By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Soon there will be another option to relieve the pain of childbirth at one local hospital. It’s not a new pain medication, but it’s a gas that’s been around a long time and is now making resurgence. Laughing gas or nitrous oxide. It’s been used for decades for labor pain all over the world but not here in the U.S. for a while.

“Over the last five years, there’s been a big push by childbirth providers in the United States to reintroduce the use of nitrous oxide,” says Dr. Bill Camann, the Chief of Obstetric Anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It doesn’t provide the same kind of pain relief as an epidural but it will take the edge off things,” he explains.

It’s great for patients early in labor before they get an epidural, for patients who don’t want an epidural, or for patients who are too close to delivery to get an epidural.

And the effects are quick. “It’s very short-acting,” says Dr. Camann. “You take a breath and it works within a few seconds, but within a few breaths it goes away,” he adds.

Ideally a patient would take a few breaths of this earlier before her contraction or at the beginning of her contraction so the medicine has the maximal effect when she’s feeling the most pain.

“It’s non-invasive. It’s very safe. It has little to no effect on the baby,” says Kate McGovern, a Labor and Delivery Nurse at the Brigham who helped bring this age old anesthetic back to the hospital.

McGovern says one huge benefit is that patients have complete control. “The beauty of this machine is that they deliver it to themselves,” says McGovern. And she says, patients don’t feel sedated, they just feel relaxed.

WBZ’s Kelly Isenor says she might be willing to try it when she delivers her first baby in a few weeks. “If it’s something that can take the edge off and get me through that next contraction without any long-term effects,” Isenor says, “I think it’s a perfect solution.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital will be the first hospital in Boston to offer nitrous oxide to laboring moms. It will be available beginning August 5th of this year.


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