Hospitals suspend use of gas and air pain relief used by mothers-to-be in labour due to fears for midwives over exposure to unsafe levels of nitrous oxide

  • Hospitals have sought to temporarily ban use of laughing gas after safety fears
  • A pregnant mother said it was ‘stress that you don’t need’ while giving birth

Birthing mothers are ‘paying the price’ as several NHS trusts suspend pain-relieving gas and air, it has been claimed. 

Hospitals have sought to temporarily halt the use of laughing gas following concerns that medical staff are being exposed to harmful levels in the workplace.

The nitrous oxide and oxygen combination has been measured as 50 times higher than established limits in some NHS units, according to The Sunday Times

But suspensions have also been labelled ‘madness’ with the popular option of pain relief potentially taken out of reach for some.

Pregnant Amy Fantis is due to have her baby at the Princess Alexandra hospital in Essex which allegedly suspended use of the gas last month. 

While the hospital has ordered machines which can break up the gas into unharmful components, it only has three of these at hand. 

Amy told the publication this was a ‘stress that you don’t need’, having been dependent on the pain relief while giving birth four years ago.

She said: ‘It’s not available to everyone and I might not get it. My birth might only be 40 minutes. It is a stress that you don’t need. I understand they have to keep midwives safe but to just take it away seems madness. It is the poor mums who are paying the price.’

High levels of nitrous oxide have also previously been detected at a number of trusts including Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, and Watford General Hospital, it was said. 

Essex’s Basildon University Hospital was reportedly among the hospitals that temporarily suspended use of the gas but have since reinstated it. 

Ipswich Hospital also temporarily suspended the pain relief last year but have reinstated it following the installation of new ventilation units.  

Executive director of the Royal College of Midwives told the publication that ‘poor ventilation in delivery suites’ was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ in the issue of maternity units unfit for purpose. 

An NHS England spokesman told MailOnline: ‘NHS England has been working with the Trusts where gas and air supplies have been affected due to differing and localised issues – this is not a widespread issue and patients should continue to access services as normal.’

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MailOnline has approached the hospitals for comment.  


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