Skip to main content

Patients Find Nitrous Oxide Helps Them Cope With Labor Pain

October 23, 2018

Sarah and EliSarah Kellogg and her son Eli.

The decision whether or not to get an epidural to help with labor pain can be a difficult one for expectant mothers. Some women are very comfortable with the idea of the procedure, but others are wary of potential complications or simply want as few drugs in their system as possible. What many women don’t realize is that epidurals aren’t their only option when it comes to pain relief during labor. Nitrous oxide is a low-intervention form of pain relief that mothers can control themselves.

Nitrous oxide is a gas that, when combined with oxygen, can be safely inhaled by a woman using a mask that she can take on and off herself. It helps the body relax and temporarily lessens the pain of labor. Nitrous oxide has no impact on the baby and its effects are short-lived, allowing a mother complete control over her dosage.

“People like choices,” said Janet Oliver, RNC, who has coached many moms through labor using nitrous oxide at MMC’s Family Birth Center. “The nice part about nitrous oxide is that it is not stored in a mom’s body, so if she decides she wants to use an epidural later, she can still do that.”

Sarah Kellogg learned about nitrous oxide when she told her obstetrician that she was hoping not to use an epidural, if possible. “My doctor taught me some techniques about how to focus on my breathing using nitrous oxide, and that was really helpful,” Kellogg said. “Nitrous oxide did not take away all the pain of labor, but it made me feel like I could cope with it.”

Some women who use nitrous oxide experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting or dizziness. Oliver said all of those side effects are treatable in the delivery room. MMC, where patients have been using nitrous oxide during labor for more than two years, is the only hospital in Portland offering the option.

“People often think that you either get an epidural or you can’t have pain relief at all,” Oliver said. “This is another option women should know about that that is safe for them and their babies.”

News from Around MaineHealth

View All
MaineHealth’s Access to Care team connects Mainers with coverage during 2021 Open Enrollment
MaineHealth’s Access to Care team is prepared to assist and educate Mainers in shopping for health insurance plans during the Open Enrollment period, which runs November 1 through December 15.
Physicians Join Maine Medical Partners
Maine Medical Partners announces the following new hires.
MaineHealth taps Boston Children’s physician with strong information technology background to lead its IT department
Daniel J. Nigrin, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist who was drawn to the important role that technology plays in delivering world-class health care.
MMCRI Joins National COVID Data Research Collaborative
The National COVID Cohort Collaborative gives scientists access to de-identified data from COVID patients around the country, speeding up the research process.
MaineHealth Earns 2020 CHIME Digital Health Most Wired Recognition
The CHIME Digital Health Most Wired program conducts an annual survey to assess how effectively healthcare organizations apply core and advanced technologies into their clinical and business programs to improve health and care in their communities.
Appendicitis Trial Shows the Risks and Benefits of Treating Appendicitis with Antibiotics Instead of Surgery
MMC Surgeons Damien Carter, MD, and Bruce Chung, MD, are among the authors of the largest randomized clinical trial of appendicitis ever conducted.
Physicians Join Maine Medical Partners
Maine Medical Partners announces the following new hires.
Shaw Brothers Construction Pledges $1 Million to Maine Medical Center to Honor Sally Shaw
In recognition of a $1 million commitment by Jon and Dan Shaw, founders of Shaw Brothers Construction in Gorham, Maine Medical Center will name the causeway of the new Congress Street Tower in honor of the Shaws’ mother, Sally Shaw.
MMC Participates in NIH-Funded Clinical Trial Studying Buprenorphine Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder
Maine Medical Center’s emergency department is one of 30 chosen across the country as part of the National Institutes of Health "Helping to End Addiction" Long-term Initiative (HEAL).
U.S. News & World Report Names MMC ‘Best Regional Hospital’ For Eighth Straight Year
MMC earns a “high performing” rating in the specialty of Urology as well as in ten common procedures and conditions.