"Laughing Gas" for Labor Pains? Fairview Delivers a New Option for Women Giving Birth

At Fairview, we believe that moms-to-be deserve options when deciding the type of delivery they want with their baby. That’s why we provide our patients with the safest, most effective and most up-to-date pain relief choices available.

In that vein, Fairview now offers nitrous oxide as a pain relief option for women at all six of our Birthplace Labor and Delivery hospital units. This includes Fairview Southdale Hospital, Fairview Ridges Hospital, Fairview Range, Fairview Northland Medical Center and Fairview Lakes Medical Center, as well as University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. We’re proud to be the first health system in Minnesota to have all of our hospitals offering this service.

Nitrous oxide, often called “laughing gas,” is used to control labor pains and ease anxiety for moms-to-be in the delivery room.

“It is a mild pain reliever that can be safely used for pain relief during labor, with little or no effect on the baby,” said Phillip Rauk, MD, maternal-fetal medicine physician and Birthplace medical director. “Nitrous oxide reduces pain and can help moms feel more in control, because they take it themselves when they need it.”

To use the gas, patients hold a mask to their face and start breathing in for about 30 seconds before a contraction. Doing so gives the gas time to work. The gas starts clearing from the body as soon as the patient stops breathing it in.

Babies born under nitrous oxide are not significantly affected by it. In less than a minute, it is eliminated from the baby’s body through the lungs. Newborn well-being and neurobehavioral assessments are not meaningfully different from those for unmedicated birth.

“Birth wishes of pregnant women are as diverse as the women themselves,” said Ann Forster Page, CNM, nurse-midwife director, University of Minnesota Medical Center. “Some women prefer the stronger pain relief offered by an epidural. Others would like to avoid an epidural or may decide on an epidural later in the labor process. For those women, nitrous oxide can be a good ‘middle ground’ for pain relief.”

Providing a range of birthing options helps us better serve the individual needs of our patients and ensure that every pregnant woman can choose the labor that works best for her.



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