New role for nitrous oxide, and it’s no laughing matter
Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital among nation’s first employing method to reduce pain, anxiety during childbirth
There’s a lot that new parents can do to prepare themselves for their little bundle of joy. But nothing can prepare a new mom, especially a first-time mom, for the labor and delivery.
That’s why Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, part of IASIS Healthcare, is introducing a new pain management option for women in labor: nitrous oxide.
“The birth of a baby is a momentous event for mom and dad, as well as the entire family that will be cherished forever,” said Marla Vogt-Roberts, CNM, on the medical staff at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital. “We are pleased to be able to offer another option to help moms manage pain during labor and childbirth without the concerns for side effects to themselves or their baby.”
As one of two major hospitals in the state (second only to Phoenix Indian Medical Center) to offer nitrous oxide as an alternative and/or addition to traditional pain management medications, the blend of 50 percent nitrous gas and 50 percent oxygen allows women in labor to dull pain and decrease anxiety without dulling their senses or mobility.
“Relaxed women typically progress better during labor, deliver sooner, and feel more in control of their experience,” said Manisha Purohit, M.D., FACOG, OB/GYN on the medical staff at Tempe St. Luke’s.
Women have the opportunity to self-administer the nitrous oxide during labor to help not only with pain, but with anxiety they may feel.
Typically, three deep breaths of the blend are enough to permeate oxygen levels, which helps to lessen the pain. As the nitrous oxide begins to clear from the system, it can be used over again, without risk to the mother or child.
Self-administration of the gas is a safety feature, as once a woman has physiologically reached her limit of nitrous oxide, she will no longer be able to hold the mask up to her face for more until the gas dissipates and pain becomes more apparent.
In addition to self-administering the gas and the ability to use it through the duration of labor, nitrous oxide leaves the system quickly.
Conversely, more potent medications can stay in the system for hours and have an impact on simple functions, including walking, talking, sleeping and even going to the bathroom.
In 2013, only 12 hospitals and birth centers in the U.S. actively offered nitrous oxide as a pain management alternative. The addition of nitrous oxide as an option for expecting parents to manage pain complements Tempe St. Luke’s ongoing commitment to supporting a mother’s choices as they prepare for birth.
The hospital offers “gentle C-sections,” which allow moms and partners to watch the surgery through a clear drape should they so choose. Also, where once mom and baby may have been
separated while mom recovered from the surgery, now they will stay together from operating room to recovery room, provided both are healthy enough to do so.
As well, to give moms more control over their in-hospital experience during labor and delivery, the new program offers a birth preference protocol.
That protocol includes determining her preferences during labor, the birth of the baby and post-birth care of the baby.
Expectant moms receive a special form, available in English and Spanish, from their medical team, which can be filled out and brought to the hospital when the time comes for baby to arrive.