Childbirth can be a beautiful experience, but it’s no secret that it does come with some pain. Women who want to labor with minimal interventions and choose to deliver at Baptist Health-Fort Smith and Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway now have the option of using nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas,” for pain management.
Here’s how local moms have found ways to “take the edge off” when in labor at Baptist Health:
Abigail Davies, 25, of Ward, knew she wanted her first birthing experience to be as natural as possible. The effects of nitrous oxide are different for every woman, but it is said to allow you to relax and cope with labor.
“I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park and I didn’t want an epidural,” said Davies.
What is Nitrous Oxide and How Does it Work?
Nitrous oxide used for labor discomfort is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen. It is inhaled through a hand-held mask and self-administered, allowing mom to use it as needed with each contraction.
The Nitrous Oxide gas slows the nervous system, which makes you feel less inhibited. It also can create a sense of well-being or euphoria.
“It will take the edge off and let you power through,” she said. “I was totally with it the whole time and could push. It really helped with the anxiety of being in labor.”
Jessica Staats, 32, of Poteau, Okla., used nitrous oxide to deliver her first child, as well. Like Davies, she found that this milder form of pain relief allowed her to fully soak in the experience of childbirth.
“It was a great way to take the edge off of your pain while still maintaining control and awareness,” she said.
Starting to inhale before a contraction allows the pain relief to occur when the contraction reaches its peak, providing the greatest relief. It may be beneficial for women who are prone to anxiety or want the ability to move more freely during labor. It is also less invasive than an epidural and has fewer side effects for both mother and baby. With nitrous oxide, you can safely breastfeed after delivery without concern of passing IV medications to your baby.
“We find this to be a good option for women who, for whatever reason, prefer not to have an epidural or use narcotic pain medication, or if it is too early or late in the labor process for an epidural, the gas can be used,” said Mark Fowler, MD, of Baptist Health Women’s Clinic-Fort Smith.
With nitrous oxide, you can choose to stop before your infant’s delivery and instead use another form of pain relief such as IV narcotics or an epidural. However, nitrous oxide cannot be used in conjunction with other forms of pain management.
Once you decide that you want to use it, a medical screening will be done. If you meet criteria, your physician will order the medication and a member of the health care team will come to your room, set it up, and review how to use it.
“Some of our patients prefer to use nitrous oxide during contractions, and others prefer to use it to help relax between contractions,” Dr. Fowler said. “The nurse will teach you how to use it, so you can decide what feels best.”
Labor and Delivery at Baptist Health
Nitrous oxide is not for everyone. In addition to traditional forms of pain management for labor, Baptist Health labor and delivery teams can also help you with various massage and stretching techniques with the use of birthing peanuts and balls, which are similar to yoga balls.
Talk to your provider about your options for labor management and be open about your birth plan to your care team both in the clinic and in the hospital.
To pre-register for your delivery please click here or call Baptist Health Healthline at 1-888-BAPTIST (227-8478) for more information.