Health Check: Nitrous oxide for labor

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is now being offered at two Rhode Island community hospitals to women in labor to ease pain. (WJAR)

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is now being offered at two Rhode Island community hospitals to women in labor.

Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket took the lead, offering it in March. South County Hospital in Wakefield began last month.

Colleen Decesare was the first patient at South County Hospital to take advantage of this combination of nitrogen and oxygen to help alleviate pain. And she has it something to compare it to.

When she had her first daughter, Leyden Forde, 15 months ago, she said she had an epidural.

"The medication I was on last time made me feel like I had a bottle of wine. And I didn't want to feel like that," said Decesare.

When she was in labor with Remi three weeks ago, the hospital began offering nitrous oxide.

"She can't get too much because she's simply going to place this on her face and she is going to take in three good, deep breaths and that's going to allow that nitrogen to soak in to her lungs and the oxygen helps lessen the pain," said Decesare's nurse midwife, Deb White.

"It was magical, definitely compared to my other experience," said Decesare.

And while nitrous oxide is meant to dull pain, it doesn't dull your senses.

"She's going to feel that sense of still urges to push," said White. "She's going to be able to get up, walk around. Her baby isn't even going to be affected."

And it clears from the system within a minute and can be used over again.

"It's really important for people to have a space in their community to bring their babies in to the world," said Danika Severino Wynn, a certified midwife at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket.

They've been offering nitrous oxide to birthing moms since March as part of Landmark's year-long initiative to make its birthing center family- and baby-centered.

Nitrous oxide is another tool in their toolbox.

"We know that relaxed women do better in labor and they dilate a little more quickly and they feel more in control with their experience," White said.

Decesare couldn't agree more.

"It was fantastic," she said. "I felt like I was more in control of what was going on."

White said she feels it's only a matter of time before all birthing centers offer nitrous oxide. She said there's really no downside.

Nitrous oxide has been used in the dentist's chair for decades to help dull pain, and it has been used in Europe for many decades in the labor and delivery room.

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