Laughing gas during labor now an option at some hospitals

Hadas Kuznits
February 26, 2019 - 4:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Some Philadelphia-area hospitals are starting to use alternative methods for pain relief during labor.

At Einstein Montgomery Hospital, some laboring moms are choosing to forego narcotics and an epidural during labor in favor of a self-administered gas mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen, also known as laughing gas.

"In this current age of opiate addiction, the drive to reduce the exposure to opiates, the nitrous oxide gas is a great alternative," said certified nurse midwife Michelle Barcus, who helped facilitate the change. 

This month, when Casey Piccolo labored at the hospital, she chose to use the gas mix for pain relief. 

"It felt like it took the edge off of the pain. Like I could still feel the contractions come and climax and go, so it didn't take away the pain but it definitely took the edge off of it and it helped me calm down," she said. 

Barcus says when patients receive an epidural, they are completely numb, which means they are bedridden because they can't use their legs. But by using the gas, patients can move around during labor, which helps the baby descend into the pelvis.  

"It's gaining traction here in the U.S. over the past several years, but it's been used routinely without interruption throughout other western countries," Barcus added.