Longmont United Hospital Offers New Pain Management Option for Laboring Mothers

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Longmont United Hospital (Photo by Matt Steininger/ Longmont Observer)

In late 2018, Longmont United Hospital began to offer another alternative in pain management for birthing mothers, nitrous oxide.

“We are excited to be able to offer this option to our expectant mothers,” said Bobbi Buchanan, BirthPlace director at Longmont United Hospital. “Our goal is to empower women by helping to create the best birthing experience for both mom and baby.”

Because every woman experiences levels of pain during the childbirth, hospitals are beginning to offer alternatives to traditional IV medications and epidurals.

Nitrous oxide is also known as “laughing gas” and is typically used in dental offices. In childbirth scenarios, the mixture is less concentrated at 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen and is controlled by the patient through a mask. Patients control how much of the medication they use to manage their own pain.

According to OB-GYN Dr. Bright-Hoffmeyer, who practices at Longmont United, “Nitrous oxide is not the answer to everybody’s pain needs and management needs but it is at least another thing that we can offer to patients to help manage their pain.”

Bright-Hoffmeyer describes the effects of nitrous oxide as reducing the patient’s pain scale. It does not eliminate the pain of labor. “I think for people who are looking for the pain to be more manageable and hoping to reduce their anxiety, it seems very effective for that.”

One side-effect of the medicine that health professionals view as a positive, is that “it reduces the anxiety associated with pain which can become this cycle that you are anxious because you know you are going to have another contraction in five minutes and that makes the pain more amplified,” says Bright-Hoffmeyer.

The nitrous oxide has a short duration of active effects, 30 seconds to a minute. If the gas is not an effective form of pain management for patients, it can be terminated and another form of medication can be used.

According to hospital literature, “there are no known effects on the baby. Nitrous oxide is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs. This means that as soon as you pull the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within a few breaths.”

Most healthy women are able to use the gas as a form of pain management during birth and labor. Women who are not eligible include those who cannot hold the mask, those with a known Vitamin B12 deficiency and those who are experiencing any kind of respiratory compromise. All women are advised to talk to their physician to learn if nitrous oxide is an option.

Nitrous oxide has been used for pain management for many years and in birthing rooms throughout the world. In fact, UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital has offered the option to moms since their doors opened in August 2017.

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