Keith Richards

Nitrous oxide History

Childbirth is not easy. Many women suffer during childbirth. Childbirth is meant to be hard, long, and painful – but women are strong and our bodies are made to handle a lot during this difficult time. Thousands of women have been giving birth in spite of the labour pain. Unfortunately many women do not cope well with labour pain. For some, the pain can be overwhelming.

Several studies had been done on childbirth. Hundreds of women in different countries were interviewed, and all participants said birth contractions were bittersweet, with paradoxial, feelings of love and the challenges of pain culimating in the birth of a child. The description of the pain included burning stinging, cramping, stabbing, hot, heavy, throbbing, tiring, exhausting and intense. The participants of the study also said that giving birth was seen as a difficult, yet empowering experience.

It is for this reason that scientist have been looking for ways to relieve the pain associated with childbirth. The history of childbirth facinates me and I found it hard to focus on just one detail. I set out to explore the reason behind the development of anesthesia. I came across the birth of Queen Victoria and the birth of her last two babies. I was curious to how and when she changed the mind of the clergy for good.

Anaesthetics came into use in the mid-1800’s as new chemical compounds were discovered and became available for experiments. Many of the commonly used anaesthetics are simple chemical compounds, and cover a surprising range of substances. The literature shows that the first anaesthetics were discovered when experimenters tried inhaling gases, or the vapours of volatile liquids. It all started with the brilliant mind of Sir James Young Simposon, who was a Scottish obstetrician in the 1800. Simpson had begun using ether to relieve the pain of childbirth, but he was dissatisfied with some of ether’s drawbacks, such as its disagreeable smell, the large quantities required, and the lung irritation it caused. Ether was also explosive so and many did not like to use.

It was during this time when a Liverpool chemist, David Waldie, suggested that Simpson try chloroform. On the evening of November 4, 1847, Simpson and two doctor friends inhaled some chloroform and, after feeling very happy and talkative, promptly passed out. They were so impressed with chloroform’s potency and rapid effects, that Dr Simpson immediately began using it in his obstetrical practice. Because of this experience the first baby born to a mother who received chloroform for pain was named Anaesthesia.

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