The same analgesic offered for dental procedures is now being offered to laboring moms at The Birth Center at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). Nitrous oxide is the latest option for patients coping with pain during labor – whether it’s contractions, IV start-ups or lab procedures. HCMC began offering it early this year with overwhelmingly positive results.
“Nitrous oxide is quick to set up, great for any time during labor, and it’s safe for both mom and baby,” explains Sara Wendt, Clinical Care Supervisor at The Birth Center. “Many of our moms are looking for a natural experience. Nitrous oxide combined with our Doula program, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy offer women many options to reach that goal.”
The inhaled analgesic is self-administered by the patient to use when having a contraction or during a painful procedure – others choose to use it all through their labor.
“It doesn’t take all the pain away, but patients report an increase in satisfaction of the labor experience,” says Wendt.
European countries and Australia have been using nitrous oxide inhalation for years. Some studies have also shown that it reduces C-section rates and speeds up labor progress because the patient is able to relax and allow her body to do the work of labor. Nurses in The Birth Center have seen similar results and are excited to offer this to their patients.
“Nurses love nitrous because it is quick to set up, easy to teach, and they have seen remarkable transformations for women when utilizing the analgesic,” according to Wendt. “The women appear calmer, are coping better, and are more focused during their labor. Many of our patients are giving it a try which helps them to be in more active labor when deciding to get an epidural. And for some women, nitrous helps them feel in control in an otherwise anxiety-provoking, uncontrollable situation.”
A common side effect is nausea but medication is available to help reduce this discomfort. Patients are counseled on the use of nitrous oxide as an option to cope with pain during their labor experience, and many are trying it – which helps them transition into more active labor before it’s time to make a decision about an epidural.
“Women should have access to a variety of approaches to promote comfort, reduce pain, and help them feel safe and empowered during the experience of bringing a child into this world. This is another way to help our patients do this.”
The Birth Center at HCMC is a designated Baby-Friendly Hospital delivering more than 2,200 babies each year. The Birth Center is expertly equipped to meet all of the patients’ needs before, during and after the arrival of their child. HCMC recognizes that the birth of a child will be one of the most exciting times in a patient’s life and provides a full spectrum of care which can be customized to meet patient needs and desires. From an advanced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to a nurse-midwife unit, a full spectrum of options is available for families. Call 612-873-BABY (2229) for more information.