ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Sentara Martha Jefferson recently starting using nitrous oxide – often referred to as “laughing gas” as an option for women to assist with pain during labor.

“It’s really just minimal sedation and helps the patient relax,” said Sharon Fickley, RN, Sentara Martha Jefferson Labor and Delivery.  “It really helps to relieve anxiety, but the patient remains awake, in control, and really it alters your perception of pain.”

Previously used years ago in higher concentrations, today it’s blended with 50% oxygen to make it safe to use through every stage of labor.

“It can be used as a first measure if women are maybe super anxious,” noted Fickley.  “Or, maybe it’s early labor and they aren’t ready for an IV narcotic or an epidural.  Additionally, it can also be beneficial for someone who just doesn’t want to use other pain management alternatives.”

Nurses will show patients how to safely use the nitrous.  An additionally benefit is, they don’t have to stay in bed to reap the benefits.

“It allows them to remain upright and ambulatory which helps labor progress,” noted Fickley.  “You could be standing, leaning, rocking, moving at the bedside…”

So far, it’s received positive feedback from new moms.  

“The things they really like about it are that sense of control it gives them, the fact that it’s self-administered and they like the fact that it helps them feel more calm, more relaxed,” noted Fickley.

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, please email healthquestions@nbc29.com