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Breathing easier through the pain: Madison Health introduces nitrous oxide for laboring mothers
May 2, 2017

The Obstetrics department at Madison Health now offers nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas”, to laboring mothers, joining the growing number of clinics in the United States. The organization is the 11th in the state and second in Central Ohio to provide the service.


“We are pleased to be able to offer another option for pain management during labor,” said Tracy Stewart, Director of Obstetrics at Madison Health. “Bringing a new baby into the world is a life-changing event and we want all of our families to have the most safe and comfortable experience possible.”


According to the American Academy of Anesthesiologists, inhaled nitrous oxide was introduced to provide pain relief during labor in 1881. The use of nitrous oxide is commonplace in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Finland and Canada; however, usage is less than 1% in the United States.


Unlike the dosage commonly received during a dental visit, the nitrous oxide provided for labor is a mixture of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen.


Many laboring mothers prefer the gas because of its minimal side effects on the baby and themselves. Traditional pain control techniques can often effect fetal outcomes such as APGAR scores, heart rates and the ability to breastfeed.


Wendy Parks of West Jefferson is one of those mothers. She gave birth to her first child, Lucy, on April 12 and was the first mother at Madison Health to use nitrous oxide.  


“I felt very calm during the delivery and the nitrous oxide helped ease most of the pain,” she recalls. “The entire experience was dreamlike.”



Upon arrival, Wendy anticipated having an epidural as part of her birth plan. After speaking to the nursing staff and learning that nitrous oxide would have no effect on her baby, and that she could convert to an epidural later, she decided to pursue the option.


Another advantage of nitrous oxide is that it is non-invasive and self-administered by the mother, who can control its usage. She is instructed to breathe in the gas around 30 seconds before a contraction begins so that it will take effect when the contraction reaches its peak. It also has a rapid offset, with effects wearing off shortly after usage has ceased.


“After I took off the mask, I became more aware of what was going on around me. I was alert during delivery and did not feel any effects. I felt so well that we welcomed visitors in to meet baby Lucy immediately after her arrival.”


Wendy’s husband, Aaron, echoed her sentiments.


“The nitrous oxide did wonders for Wendy,” he said. “It gave me peace of mind knowing there were no adverse effects on Wendy and our baby girl.”


The movement to offer nitrous oxide at Madison Health began with Dr. Mitchell Spahn, an obstetrician-gynecologist who delivers at the hospital. Dr. Spahn and Tracy worked seamlessly with local physicians and nursing staff to provide the proper education and equipment.


“From conception to inception, the process of offering nitrous oxide only took a month,” said Tracy. “It is a true testament to how well we work together and the level of commitment we have for our community.”


The addition of nitrous oxide usage is another milestone in the department’s dedication to provide access to modern obstetric care. In 2015, Madison Health began offering family-centered cesareans, a new concept that only a few hospitals in the nation had implemented.


During a family-centered cesarean, obstetric nurses participate alongside the physician and surgical team.  Mothers have the option to view the delivery through a clear surgical drape so they can witness their baby’s first seconds of life.


As part of the organization’s expansion project, the Obstetrics department will undergo an extensive renovation. Officials expect for the project to be finished in 2018.


For more information about nitrous oxide and other obstetric services provided at Madison Health, please call 740.845.7272.

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Madison County Hospital
210 North Main Street
London, Ohio 43140
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Toll free: 866.357.4677
Local: 740.845.7000
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