Should gas and air be banned? Debate breaks out on GMB as mother claims warnings about the environment ‘put more pressure on women’ during labour
- The two mothers debated about gas and air on Good Morning Britain today
- READ MORE: Women in childbirth urged to swap gas and air for water injections to save the planet
A mother-of-three has said that the environment was ‘the last thing on her mind’ when she was in labour, hitting out at calls to get rid of gas and air.
For years Entonox, known as gas and air, has been a popular method of pain relief in labour.
However, in a crackdown on harmful greenhouse gas emissions, the NHS has warned that the use of Entonox in Scotland is ‘equivalent to 18,000 transatlantic flights’.
Instead, the health service will be offering an injection of water to ease contractions.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, mummy blogger Lucy Baker said the move puts ‘pressure on women again’.
A mother-of-three has said that the environment was ‘the last thing on her mind’ when she was in labour, hitting out at critics of parents who choose to opt for gas and air during childbirth amid reports that it may be harming the planet
‘Are you going to feel guilty if you took the and air not the water injections after you’ve had the baby?’ she questioned.
‘We know that gas and air works. it totally takes the pain away – it’s a great method.’
Opening up about her own labour, Lucy said gas and air offered huge relief for her at a ‘critical moment’.
‘I was at the point where the baby was stressed, I was stressed – it was going to be an emergency caesarean,’ she revealed.
‘And then I was offered gas and air and I took it and loved it, and it got rid of the pain and ensured that I could manage the situation that I was in.’
However, mother-of-one Kate Hofman says she wishes she knew about the impact of gas and air before she went into labour so she could ‘factor that in’.
‘I think the main thing is, like when we all make our birth plans, the more information you can give people as they’re going in and preparing before they go into labour, the better informed they’ll be,’ she told the programme.
‘And that comes with all the decisions we make as parents about sustainability, what we want to feed our children, what nappies we want to use…’
However, mother-of-one Kate Hofman says she wishes she knew about the impact of gas and air before she went into labour so she could ‘factor that in’
However, social media users appeared to side with Lucy, many saying that asking anyone to think about sustainability during labour is unreasonable
Stressing that she is not a doctor and has no medical experience, Kate added that the water injections appear to offer a valid alternative.
‘My understanding is they’re used in other parts of the world, have been done for years as a form of pain relief,’ she explained.
The Scottish Government previously wrote to all health boards with a plan suggesting women should be discouraged from using Entonox for the good of the planet.
Last week, watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) backed the use of sterile water in England.
NHS Lothian and NHS Ayrshire and Arran have confirmed they offer the jabs alongside other forms of pain relief.
Deep breaths or jabs in the back?
GAS & AIR, known as Entonox, is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen self-administered through a mouthpiece;
- First developed in 1933 by anaesthetist Robert James Minnitt and instrument maker Charles King, the mix is understood to work by blocking neurotransmitters and releasing feel-good chemical dopamine – taking the edge off pain, rather than eliminating it.
- Quick-acting and safe, it is not harmful to the unborn child but is considered harmful to the environment.
STERILE WATER is injected at four points in the lower back;
- First documented in 1885, it was used for minor surgery and kidney stones
- It has been used for labour in Sweden, Canada, Asia and Australia since the 1980s
- Although unclear how it works, scientists believe the perception of pain from the back is blocked by pain receptors in the skin being irritated by the injections.
- Although some studies found injections significantly reduced back pain, patients have complained about the intense stinging sensation when injected
- Sterile water has no long-term effects – and is environmentally friendly
NHS Lothian’s online advice to pregnant women says: ‘It is particularly useful in early labour and we have seen great results with this form of pain relief.’
The NICE guidance told medical staff: ‘Consider intracutaneous or subcutaneous sterile water injections as a pain relief option for women in labour with back pain. These injections can be given by a midwife trained in the use of sterile water injections.
‘Explain to the woman that sterile water injections can provide relief of back pain from ten minutes after the injection for up to three hours, but there can be an initial stinging sensation.’
However, social media users appeared to side with Lucy, many saying that asking anyone to think about sustainability during labour is unreasonable.
‘The last thing any labouring mother is thinking about is “saving the planet”,’ one said on X – formerly known as Twitter.
‘No, at that moment in time we just need pain relief!!!!’
‘Only agree to this if there is a specifically male equivalent of saving the planet. It doesn’t take the pain away, it just makes you not give a s**t.,’ a second added.
Elsewhere, some were wary of the injection alternatives.
‘Sterile water injections well I’ve never heard that before,’ one penned.
‘Injection?????? Ya must be mad. Don’t know what’s in it,’ another wrote. ‘Keep gas and air ffs, it’s also needed in A&E.’
Those in favour of the jabs say they are cheap and effective – but not everyone agrees.
TV doctor Amir Khan branded NICE’s guidance ‘hugely concerning’ and author and palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke said it was ‘mind-boggling’.
The National Childbirth Trust website says the treatment is ’unusual’ but adds: ‘There is some evidence it can help. It’s usually used for women experiencing strong back pain in labour.’
It is unclear exactly how the injections work, but one theory is that they stop back pain signals from reaching the brain.
In one study, six in ten women described the jabs as effective.
However, during a consultation on the treatment, the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association wrote: ‘What possible biological plausible explanation is there for benefit with intracutaneous or subcutaneous injections of water in volumes of 0.1 to 0.4mls?
‘Because it is cheap and unlikely to cause harm is an inadequate
justification for a recommendation, especially as NICE does not recommend other similar non-pharmacological therapies such as acupuncture and hypnosis.’
The Scottish Medicines Consortium, which advises boards on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new medicines, said: ‘Pain relief in labour is not a licensed use of sterile water for injection, so not in the SMC’s remit.’
The Scottish Government plan sent to boards proposes that expectant mothers do their bit in a ‘collaborative mitigation approach’ to cutting the environmental impact of Entonox.
Healthcare service NHS Scotland Assure admits the benefits of Entonox but says that ‘within NHS Scotland, Entonox alone is responsible for an emission footprint similar to that of 18,000 flights from Frankfurt to New York’.
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