Wchicken new report suggested that people who use nitroxide during childbirth should be warned about the effects of climate change, I felt the gentle trembling of a collective moan uttered in unison across the country. More than one person sent me headlines accompanied by a rolling eye emoji.
Clearly the climate crisis is an urgent matter of life or death and the future of all mankind. The astonishing results of our federal election show that this is an issue that Australians are deeply concerned about. And many medical colleges are considering the effects of climate change on their patients, even with the Australian Medical Association. issuing a call to arms.
I spend my days examining things about women’s health and medical care. Given the tiny impact on the environment that nitrose – also known as laughter gas – has, I feel that this report and its positioning by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists have been seriously misleading.
There are approximately 300,000 live births a year in Australia. Figures showing nitrous utilization were only provided by one hospital in the press release, so we have no way of knowing whether they are widely indicative, but they did show that 62% of patients used nitrose during childbirth. If 62% of births include nitrous use, that’s 186,000 parents. That sounds like a lot, but does it? Is it enough to make a significant difference to climate change?
“While it is appropriate for the sector as a whole to examine its greenhouse gases and look for ways to reduce them, we must remember that the core of the climate crisis is the burning of coal, oil and gas for energy,” the Climate. Climate Solutions Council senior researcher Tim Baxter told me.
“On a global scale, the relative impact of nitroxide use on work areas is not insignificant, but it is very, very small. No individual mother should feel guilty about her choice of pain relief. On an individual scale, parents could do more to protect their child’s health, their wallets, and the climate by doing simple things like getting gas out of their homes.
A possible omission is the use of nitro in dentistry, for which it is much better known. Professor Ian Meyers OAM is the President of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. He told me that nitro is mostly used to alleviate fear and anxiety in children, but it is also used more widely.
So why this report? Why now? Why this thing above all others? Why the omission of other uses? Why did I get all those rolling eye-popping emoji text messages?
We know, and already know, that pain among women is not taken so seriously, even when they have the same procedures as men. One study showed that women who had heart bypass surgery were only half as likely as men to be prescribed pain after that procedure. They also wait longer to receive analgesia in emergency rooms.
Nitroxide is one of the lowest risk options available for newborn parents who want some mild pain or are afraid of giving birth and need to relieve anxiety. It is also a very low risk for babies. Considering that it is used in such small numbers, for short durations and its minimal impact on global warming, you just wonder why this issue was raised at all.
Any parent knows that the judgment on childbirth can be overwhelming. For the past decade, parents have been pushed to “normal” or “natural” births. in some cases with dire consequences.
For those who do not want to have an epidural or morphine, the report’s authors suggested transcutaneous electrical nerve stimuli (Tens), hypnosis, and massage as alternatives to nitrous. The idea that most parents can afford a Tens machine, hin birth or massage classes is ridiculous.
I see no one asking men who line up from colonoscopies or transurethral resections of the prostate to try a Tens machine or massage. They are beaten faster than you can say “Bob is your uncle”.
When interviewing a patient in Western Australia, I noticed that there is a growing movement in Australia to follow a British trend (which has taken root primarily as part of NHS cost-cutting measures) to make all hysteroscopies completely painless. .
Hysteroscopy is an examination of the inside of the uterus, during which a doctor may remove polyps or fibroid tumors from the uterine wall. The patient I interviewed was told by the public hospital, which treats her, that “85% of patients go through it well.” What about the other 15%? Well, they’re not getting there yet because of the pain, apparently.
The patient I spoke to waited seven months to have the procedure. She was told she could have anesthesia but that she would have to go back on the waiting list for an indefinite period to wait for an anesthetist, living with the associated chronic pain caused by her submucosal fibroid. She was persuaded to continue without anesthesia.
“It was torturous,” she told me. “It was like something from the Middle Ages, like, but when they do it, just like we just end. It lasted a really long time. My body just convulsed in pain. It was absolutely awful. “
In the UK, this trend led to the founding of a campaign group called Campaign Against Painful Hysteroscopy and a petition called “End barbaric NHS hysteroscopies with inadequate pain relief” which attracted. almost 57,000 signatures at the time of writing.
I see little to no research or discussion about this or the risks to non-male patients through a system that doesn’t take their pain right, doesn’t believe them when they present at emergency rooms with life-threatening conditions like heart attacks or. pressing them into “natural” births because it’s more convenient and cheaper for the hospital, but just not what the parent wants.
While the report itself may not be “wrong” in any way, it feels like the lowest hanging, cheap fruit. Context is everything and, in a world where people who are not men are fighting for their right to be treated with care, equality and compassion, the publication of this report has thus been deeply discouraged and made for painful reading.