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News & Announcements

Saint Vincent Hospital Now Offers Nitrous Oxide Assisted Childbirth

Aug 31, 2017

WORCESTER, MASS – August 29, 2017: There is a new option for expectant mothers at Saint Vincent Hospital, and it’s no laughing matter - nitrous oxide analgesia for childbirth. Though many people associate nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, with the dentist’s office, its use in easing the experience of childbirth is gaining in popularity among expectant mothers who want a less invasive option for their labor pain relief.

Conventional wisdom more than suggests that childbirth can be a painful ordeal that lasts many hours. The nitrous oxide treatment – which does not actually block pain – can be self-administered by patients at the Center for Women and Infants at Saint Vincent Hospital.  As an analgesic, nitrous oxide can be used as a part of their treatment plan, which may also include an epidural or other methods of pain or anxiety management.

“Nitrous oxide assisted labor and delivery is one of many options we can offer our expectant mothers to keep them as comfortable as possible during labor and delivery. It is part of the service options we offer to individualize their care at Saint Vincent Hospital,” said Alison Madden, M.D. chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Saint Vincent Hospital. “The use of nitrous oxide during childbirth is effective because it changes the mother’s perception of pain and reduces her anxiety. The staff is really embracing it as they see how effective it is when used by their patients.”

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nitrous oxide is a tasteless and odorless gas used as a labor analgesic by some hospitals. It has been found to decrease anxiety while increasing a feeling of well-being so that the pain experienced by mothers in labor and delivery is easier for them to deal with. Nitrous oxide is administered as a mixture with oxygen and inhaled through a mask. A woman holds the mask herself and decides when she needs to inhale. This treatment usually works best when a woman begins inhaling 30 seconds before the start of a contraction. Peer-reviewed research has determined that nitrous oxide is safe for the mother and the baby. Although some women may feel dizzy or nauseated while inhaling nitrous oxide, these sensations generally go away within a few minutes.

“There are several treatment options that are available to help women manage the pain and anxiety that expectant moms experience leading up to and during childbirth. Working with their nurses, certified nurse midwives or obstetric physicians, it really is individualized as to which options they would like to choose,” said Jean Salera-Vieira, MS, PNS, APRN-CNS, director, Center for Women and Infants at Saint Vincent Hospital. “We are proud to offer nitrous oxide as an option among many others to help provide expectants mothers with more choices in pain management during their labor and delivery.”

The American College of Nurse-Midwives has stated that nitrous oxide, which is commonly used in other developed nations around the world, should be an option for women in labor throughout the United States. The “reasonable efficacy, safety and unique and beneficial qualities” of nitrous oxide gas already are supported by research, according to a position statement.

The Center for Women and Infants at Saint Vincent Hospital offers women a personalized approach to family-centered care - one of the many reasons why more than 2,000 families chose to give birth here last year. Those who have questions about nitrous oxide assisted child birth or other maternity-related services can call 866-494-3627 or use our find a physician tool to be connected to a clinician who can provide more information.