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Laughing through Labor: Nitrous Oxide makes a come back in the delivery room

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Posted at 8:42 PM, Feb 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-06 23:26:34-05

An old school way to help pregnant women manage pain during childbirth is making a big comeback.

Nitrous Oxide is now being offered in delivery rooms after disappearing for decades, as more women choose to laugh their way through labor. 

Lake West Medical Center in Willoughby is the first facility in Northeast Ohio to offer the laughing gas option. 

Kirsten O'Leary is about one of 40 women to take advantage of it so far.

O'Leary knows all too well pain is a constant when it comes to childbirth. 

"I've never been through the end part of labor where you feel everything," said O'Leary.

That's because O'Leary's first three children were born with the help of an epidural.

For baby number four, she decided to go all natural. All was going as planned until O'Leary hit the so-called "labor wall."

That's when she learned Nitrous Oxide was an option. 

"It was something I never really heard of before my midwife mentioned it," said O'Leary.

O'Leary inhaled a mixture of half of the gas and half oxygen when she needed it. 

"When I first used it I remember looking up at the ceiling and just feeling like I had one too many glasses of wine," said O'Leary.

O'Leary says it relaxed her entire body and allowed her to focus on breathing and pushing. 

"It was a totally new experience for me," said O'Leary.

A growing number of hospitals, about 200 currently, have added the gas to help women with the hurt. 

"It's really becoming a popular choice here," said Jennifer DiGeronimo, Nurse Manager, Lake West Medical Center.

In the United States, Nitrous Oxide was used until the 1930's when the epidural was invented. 

Now it's seeing a resurgence as more women look to ditch the drugs. 

"It's the number one pain management used in Great Britain and over in Europe," said DiGeromino.

News 5 did some digging into the safety of this old school method to manage pain and the limited research available shows there are no harmful side effects for both mother and baby. 

"It's released from mom's system and essentially baby's blood stream as well within a couple of breaths," said DiGeronimo.

O'Leary says she has no regrets choosing nitrous oxide.

"When I breathe it in that it's in and out of both of our systems within a minute, that made me feel comfortable using it," said O'Leary.

Other health systems in Northeast Ohio are looking to add a Nitrous Oxide unit to their delivery rooms, including University Hospitals which should have laughing gas available in the next couple of months.