Mothers Denied Gas and Air in Labour say Their Births were Traumatic


When Leigh Milner gave birth to her baby boy last month she was expecting “all the pain relief” but ended up with just paracetamol and describes her labour as absolutely unbearable.

The BBC journalist delivered her son Theo at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, one of several that have recently suspended gas and air due to fears midwives and doctors have been exposed to unsafe levels.

Leigh was warned beforehand that gas and air wouldn’t be available but said she was promised she could have other pain relief.

However, her labour progressed very quickly after being induced due to pre-eclampsia, and doctors said there was no time for an epidural – an injection in the back to stop feeling pain – or anything else.

desperately needed something to take the edge off,” the 33-year-old says.

“My whole body was shaking. I kept begging for pain relief but the only thing they said they could give me was paracetamol. The pain was so much that I was in and out of consciousness.

“It felt like a Victorian birth and it shouldn’t have. From start to finish, that day was an absolute mess.”

The hospital has since put three temporary gas and air units in place but when Cheryl Lake, 39, gave birth to her daughter, Sophie, at the hospital on 13 February the one in her room wasn’t working.

“My two midwives were absolutely fantastic but they can only work with the resources they have got,” she says.

Permanent gas and air units are being fitted soon at the hospital, Giuseppe Labriola, director of midwifery, says.

“We also have a designated helpline in place for women and people who are due to give birth to call with any queries they have,” he adds.

The NHS maternity survey for 2022 shows 76% of women used gas and air, also known as nitrous oxide, during their labour.

Source: BBC News