Since 2021, nitrous oxide has been offered at Hvidovre Hospital as pain relief for women in childbirth. For the previous decade it had not been possible, because the department was concerned that nitrous oxide may be unhealthy for staff. This has proved not to be the case, and therefore nitrous oxide has been available since 2021. This was celebrated after a two-year delay due to Covid-19.
The gas acts as mild and reliable pain relief for women in labour, and there are fewer side-effects than with many other types of sedation.
"We know that nitrous oxide is the right type of pain relief for many women in childbirth, and for this reason I also believe that the treatment should always be available, regardless of which maternity department you are in. Therefore, I’m extremely pleased that nitrous oxide is back at Hvidovre Hospital,” said the chairman of the health committee at the Capital Region of Denmark, Christoffer Buster Reinhardt (Conservative People's Party). He is also delighted that the new equipment means that the nitrous oxide is now far more climate-friendly.
"A four-hour birth can have approximately the same carbon footprint as driving 1,500 kilometres by car, so we’ll be saving a lot on our climate accounts.”
Nitrous oxide has a serious climate impact
The new equipment means Hvidovre Hospital is the first hospital in Denmark with facilities to break-down nitrous oxide before it is discharged into the atmosphere.
“It makes a noticeable difference for the hospital's overall climate impact,” explained Jannick Rasmussen, specialist manager at the Centre for Real Estate at the Capital Region of Denmark.
"Nitrous oxide is a more than 300-times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Therefore, it’s been crucial for us to look at what we can do to reduce emissions in this area. The destructor unit will be a great help.
Nitrous oxide is not absorbed into the body, so when the patient exhales the gas it is fed to the destructor through a tube,” explained Jannick Rasmussen.
“The destructor unit works just like a catalytic converter in a car to break-down the used nitrous oxide into environmentally neutral substances. The gas that is finally led out into the atmosphere doesn’t contain any gases that impact the climate."
The maternity department at Hvidovre Hospital is where most newborn Danes come into the world every year, and now the hospital can again offer nitrous oxide pain relief.
Hvidovre Hospital is the first hospital in Denmark with facilities to break-down nitrous oxide centrally before it is discharged into the atmosphere.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a highly potent greenhouse gas, with significant adverse impacts on global warming. Gases are converted to CO2 equivalents so that they can be compared, and 1 kg of nitrous oxide (N2O) corresponds to 298 kg CO2.
"A four-hour birth using nitrous oxide and oxygen can have approximately the same carbon footprint as driving 1,500 kilometres by car.
A new survey shows that the total climate footprint from medical gases in the Capital Region of Denmark is around 6,000 tonnes CO2 equivalents, corresponding to more than 10% of the total climate footprint from hospital energy consumption.
Hvidovre Hospital uses annually around 2 tonnes of nitrous oxide, corresponding to 600 tonnes CO2 emissions. However, thanks to the destructor the figures are now close to zero.
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