BOCA RATON, Fla. — When you think of nitrous oxide, laughing gas probably comes to mind. But in this case, it is a bit different.
Boca Raton Regional Hospital is now offering it as a way to deal with the pain of childbirth, the first hospital in southern Palm Beach County.
Medical staff at the hospital said Jupiter Medical Center also offers nitrous oxide.
Labor and delivery nurse Michelle Pedersen showed off a new set up at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. It's not so new for her, since she is from Canada and has experience using the gas.
"It’s something new. It’s something other countries have used for a long time," said Pedersen. "It’s just another option we can give women to support what they want for labor."
Nurses said nitrous oxide has been used more than a dozen times in the past month for these reasons.
"There is IV sedation. There are epidurals, and this is just something different," said Pederson. "It doesn’t have the same narcotic effects on the baby and the mother. Women say they feel less drugged."
Pedersen explained more of how it makes patients feel.
"Most women are still very well in control," said Pedersen. "They just feel a sense of ... a little euphoric. Still aware but it takes the rough edges off of everything, whether it’s the pain or the fear."
Nurses said nitrous oxide is self administered. Only the patient is able to hold the mask up to her face, not even her partner. They said that's for safety reasons.
"The timing of it is key. So, if we get women to breathe it in about 20-30 seconds before a contraction. Then, when the contraction is there, they have the full effect of it," said Pedersen.
She said this is a very different blend than what you think of when it comes to laughing gas. In this case, she said it's a very different blend with purse oxygen, so it's delivered very differently.
At Boca Regional Hospital, there is an even bigger goal here.
"We are always looking for a safe delivery for both the mom and the baby of course. We are also trying to see ways we can lower the C-section rate," said anesthesiologist Dr. Philip Swibel. "Women that get an early labor epidural sometimes seem to linger for a long period of time and often require a C-section at a higher rate than women who don’t. So, if you can put off the amount of time you have an epidural, your chance of delivering vaginally improve."
Bottom line, birth is different for every woman, and it is all about empowering a woman in the birth of her baby.