St. Mary's hospital offers nitrous oxide during labor - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

St. Mary's hospital offers nitrous oxide during labor

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Moms-to-be have a new option to consider as they try and manage the pain of child birth: nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. St. Mary's Hospital is currently the only place in the state that offers it.

The Kelley family welcomed their new baby girl Mae just hours ago. New mom Claire was determined to get through the birth of her first child naturally... but as labor progressed, she wasn't so sure.

"I think I was working through the pain ok, but the fear of the unknown, of what the next phase was gonna bring, was getting in the way of my confidence to continue on naturally," said Claire Kelley.

To help her through the process, nurses at St. Mary's offered her a new option that's only been available at the hospital for a little over a week: nitrous oxide.

"It kind of takes the edge off, the pain is still very much present, but you're able to separate yourself from it a little bit and not get so wrapped up in the pain," said Kelley.

Nitrous oxide has been used as a tool during labor for years in other countries. Here in Richmond, this option is a first. "It gives women just one more way to cope," said St. Mary's nurse Laura Bland.

Since March 3, nearly 20 women have used the nitrous oxide during various stages of labor.

"It's incredibly safe, and it's very short acting," said Dr. Alice Hirata. "That's truly one of the benefits, and a woman within 30 seconds of starting to breathe it in deeply, she's gonna see benefit. If she continues to enjoy that, she can use it as long as she needs. If she finds that, 'now I feel like I'm in a good place,' she can keep it at her side and use it as the need arises again."

The dose of nitrous oxide used during labor is very low. It's 50 percent nitrous and 50 percent oxygen, leaving mom completely functional and causing no side effects to the baby.

It's an option Claire Kelley says she'd choose again.

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