ACMH is the first and only community hospital in the area to offer nitrous oxide for laboring patients. It is self-administered as needed for discomfort. Used across the world for decades, nitrous oxide is safe for both mother and baby.
An inhaled blend of 50% nitrous and 50% oxygen has been used by women in labor internationally since the 1930s with usage rates as high as 85%. It has only recently gained exposure in the US for use during labor and the immediate post partum period for pain reduction. The University of California at San Francisco has been offering nitrous oxide for more than 30 years. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has recently initiated a program to offer nitrous oxide to laboring women. We are the first and only community hospital in the area to offer nitrous for laboring patients.
Traditional pain relief for laboring women includes intravenous narcotic administration or epidural anesthesia. The offering of nitrous gives the laboring woman another option for pain relief. Nitrous can be used for analgesia during the first, second, and third stages of labor, as well as post delivery procedures such as laceration repair, manual removal of the placenta, and uterine curettage.
Inhaled nitrous oxide has a rapid onset of effect and is expelled through the respiratory system from the laboring woman and fetus within 30 seconds of discontinuing use. It is patient controlled, which can promote the patient's sense of empowerment.
Self administration of nitrous is accomplished via a hand held mask connected to the nitrous machine. The patient places the mask over their nose and mouth to create a seal. They then breathe in to release the demand valve and allow the nitrous to flow. They breathe out through the mask to allow the excess nitrous to go into the scavenger unit prior to release into the WAGD system. Only the patient is permitted to hold the mask on her face. Patients may still choose to have an epidural or intravenous medication if they find they are not getting enough relief with nitrous oxide.
PHOTO: In October, State Senator Joe Pittman visited the ACMH maternity unit. Pennsylvania approved ACMH’s use of nitrous oxide thanks to Senator Pittman’s involvement.