Nitrous Oxide and Aromatherapy

St. Joseph’s Hospital-South offers expectant mothers some of the most up-to-date pain management options which includes Nitrous Oxide and Aromatherapy.

Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” has been used as anesthesia in dentistry for 170 years. More recently, hospitals in the U.S. have begun offering nitrous oxide as analgesia – pain reliever – for mothers during childbirth. St. Joseph’s Hospital-South incorporated the practice in November 2015.

When a laboring woman choses this option, a machine is brought into the labor and delivery room that produces a 50/50 blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide, which is self-administered.

The patient holds a mask to her face and is encouraged to time breaths prior to contractions so that the effect peaks at the beginning of a contraction. It takes a few seconds for the nitrous oxide to peak and it’s very short acting so there are no long-lasting effects.

The reasons for using nitrous oxide for pain relief vary: sometimes mothers in labor use nitrous oxide until they can get an epidural or in addition to it; sometimes there isn’t time for an epidural or the patient doesn’t qualify for one. Others choose nitrous oxide from the beginning. Use of nitrous oxide is very individualized and affects patients differently.

Patients should discuss the method of pain relief with their physician ahead of time. Others learn about it during St. Joseph’s Hospital-South’s Prepared Childbirth classes. To find a Prepared Childbirth class, go to

Another service offered to mothers is aromatherapy. During labor, women are given a menu of available scents that serve different purposes: Lavender produces a calming effect, eases pain and soothes itching. Peppermint eases nausea and lessens headache. Ylang-ylang relaxes, may help decrease blood pressure and calms fussy babies. Jasmine promotes relaxation, decreases pain and augments contractions. Lemongrass helps decrease mental fatigue.