Emerson Hospital Now Offers Nitrous Oxide to Women for Pain Management During Labor


As part of its commitment to providing the highest quality care with a personal touch to its patients, Emerson Hospital's obstetrics service is now offering women in labor nitrous oxide for pain management. Emerson is one of the first community hospitals in the greater Boston area to offer the drug to women who are eligible to receive it during labor. 

"Women throughout many other areas of the world, including Canada, have been relying on nitrous oxide for years to help manage labor pain," said Dr. Ingrid Balcomb, OB GYN with AFA OB/GYN. "Having worked in Canada and used Nitrous for many years I am particularly pleased that eligible patients at Emerson are now offered this option for pain relief.  We are always looking for ways to improve the care we deliver to provide our patients with the safest and most comfortable birth experiences. Feedback from mothers who have been among the first to use nitrous oxide at Emerson has been positive."

Commonly known as "laughing gas," nitrous oxide has been used effectively for many years by women throughout Canada, Europe and Australia to help them cope with pain during labor.  Many dentists use it to help ease pain during dental care.

Nitrous oxide used during labor is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask that a woman holds and self-administers prior to the start of a contraction.  Half of women who use it say it is helpful and they would choose to use it again. Some women say that it "takes the edge off" of the peak of contractions so that they are able to cope with their labor better. Others report more pain relief and nitrous oxide may be all they need through their labor. Women can choose to try it and then select other options to help their pain as they progress throughout labor.

Most women in labor are eligible to receive nitrous oxide, although there are some who are not, including those who are unable to hold the mask on their own and those who have a vitamin B12 deficiency.  During labor, the obstetrician and obstetrics team will determine if patients are eligible and if they are, they will teach them how to administer the drug through the mask. For more information about nitrous oxide during labor, please contact your obstetrician's office.  

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Emerson Hospital is a multi-site health system headquartered in Concord, Mass., with additional facilities in Sudbury, Groton and Westford. The 179-bed hospital provides advanced medical services to more than 300,000 individuals in 25 towns. To learn more, visit www.emersonhospital.org.