Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center now offers nitrous oxide as a pain management alternative to laboring mothers in its Family Birthing Center.
Nitrous oxide, popularly known as “laughing gas”, is a colorless and tasteless gas made for inhalation that is considered safe and provides analgesia during painful procedures. It is frequently used in many dental offices to help with pain, however, when used in labor and delivery, the concentration administered to patients is much milder and comprised of a mix of 50 percent nitrous gas and 50 percent oxygen.
“Labor and delivery can be painful and stressful to the mother, and we are excited to offer our patients another choice for pain management,” said Dr. Gregory Eads, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. “Patients are now very informed and wish to control their analgesic as much as possible. The availability of nitrous oxide gives this control to the patient."
Nitrous oxide can be used during labor, delivery, and even during immediate postpartum procedures. The use of nitrous oxide is safe for mother and baby, because the gas, which is delivered to the mother through an on-demand flow delivery system, gets expelled from the body through the lungs within a breath or two of the mask being removed.
“It is simple to administer,” said LuAnne Emanuel, clinical manager with Women & Newborn Services at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. “A laboring patient holds the mask with a firm seal against her face and then breathes in to release the flow of nitrous oxide. The patient should attempt to initiate the breath about 30 seconds before the contraction starts to allow the gas to take effect and give optimal relief at the peak of contractions.”
Studies have shown that nitrous oxide may have numerous benefits for pain control for laboring mothers. It does not adversely impact the progress of labor and it doesn’t disrupt the release of oxytocin, which means it does not affect infant alertness during the early bonding period between a mother and her newborn nor does it impact the mother’s ability to breastfeed. In addition, the use of the gas doesn’t require additional fetal monitoring and it’s safe for a patient to choose an epidural after nitrous oxide use.
Patients can view an educational video about the use of nitrous oxide: https://youtu.be./Lgu-1DDuFDc
Women's Memorial Hermann at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center encourages patients to consult with their OB-GYN to learn more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor and delivery.