The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is seeking public comment in reviewing the comparative effectiveness of nitrous oxide (basically, the same laughing gas your dentist uses) as a way to manage labor pain. This is an option available to women in most developed countries, but it is only used in a handful of hospitals in the U.S.
Here's Our Bodies Our Blog, writing about the agency's process:
Recently, AHRQ has become more active in soliciting public input to the review process, and today they posted for public comment the key questions and background materials for a review that will be conducted soon, Comparative Effectiveness of Nitrous Oxide for the Management of Labor Pain.
Nitrous oxide is commonly available to women for labor pain relief in many other countries, but is almost completely unavailable as an option for women in the United States. The comparative effectiveness review on this topic will examine the available evidence and look at specific questions such as its effectiveness, adverse effects, effects on women’s satisfaction with their birth experience and pain management, and health system factors influencing whether nitrous oxide is available to women who would like that option.
The public is invited to comment on this list of key questions to be addressed by the review, and can also review some background information describing the current use of nitrous oxide in the United States, the nature of the available literature, and the outcomes the review will examine.
Public comment is being accepted through December 8, 2010 via this online form; the site also provides a document to download and submit by mail if you prefer.
This program aired on November 11, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.