Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood began offering nitrous oxide for pain relief in June of 2014. Since then, approximately 44% of women delivering at Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood have used nitrous oxide. Miranda S. from Cyrus shared, “I opted to use nitrous oxide for pain relief and I recommend it to all women during childbirth if they are able.”
Nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, is an equal blend of nitrous and oxygen. At this concentration, the nitrous is an analgesic with no smell or taste. It’s often used in dentistry at higher concentrations. Unlike continuous use during dentistry, the woman in labor has full control of when to use it, holding the mask to her face during contractions. It can also be used right after delivery during any subsequent procedure.
This pain relief option is less limiting than an epidural or other pain medication. It’s a nice alternative for women who want as little medical intervention as possible during labor and delivery.
A benefit is that nitrous oxide is safe for the mother and baby. It takes effect within a minute and usually clears your system in 2-5 minutes. Nitrous oxide does not slow contractions like some pain medications can and women still feel contractions to know when to push during delivery. Nitrous oxide can also be used with early contractions before other pain relief is able to be given, and laboring mothers can switch to other pain relief options at any time.
“It’s so wonderful to work in a facility that embraces change in order to stay current or ahead in providing great care,” stated Dr. Gus Mellgren, a Family Medicine with Obstetrics physician at Glacial Ridge Health System.
Nitrous oxide was used during childbirth in the U.S. until the 1970s when epidurals became more available. It is commonly used in the U.K. and Canada and is now making a comeback in the U.S.