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'Laughing gas' if you're in labor? It's now an option at a MN birthing center

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"Laughing gas" is now an option for moms-to-be in the delivery room, at least at one Twin Cities birthing center.

The Minnesota Birth Center in Minneapolis started offering "laughing gas" (nitrous oxide) as an option for pain relief during childbirth this month, according to its website.

About 83 percent of women in the U.S. chose to use some pain relief during labor, the Minnesota Birth Center told KSTP.

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The most common option is an epidural, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) notes, but nitrous oxide – which in countries such as the United Kingdom, Finland and Australia is used by 40-60 percent of laboring women – is slowly being introduced into delivery rooms in the U.S., as a way to control labor pains and ease anxiety.

In 2008, only five birthing centers in the country were known to use laughing gas, AHRQ says. But since the FDA approved the self-administering laughing gas machines in 2012 – which allow someone to control how much of the gas they get – it has started to become a more popular alternative, WCCO reports.

In July, The Atlantic found there were 19 hospitals and 14 birthing centers in the U.S. that offer, or were in the process of offering, laughing gas during labor. WCCO notes at least three other birthing centers in the state plan to start using it this year.

It's not perfect, however

As it is with all treatments, nitrous oxide may not be suitable for everyone. It is known to produce mild side effects like nausea, drowsiness and dizziness, among other symptoms, according to the National Institute of Health.

Nitrous oxide can be used for more than just pain relief as well. Researchers found it could be a possible treatment for severe depression, CBS News reported.

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