HCA Midwest—Kansas City’s leading healthcare provider—announced today that Research Medical Center will be the first hospital in the region to offer laboring moms nitrous oxide, or N2O, also known as “laughing gas”. Often applied as a temporary analgesic, or pain killer, for a variety of medical procedures, N2O is becoming more widely practiced in the labor and delivery room and even during immediate postpartum procedures as a low-intervention therapy for pain relief.  Research Medical Center is part of HCA Midwest Health.

A colorless and tasteless mixture of 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen, the use of N2O is safe for mother and baby. Access to the gas is maintained in the patient’s room and, with medical oversight, is inhaled through a self-administered mask and delivered to the mother through an on-demand flow delivery system. It is then expelled from the body through the lungs within a breath or two of the mask being removed.

There are two points during the labor process during which nitrous oxide can be distributed. Most commonly, it is given to the mother early in the process to provide pain relief until she can receive her epidural anesthesia, which is given to about half of all women who give birth at a hospital. Or, if the mother chooses not to receive an epidural and instead undergo natural labor, the nitrous oxide can be an alternative pain reliever.  Minimal side effects reported by laboring women include nausea or dizziness, quickly eliminated by taking a few deep breaths of room air.

“Nitrous oxide is another safe and low intervention pain option we can offer to laboring moms, which gives them more control over their birth experience,” says Rebecca Wayman, M.D., board-certified OB-Gyn. “With clinical supervision by an experienced nurse, the patient is in charge of administering her own N2O to help manage personal pain, starting to inhale about 30 seconds before a contraction begins. This helps the gas to gain optimal effectiveness at about the same time a contraction reaches its peak. After contractions subside, the patient can remove the mask and begin to inhale regular room oxygen.”

Dr. Wayman, notes that “individual patient experiences will differ, but most women report that nitrous oxide helps “take the edge off’ of contractions, allowing them to better cope with labor.  It can also help to lower anxiety, which can, in turn, help the overall labor process.”

Research Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Jackie DeSouza -Van Blaricum says that “improving patient experience and satisfaction in the labor process and delivering safe and healthy baby(ies) is our goal. Childbirth is painful and can be stressful and by offering nitrous oxide we empower women with another option to manage their discomfort, other than conventional methods. Being the first hospital in the Kansas City region to offer nitrous oxide aligns with our commitment to provide innovation to our patients.”

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.  Women who are unable to hold a mask to their face or have a B12 vitamin deficiency are not candidates to use N2O.

Find out more information about Research Medical Center's comprehensive women’s services.

For more information about Research Medical Center’s comprehensive Women’s Services, including labor and delivery, visit Unique Delivery.