By: Melissa Randall


One of the biggest questions for expectant moms is how to manage labor pain. Some opt for natural births while others go right for the epidural. But there's another option that may sound a little funny: laughing gas. And it's catching on Southern New England.

Six weeks ago Heather Anti, 33, of Uxbridge, Mass. gave birth to a healthy and happy little boy. But unlike her other 2 kids, William as delivered while mom used laughing gas to manage labor pains.

"You know exactly what's going on. You can feel your body. You can feel exactly what you are doing– you're in control of everything. You can feel all the pain," explained Anti "It just makes you care about it less. So it really helps to kind of take the edge off."

Laughing gas is more commonly associated with getting cavities than pushing out a baby, but an estimated 1 percent of women in the U.S. are doing just that, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Danika Severino Wynn is a certified nurse midwife at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket where the mixture of 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen is offered.

"It's sometimes a happy medium for people and a great way for people trying to avoid an epidural if they're choosing to have an unmedicated birth or maybe to get them to the point where an epidural makes more sense in their labor process," she said.

A big selling point for laboring moms like Anti is the fact that nitrous oxide, laughing gas' formal name, is self administered. That means when and how much of the drug you take is totally up to the mother.

"It was really so easy. You can feel the contraction coming. You put the mask on. Take a deep breath. Take a couple breaths if you need it and then once you feel that the contraction is dying down you can remove it and you're good until the next one," said Anti.

Dr. Susanna Magee, Director of Maternal Child Health at Landamark, says nitrous oxide has few side effects, wears off quickly, and does not affect the baby. Additionally, with 2 to 3 minutes set up time it is the fastest method to get mom some relief.

"There's never a chance where you could have an epidural really running before 10 minutes of time, and often times it could take as much as 20 minutes to 30 minutes to really have it going," she said.

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