Laughing gas available for laboring moms at Memorial Hospital North

June 15th, 2017
Alexandra Cordero holds her new baby, Elena, outside of Memorial Hospital North.
Alexandra Cordero holds her new baby, Elena, outside of Memorial Hospital North. Cordero opted for nitrous oxide to help her manage her pain while she had contractions during labor.

Immediately after giving birth to Elena, Alexandra Cordero held her 8-pound-1-ounce baby girl on her chest and watched as the baby began to nurse.

“It was the greatest feeling ever to have her on my chest and to be able to hold her,’’ Alexandra said. “It was a fully natural birth. I was able to feel her and that’s what I wanted.’’

During labor, Alexandra opted for nitrous oxide – laughing gas – now offered at Memorial Hospital North, as an alternative method for pain relief.

“You are so relaxed that once the contraction comes, it is a lot more bearable,’’ Alexandra said.

When she gave birth to her son, Christian, now 3, she had an epidural. She said the procedure left her feeling groggy and confused when her son, born with an umbilical cord around his neck, was whisked off to a neonatal intensive care unit.

One of the benefits of nitrous oxide, research shows, is that there is no effect on fetal outcomes and minimal negative effects on the mother. Breathing nitrous oxide gives patients additional oxygen and also releases endorphins, helping to reduce the perception of pain.

“Though this form of labor pain control is new to our area, it is common across Europe and increasingly being offered across the U.S,” said Dr. Daniel R. Balch, director of anesthesia at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North.

Alexandra said the nitrous oxide contributed to her good birthing experience.

“I was able to hold her for a good two hours,” she said. “She nursed really quickly, and she latched very well.’’

Her husband, Christian Cordero, said the birth of Elena was far less stressful than the birth of his son.

“The best way I can say it is ‘It is night and day.’ This was so quick, so easy and so healthy,’’ Christian Cordero said.

Elena. Alexandra holds the baby, while her father, Christian Cordero, and brother, Christian, 3, look on.
The Cordero family is happy to have a new addition — Elena. Alexandra holds the baby, while her father, Christian Cordero, and brother, Christian, 3, look on.

When used in labor or for therapeutic use immediately after birth, nitrous oxide is inhaled intermittently at a lower concentration than at a dentist’s office. Expectant mothers may breathe the gas, a 50-50 blend of nitrous and oxygen, for a short time to help them through a contraction, and then remove the mask themselves until the gas is needed again. Nitrous oxide works in as little as 30 seconds and is out of one’s system after a few breaths.

“We believe a woman should have options when she plans for the birth of her child, and we are now able to give expectant mothers another safe, effective method to choose from,” said Deb Bopp, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist at UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “Certified nurse-midwives, obstetricians and anesthesia experts are available to explain all options to women to help them decide which method of pain relief, if any, they would prefer, and we support the choice with which they are most comfortable.”

Alexandra said that she felt no after effects of the nitrous oxide.

Elena was born at 11:58 a.m., and the Corderos were home at 1:30 p.m. the next day.

“Thanks to the growing awareness and acceptance of the benefits of nitrous oxide for pain management during labor and UCHealth’s recognition that laboring mothers should have choices for pain control during delivery, Memorial North is pleased to be the first in the area to offer our patients this option,” Dr. Balch said.

Plans are underway to expand the offering to Memorial Hospital Central.

To schedule a tour of the birth center at either Memorial Hospital North or Memorial Hospital Central, please call 719-444-CARE (2273) and Press 3.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.