UAMS first hospital in central Arkansas to offer laughing gas for women in labor

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — UAMS is giving women in labor a different option to help them get through the pain with laughing gas.

The idea of an epidural scares Vivianna Imbert. So, laughing gas was the perfect option for her to try when she went into labor with her son Wednesday. She is the first woman to use it at UAMS. 

“It went really well actually. I put it on and off. The nurse told me to start using it right before I felt the contraction,” Vivianna said. “I didn’t use [an epidural] for my firstborn.”

She said it helped calm the pain.

“You feel the contraction lighter because you are so zoned out, but you’re not completely zoned out if you were on other meds,” Vivianna said.

Dr. Melissa Helmich is an OBGYN at UAMS and delivered Vivianna’s baby. 

“It helps them to take away some of the anxiety that labor brings,” Dr. Helmich said. “You breathe in and out into the mask.”

Nitrous oxide—otherwise known as laughing gas— is a common labor practice overseas. 

“It’s actually been known about for centuries, so it originally started in England,” Dr. Helmich said. 

UAMS is the first hospital in central Arkansas to use it. A hospital in Northwest Arkansas is also offering it. 

“There’s about 70 hospitals in the nation that have nitrous oxide,” Dr. Helmich said.

Dr. Helmich said it is a safe option for moms to use if they want to have more of a natural birth.

“It lasts for about two to three minutes. As quick as you can pretty much breathe out and take another breath, the effects start to wear off,” she said.

The gas does not affect the baby. That’s why Vivianna said it is worth giving it a shot.

“It does relieve the pain of the contraction, so definitely try it out,” she said.

Dr. Helmich said laughing gas is of no cost to mothers who try it. But if you can’t handle the pain, she said you can still get an epidural.

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