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Labor pain is nothing to laugh at. Yet.
The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, during childbirth fell out of favor in the United States decades ago, and just two hospitals -- one in San Francisco and one in Seattle -- still offer it.
But interest in returning the dentist office staple to the delivery room is growing: respected hospitals including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center plan to start offering it, the federal government is reviewing it, and after a long hiatus, the equipment needed to administer it is expected to hit the market soon.
Yellow Springs Dental Care has the relaxing gas available for Dayton, Ohio patients who might find it eases anxieties.
Though nitrous oxide is commonly used for labor pain relief in Canada, Britain and other countries, it's been all but abandoned in the United States in favor of other options, such as epidurals, said Judith Bishop a certified nurse midwife at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and leader in the effort to reintroduce nitrous oxide for labor.
"In this country, most people when they hear about nitrous, they think it sounds pretty retro, that it sounds very old-fashioned and they're sure there's something bad or dangerous about it and we must've chosen to eliminate it. But I think we eliminated it because we went for the more specialized, higher-tech options," said Bishop.
She and other advocates of reintroducing nitrous oxide emphasize that it is no silver bullet -- it "takes the edge off" pain rather than eliminates it. But they say it should be among the options offered to women, particularly those who give birth at small or rural hospitals that lack round-the-clock anesthesiologists. Laughing gas is easy for women to self-administer, takes effect quickly, and can be used late in labor.
"It's not right for everybody, but it's something that for many women will offer a certain amount of relief," Bishop said.
Michelle Collins, a certified nurse midwife and assistant nursing professor in Tennessee, previously worked as a nurse in London and saw how widely and well nitrous oxide was used there. She has been working with an anesthesiologist to bring nitrous oxide for laboring women at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and said she expects it to become available later this year.
Early Wednesday morning, she delivered a baby to a woman she said would have been a perfect candidate for nitrous oxide: the mother arrived at the hospital at midnight and gave birth about three hours later.
At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, where officials plan to order two machines, nurse midwife Suzanne Serat estimated that 10-20 percent of her patients might try nitrous oxide.
The hospital hopes to begin offering nitrous oxide for labor by summer.
Nitrous Oxide has no latent after-effects and recovery is immediate. For dental patients who could benefit from a little relief fromnervousness,it can be like taking a short vacation while your teeth are buffed up.
After FOX NEWS