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Thousands of expectant mothers in parts of the United Kingdom are facing the prospect of having to give birth without gas and air due to a temporary ban being placed on the popular form of pain relief.
The reason for the ban is due to concerns about midwife safety. While there are no harmful side effects of using gas and air for the mother or baby, there are concerns that overexposure to nitrous oxide could be harmful to midwives and other hospital staff.
North West Anglia Foundation Trust Maternity Services was one of the first NHS Trusts to announce that they were going to temporarily suspend gas and air. Announcing it via its Facebook page, the trust said:
“There is no risk to women or babies using Entonox (the medical name for gas and air) but after testing the air quality in our maternity units, we have identified a potential risk of prolonged exposure for our staff.
We have therefore made the decision to temporarily suspend the use of Entonox in our maternity units with immediate effect to protect our midwifery, nursing, and medical teams.”
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The backlash from Expectant Mothers
Unsurprisingly, the news didn’t go down well with expectant mothers. One commented on the post saying that while they agreed that “staff needs to be protected” the news had made her “anxious as the first baby is due in a few more days.”
Midwives were also unsure about the decision, particularly considering the Trust had decided to communicate the news via a Facebook post. They said, “As well as terrifying hundreds of heavily pregnant vulnerable women, we as midwives are now concerned about what these risks are.
I am also appalled that you have chosen to post this on a Friday evening when none of these women will be able to speak to their community midwife, and no management will be in over the weekend to support those who are concerned.”
While the Trust has since offered an apology for the panic caused and the way they went about sharing the news, the ban on Entonox is still active, saying that the decision was made based on “expert external advice.”
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Why Gas and Air are Important
Gas and air supply to pregnant women in labor has proven to be highly effective for many years. While it doesn’t make giving birth painless, it can make the process a lot more bearable.
In 2022, the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England surveyed 16,600 women who had given birth that year. As part of the survey, it was revealed that 76% of women had used gas and air at some point during labor.
The North West Anglia Foundation Trust isn’t the first hospital to place a ban on Entonox, however. Hospitals in Ipswich and Essex have also faced similar issues, although in most cases, the decision has been reversed in time after air supply in the hospitals improved.
NHS England has said that there are no plans for a national ban on gas and air, with a spokesperson saying:
“We’ve been working with the Trusts where gas and air supplies have been affected due to differing and localized issues – this is not a widespread issue, and patients should continue to access services as normal.”
This article is inspired by the internet and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Motherhood Life Balance.
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