MedStar Washington Hospital Center Offers Women Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief During Labor

March 31, 2014

Expanding Options for Patients is Important for Hospital Center's Midwifery Practice

Washington, D.C., March 31, 2014 – It is a choice few women can make in the United States. Now, patients of MedStar Washington Hospital Center's midwifery practice can use nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas, for pain relief while in labor childbirth. The blend is a lower concentration from the form used during dental care, and is designed so women maintain consciousness during labor- a safe, non-invasive alternative for those desiring a low intervention birth experience.

"We want to provide women with a range of options for pain management," said Loral Patchen, MA, MSN, CNM, director of midwifery in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. "Nitrous is an empowering option for women in labor, as it is self-administered, therefore, women can remain active and engaged during the birth experience."

The nitrous oxide is a 50/50 mix of nitrous oxide gas and oxygen. Patients administer the drug on their own by breathing in the gas through a facemask as needed. It's designed for intermittent, not steady use. Some woman may feel drowsy, lightheaded or a little silly while using the gas, but will experience less pain from contractions. Anesthesiologists first assess the patient to ensure they are a good candidate for the gas, set up the machine, and oversee the monitoring of the patient throughout labor.

"Nitrous oxide has been used safely in other countries for years, but not so in the U.S.," said Hassan Adeniji-Adele, MD, director of Obstetric Anesthesiology at the Hospital Center. "This is changing now as some women are choosing not to have an epidural placed, therefore this gas is an option for them."

For now, only patients in the midwifery practice will be given the option to use nitrous oxide, but if the demand is there Patchen is confident this innovative model for pain relief may be adopted across the hospital's obstetrics department.

"We've demonstrated a willingness to work together as a team as this successful execution would not have come together without the buy-in and commitment from Nursing, Anesthesiology and our midwifery practice," added Patchen.

Media Contacts

Sylvia T. Ballinger
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So Young Pak
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