New Method of Pain Relief during Childbirth Now Offered at Winter Haven Women’s Hospital

November 05, 2015

Nitrous oxide is a non-invasive technique for managing pain during labor.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla., (November 5, 2015) – Nitrous oxide has been used as anesthesia in dentistry for 170 years. Now nitrous oxide is being offered in hospitals as a pain reliever, or analgesia, for women in labor. Winter Haven Women’s Hospital is the first hospital in Polk County to offer it. Two BayCare hospitals in Pinellas County started offering it last year: Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor.

“Pain relief from nitrous oxide is a good alternative for women in labor who want something between minimal discomfort, as with an epidural, and feeling everything,” says Dr. Vincent Gatto, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Bond Clinic and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital physician chairman for obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Gatto adds that it’s also good at reducing anxiety in laboring patients.

Before nitrous oxide, laboring women had two choices for pain management: an epidural, which is an injection of numbing medicine into a patient’s lower back to block labor pain, or an intravenous solution of pain medicine. Nitrous oxide as an analgesia does not require needles and allows the patient to control when she uses it during labor.

Different from the dentistry profession’s mix of 70 percent oxygen and 30 percent nitrous oxide, the gaseous blend used in Winter Haven Women’s Hospital’s labor and delivery rooms is 50/50. It is also self-administered; the laboring patient holds a mask to her face and is taught to time breaths prior to contractions so that the effect peaks at the beginning of a contraction. She can remove the mask when pain subsides.

“The childbirth experience is an extremely physical and emotional event,” explains Dr. Gatto. “Managing the pain and anxiety of labor is an important element. When using nitrous oxide, patients can still feel contractions, but can have quick pain relief and be relaxed to focus on laboring.”

Nitrous oxide has been used as pain relief during labor for decades in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It has a quick onset and quick clearance. The only side effects to the patient are that it may cause nausea or dizziness.

Patients at Morton Plant and Mease Countryside hospitals state various reasons to use nitrous oxide for pain relief: sometimes mothers in labor use it until they can get an epidural; sometimes there isn’t time for an epidural or the patient doesn’t qualify for one. Others choose nitrous oxide from the beginning. 

Winter Haven Women’s Hospital and its affiliated physicians encourage family-centered care and planning for every delivery. During this planning, patients discuss pain relief options with their physician well before their due date. Patients can also learn about options during childbirth classes. To find an affiliated physician or see a listing of upcoming classes, visit

About Winter Haven Women’s Hospital

Built in 1987 and renovated in 2015, Winter Haven Women’s Hospital (formerly the Regency Center for Women and Infants) is a 61-bed facility accredited by the Joint Commission. Located at 101 Ave. O S.E. in Winter Haven, Florida, the hospital is dedicated to the unique needs of women and newborns by providing on-site obstetric services 24 hours a day/7 days a week, a level II neonatal intensive care unit, education classes, an outpatient surgery center and a Breast and Imaging Center. Winter Haven Hospital and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital joined BayCare Health System in 2013.

About BayCare

BayCare is a leading not-for-profit health care system that connects individuals and families to a wide range of services at 13 hospitals and hundreds of other convenient locations throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. Inpatient and outpatient services include acute care, primary care, imaging, laboratory, behavioral health, home care, and wellness. Our mission is to improve the health of all we serve through community-owned, health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care.  For more information visit