 mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"). It's administered through a mouthpiece with a demand valve that works like a scuba regulator mouthpiece.

It's a very effective analgesic and euphoriant. It has a peak effect about 30s after an inhalation so it makes sense to take it as you sense the onset of the contraction. It's best to take one huge deep breath and hold it down for as long as possible like a bong hit but this is quite difficult to do during childbirth - if you pant into the mouthpiece you aren't going to get the full effect.

Make sure your DP doesn't hog it smile

notyummy Mon 18-Jul-11 10:45:45

Worked v well for me, but yes as other have said you do need to use it properly. Start as soon as you start to feel any pain and breathe slowly and deeply. Dh did counting and then pulled it away from me when I basically kept going constantly as it was fun!! It removed me from the pain and made me feel a bit like I was very tipsy. Didn't feel sick. Wears off very quickly. It also made time pass for me v quickly. I started using it at 5/6 cm dilated (around 6am) and had DD later than day at 2pm and I don't rememeber that much of the time inbetween - just like when you are drinking a bit much on a really good night out and look at your watch and think 'how did it get to be midnight??' grin

Lougle Mon 18-Jul-11 11:43:29

It is very effective if it is used properly.

The key is to breathe slowly and deeply, so that it really fills your lungs.

For me, I think the technique was a bit too efficient, because my pattern was:

-Contraction start - inhale gas and air
-Pain from contraction
-Pain goes
-Lose muscle tone
-'Pass out' (But could still hear)
-Mouth piece drops out of mouth
-'Come around' with sensation
-'Come around' with speech
-talk and reassure midwife/husband

-Contraction start - inhale gas and air.....

But I am a real lightweight in everything. Don't drink alcohol, etc.

Bartimaeus Mon 18-Jul-11 13:19:57

Thanks this is really useful!

Nice to know that an epidural or no pain relief aren't the only ways I can give birth.

Will definately ask the midwife for more information next time I see her. Don't really know why but am a bit reluctant to have an epidural if I can possibly avoid it.

RitaMorgan Mon 18-Jul-11 13:26:00

I loved the G&A - totally changed the labour experience for me from unbearable to almost pleasant! I was laughing and telling jokes to the midwife between contractions (sure I wasn't as funny as I thought I was).

The key is to start taking deep breaths in and out with the mouthpiece as soon as you feel the first twinge of the contraction so it has take effect by the time the contraction peaks, and then stop and breathe normal air between contractions.

pozzled Mon 18-Jul-11 13:32:33

I loved gas and air! It made a huge difference for me, when DD2 was born 5 weeks ago I was quite far gone when I got to the hospital. The contractions in the car were really difficult to cope with, but as soon as I started the gas and air it was fine, strong but not really painful.

Just breath as slowly and deeply as you can.

create Mon 18-Jul-11 13:42:26

I enjoyed gas and air, I'd describe the feeling as the best bit of being drunk - you know that bit when you're nicely sozzled, but before it goes goes wrong. It kind of removes you from the pain, rather than stops the pain iyswim. It does make you a bit confused though.

For DS2(short labour) it was all the pain relief I had, for Ds1 (nearly 2 days) I still had the epidural

Cyclebump Mon 18-Jul-11 15:57:37

I also loved the gas and air. Made me incredibly lightheaded and took me out of the situation at the peak of contractions. Didn't use it when pushing though as they came too fast.

Oh, and I found I needed frequent sips of water when using it as it can make your mouth feel very dry.

WriterofDreams Mon 18-Jul-11 16:18:17

I started on gas and air when I was 5 cms dilated and up until that point I really didn't think I'd be able to cope without an epidural. That was a big thing for me as I really really didn't want an epidural (needle ishoos) but as soon as I took a whiff of the G and A I was absolutely fine! I still felt the pain but in sort of an abstract way if that makes sense. Loved the feeling of it - as others have said it was like being pleasantly drunk. It took me a while to get used to how much to take though. If I took too much my hearing went funny and I started to feel very light headed. As far as I remember I took two very long deep pulls as the contraction began to build and then stopped and basically roared my head off for the peak of the contraction, at which point the full effect of the G and A had kicked in. Like others mentioned it gave me something to concentrate on, on top of giving me a pleasant high. It doesn't work for everyone but it really did the job for me!

thursday Mon 18-Jul-11 16:39:45


fraktious Mon 18-Jul-11 16:51:09

They are very pro epidural here (whereabouts are you btw?) but I used G&A. They thought I was crazy but I did fine - just a bit for transition and pushing.

You will want to be very proactive in terms of moving and keeping moving and request a MW with experience of alternative birthing positions.

breatheslowly Mon 18-Jul-11 17:06:35

I loved it, but did need an epidural too. I'll be having a CS if I have another and my only sadness is that I won't be able to use gas and air ever again.

BertieBotts Mon 18-Jul-11 17:10:36

I used it but also used a birth pool - I don't know if these are common in French hospitals? I found the pool great from about 5cm and probably used the G&A from 7 or 8.

LaWeasel Mon 18-Jul-11 17:22:04

I used Gas and Air and really liked it too.

However, I didn't use it quite properly!

I wouldn't let go of the mouthpiece and was basically breathing nothing but G&A four hours. I slept through most of my labour... confusedgrin! Not sure if this is also to do with the fact that I'd had some pethidine before I had the Gas and Air which also made me very relaxed and sleepy.

I did the rest of the birth just with G&A and didn't feel I needed anything else (and I was someone who wanted drugs as soon as my contractions started basically)

I will be attempting to do the breathing properly this time.

Bartimaeus Tue 19-Jul-11 13:08:40

frak I'm in Paris (and I've joined Message - think you gave me that tip? Great tip anyway)

Midwife seemed surprised I asked but then said that there would be no problem with me requesting it - don't even need to do it in advance, just when I turn up.

As for positions, well they said you can move around as much as you like in the room until the epidural, they have birthing balls and some delivery rooms have cloth-type things hanging from the ceiling for you to use to help you stretch your back. They also encourage you to be on all fours if your back is hurting.

When you give birth it's usually flat on your back but you can ask to give birth lying on your side.

Bertie no birthing pools unfortunately otherwise that would be my first choice - I'm a waterbaby! grin

These answers are all giving me lots of encouragement! smile

BeeBopBunny Tue 19-Jul-11 13:59:32

G&A is amazing. Suck it it as the contraction builds, NOT once the comntraction has peaked - that will make you feel sick. It doesn't make the pain any less, but it kind of ditatches you from it, like someone else is having the contractions rather than you. Weird, but fab!

fraktious Tue 19-Jul-11 15:06:51

I gave birth on all fours - just refused to budge! Paris will probably be a lot more accustomed to strange requests than where I am smile The hanging things are truly fab.

Bartimaeus Tue 19-Jul-11 15:56:12

I'm at a franco-britannique hospital so I think they're also more used to different requests! Think it depends also on the midwife who is delivering you.

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