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Nitrous oxide: Mid-valley mothers have a
new option for pain during labor

N

itrous oxide, otherwise known as
laughing gas or nitrous, has been
used for many years to relieve pain.

While most commonly associated with

dental procedures, nitrous oxide is now
gaining popularity as a pain relief option for
labor and birth.
Since 2017, expectant mothers planning to
give birth at a Samaritan Health Services
hospital have the opportunity to take
advantage of the benefits of nitrous oxide.
While the use of nitrous oxide is not a new
way to treat pain, offering it as a new option
to maternity patients brings about many
questions. Marge Tomcal, RN, manager
of the Women’s Center at Samaritan

A jetted tub set in a relaxing environment at the Samaritan Albany General Hospital Women’s Center, one of the many
options available to expectant mothers.

Albany General Hospital answers the most
commonly asked questions about nitrous:
How does nitrous oxide work? Nitrous
oxide works by increasing the release of
endorphins, corticotrophins and dopamine
in your brain, which can provide relief to
labor pains.

Nitrous oxide is emerging as a popular new option for pain relief during labor.

Why offer a new pain relief option? For

would like and still take advantage of an

which means that the gas does not

Is there a reason I shouldn’t use nitrous

many pregnant mothers, nitrous oxide

epidural if they choose.

accumulate in the maternal or fetal tissues.

oxide? Certain medications or medical

What are the side effects? Some

It is the only pain relief method used for

mothers may experience unsteadiness. It

labor that is cleared from the body through

is important that mothers always have a

the lungs, so within a breath or two of

Within five minutes of inhaling nitrous

support person nearby to help them get

removing the mask, the effect is gone.

oxide, mothers can get out of bed and

out of bed or a chair after using nitrous

continue with activities that can help

oxide. Mothers may also experience

progress labor, like walking, sitting in a

nausea after prolonged use.

offers a more gentle option to pain relief. It
is less invasive than an epidural and is selfadministered by breathing through a mask.

jetted tub or using a birthing peanut or ball.

Does it affect the baby? Nitrous oxide

Will it make me laugh? Nitrous oxide
used during labor is a lower concentration
than that used in a dental office. Most
women do not have fits of laughter, but will

conditions can make nitrous unsafe.
Expectant mothers will be assessed
for any medical issues before being
allowed use.
For more information about nitrous
oxide or other pain relief options, talk
with your provider or take a childbirth
preparation class.

To find a childbirth preparation class near

Mothers who begin pain relief with nitrous

has no known effects on the baby. When it is experience feelings of relaxation that can

oxide can discontinue use when they

inhaled, it has a rapid onset quick clearance, help take the edge off painful contractions. you, visit samhealth.org/Baby.

Livinghealthy
Community classes to keep you healthy

Social connections
can affect your
health

W

hen it comes to treating health
concerns like hypertension
and high cholesterol, doctors
have many effective tools to help patients.
But for social issues such as isolation,
unhealthy relationships and poverty –
factors that can impact a person’s health
– there isn’t an easy cure.

Studies of how social ties affect our
health have already linked social

A study by Michigan State University found
the association with marriage quality
and heart health seems to increase with
age. Older couples ages 57 to 85, in good
marriages had a reduced risk of developing
cardiovascular disease, while people in
bad marriages had an increased risk of
cardiovascular disease, especially women.
There may not be a prescription to resolve
isolation and other social factors that can
affect a person’s health. But there are
different ways of coping with stress, health
experts agree.
“There is no avoiding stress in life,”
said Thomas Marker, MD, of Samaritan
Cardiology. “There are adaptive and

isolation to poorer health outcomes. Now maladaptive responses to stress.”
researchers are looking at how social
Dr. Marker has practiced cardiology for
relationships may help to reduce stress

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Be prepared for childbirth
Prepare for your new arrival in this four-week

and more. Feb. 21, 3 to 4:30 p.m.,
Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
Registration: SamaritanStories.com
or call 541-768-4280

series. Learn about the birth process and
practice tips and tools for labor. Cost is
$65 per couple. March 1, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.,
Samaritan Albany General Hospital.
Registration: pollywogfamily.org or

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and heart-related risks. As research

more than 30 years in the community. He

All about breastfeeding

continues, some studies have associated

encourages his patients to exercise, and as

Discover the benefits of breastfeeding in

bone health, hormone replacement therapy

strong social connections with living

head of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Samaritan,

part one of a two-class series. Learn how

and more. March 21, 6 to 7:30 p.m.,

longer.

Dr. Marker helped create a program that

It’s important to note that having
relationships isn’t what affects health
outcomes. For example, the health benefits
associated with being married only hold
true if the relationship is positive. Being
in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship
can create stress and contribute to health
problems.

offers people recovering from a heart
attack or other heart problems a safe and
structured place to exercise, as well as
address social needs through the support
and friendship they find with others.

Learn more about other healthy lifestyle
tips and free health education classes at
samhealth.org/Family.

your questions about hot flashes, night sweats,

to get started, establish a good milk supply

Samaritan Albany General Hospital.

and prevent common problems. Support

Registration: samhealth.org/BeHealthy

partners are encouraged to attend. Feb. 15,

or 1-855-873-0647

6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Good Samaritan Regional
Medical Center. Information: 541-768-5244

Visit samhealth.org/Classes for a
complete list of classes and support
groups in your community.

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