We all want more options and more autonomy for women during birth. That doesn't even need to be said, but I'll say it anyways to make sure we're all on the same page here.
Nitrous oxide (NO2), or laughing gas as many people call it, is on the way to the U.S. as a lower intervention to manage discomfort and anxiety for birthing mothers. And while this might be less risky than other interventions or cascades of interventions, it is not risk-free. Worse, perhaps, is that we all know providers will not be taking the time to offer women real, evidence-based data to achieve informed consent. And when it comes to Nitrous oxide, informed consent could be the difference between a simmering cascade of problems versus an empowered approach to continued health after birth.
What is the problem with this intervention? For many people who are familiar with things such as epidurals, they might be confused or irritated that I have an issue with offering NO2 to women during labor.
The problem has to do with methylation. Our understanding of methylation and how important it is for whole body health is still in the baby stage. Researchers are still struggling to pin down all the ways impaired methylation damages our body, creates disease, and also leads to congenital defects and neurological damage in our offspring.
Over and over again, as more research continues, we learn that impairing the methylation cycle such as by experiencing B vitamin depletion has numerous health consequences. Particularly for childbearing women, impaired methylation can play a part in many of the common pitfalls after birth such as post partum depression, anxiety, psychosis, thyroid and adrenal conditions, fertility conditions, breastfeeding discomfort or issues, low libido, and autoimmune conditions. Methylation is necessary to keep the brain neurochemically balanced. Clogged or impaired methylation, to put it simply, leads to mental illness in the brain and inflammation/pain in the body.
Here's the shining moment: Nitrous oxide impairs methylation. It degrades your B12 stores and basically causes a train wreck in your body. (Basic study to give you a research starting point here.)
Does that mean we should all run screaming from it? Does that mean a woman should never, ever consider it as part of her birth plan? No. With proper education and resources, this kind of damage can be mitigated and/or healed. And for some women, when they are empowered with all of the facts, they might want to retain the right to run away screaming. And that is their right.
But again. What is easily the main problem in our birth industry? Informed consent.
How many women are going to be encouraged to use NO2? How many women will be assured that it is safe, easy, and cheap? How many times will doctors fail to remind women that NO2 impairs methylation, depletes B12, and that this combined with her genetic background, lifestyle, and current health status could trigger cascades that develop into chronic pain, illnesses, and mental health issues?
How many do you think? Let's be real here. Is zero real enough? Maybe one woman out there? Maybe if she already knows about MTHFR, methylation, and depletion, she might demand that the doctor divulge the risks.
But not many women will know. Not most. The majority of women are going to look at NO2 as a safe, easy, and cheap alternative to other interventions during birth. And they aren't going to be equipped with the basic knowledge and tools to overcome the damage of NO2 exposure depleting their B12 stores even more after pregnancy already depleting them, and with breastfeeding about to happen to create an even more demanding burden.
What can you do?
Start talking about methylation to your friends. Start talking about B vitamins and cofactors. Start talking about the issues with synthetic or bio-unavailable supplements. Share articles, talk about it until other women consider it normal and basic information. Spread the word now, because the new cascade of interventions is on the way and it's going to be a doozy.
If you're curious to see a bigger, spinning picture, check out my article on birth control. Childbearing women are experiencing multiple sources of methylation burden and impairment. It's time to break the silence on this topic. It starts with you.