NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville is now offering nitrous oxide, more commonly referred to as laughing gas, to woman during child birth.
The gas can be administered quickly, is widely known to rapidly ease pain, and has been proven safe for both mothers and their babies.
The odorless, tasteless gas is mixed with equal parts oxygen and inhaled through a mask.
The mixture is safe for both the mother and baby because it is eliminated from the body through the lungs, rather than through the liver, and does not cause newborns to be groggy.
Dr Sarah Starr told Nashville's News 2 laboring women will typically feel the affects of the laughing gas within 30 to 60 seconds, but it only lasts for a few minutes.
“A hallmark of using nitrous oxide in a labor environment is that the mother is able to self-administer via the mask,” she explained, adding, “This increases her sense of control over the dosage, over her pain and over herself during labor.”
According to doctors, using nitrous oxide as a form of pain relief during child birth allows mothers to remain mobile.
“For women who want to experience a lot of the sensations of birth, but want some help, it's a great option,” Starr explained.
New mother Rebekah Rohrback gave birth to her son Lucian at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Sunday, a day before the hospital began offering laughing gas as an option for pain relief during child birth.
She told Nashville's News 2 she would have opted for nitrous oxide had it been available.
“The nitrous seemed very appealing because it's short term and something you can control versus an epidural, which has lingering side affects and you have to have a catheter,” Roheback said.
By offering laughing gas, Vanderbilt becomes only the third hospital in the country to do so.
Nitrous oxide was used in the United States in the 1950s but was later replaced by other options, including epidurals.
To this day nitrous oxide is commonly used for pain relief during childbirth in European countries.