Trending Pain Relief for Childbirth: Nitrous Oxide

When it comes labor and delivery, Divine Savior Healthcare Birthing Center makes your comfort a priority. Patient, Crystal Hayes attests to her great experience being the first mother at Divine Savior to self-administer nitrous oxide during the delivery of her baby girl.

When it comes labor and delivery, Divine Savior Healthcare Birthing Center makes your comfort a priority. Patient, Crystal Hayes attests to her great experience being the first mother at Divine Savior to self-administer nitrous oxide during the delivery of her baby girl.

Looking for a safe and effective pain relief option that you can control during childbirth? As of May 1st, the birthing center at Divine Savior Healthcare expanded pain relief options and offers laboring mothers the trending self-administered technique of nitrous oxide.

The Director of Obstetrics at Divine Savior Healthcare, Lindsey Brehm shares, “We are excited to offer another way to customize the care we provide here at Divine Savior Healthcare Birthing Center. Meeting the needs of our patients is our priority and we are proud to be one of the first rural hospitals in the area to offer this service.

Nitrous oxide gives women more control during the laboring process and allows them to be a more active participant in their birthing story. 

“Most importantly it’s safe and effective, has no known effects on the fetus during labor or newborn after delivery. The benefits are substantial,” states Brehm.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, when given in low dosages, nitrous oxide is an anxiolytic (a drug used for anxiety relief) and an analgesic (a drug used for pain relief). It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, which is used to decrease pain during painful experiences. The contents are a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask.


There are many advantages to using nitrous oxide as a pain relief option:

  • Women in labor may still have the awareness of labor pain, but their perception of the pain decreases, allowing laboring mothers to be more relaxed.
  • Being self-administered, laboring mothers can decide how much they’d like to use it and stop use if needed. Including, being able to use nitrous oxide first and then move on to a different type of pain relief option.
  • Nitrous oxide does not affect breastfeeding or the alertness of the infant during the mother/newborn bonding time post-delivery.
  • There have been no known effects on the baby by using nitrous oxide. It is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs, so as soon as you stop breathing the gas, the nitrous effect is gone within a breath or two.


According to the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, “Nitrous oxide labor analgesia is safe for the mother, fetus, and neonate and can be made safe for caregivers. It is simple to administer, does not interfere with the release and function of endogenous oxytocin, and has no adverse effects on the normal physiology and progress of labor”.

The US National Library of Medicine defines endogenous oxytocin as “playing an important role in a wide range of human functions including birth, milk ejection during lactation, and facilitation of social interaction”.

For some women there may be a very minor side effects. Some women have reported nausea after prolonged use. There are medications to help ease the nausea if that happens. Nitrous oxide can also cause some unsteadiness when up, which is why there is always a staff person in the room when laboring mothers need to get out of the chair or bed, to provide assistance.

Brehm shares, “At Divine Savior, we customize our care based around each individual’s stage of labor and how they are experiencing it. We offer many natural approaches to managing pain during labor. The addition of nitrous inhalation is yet another way we can work with mothers that want to get the most out of their experience during labor. Nitrous can be used in our Jacuzzi tubs, while on a labor birthing ball, or while walking the halls.  If that is not working for our patients, we offer IV narcotics if requested and can progress to getting an epidural if needed.”

It is important to note that nitrous oxide is not a new technique and has been around for many years. It was first used in labor in the 1930's and is currently widely used in Europe. When considering all things, nitrous oxide has offered a safe way to bridge the gaps in pain control by meeting patients’ needs throughout all stages of labor.

“This pain control method is safe for both laboring mother and baby.  It’s self-administered by the mother allowing them the control to customize the use to fit their pain control needs.  In addition it helps with anxiety, tension and fear related to the pain they are experiencing during labor.  It can be it is effective within minutes, and leaves the body by exhalation very quickly.  It can be used intermittently and in sync with each individual’s contraction patterns or how they feel it works best for them,” states Brehm.

If you’re interested in learning more about nitrous oxide for your birthing experience or would like to take a tour of the birthing center at Divine Savior Healthcare, please call 608-745-5150. You can also learn more about preparing for delivery and finding an OB provider at www.DSHealthcare.com/birthing_center.

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Experiencing a dull pain in the pit of your stomach

Stomach PainGastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and gallbladder disease are two very common disorders. Knowing which one you have may be trickier than you think. Symptoms may be vague, such as a “dull pain in the pit of your stomach”, making it hard for you to explain to your doctor what’s exactly going on.

At Divine Savior Healthcare, General Surgeons, Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Joshua Pogorelec, have seen many patients with these symptoms and after further examination are able to help  diagnose and treat both diseases.

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD refers to stomach contents moving into the esophagus causing a burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Other symptoms may occur as well, such as pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea and an acid taste in your mouth.  If this continue, prolonged exposure of the esophagus to stomach contents can result in damage to the lining of the esophagus.  This in turn can result in difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing or permanent damage to the esophagus.

Although not all reflux results in symptoms or damage to the esophagus, common symptoms include:
• Heartburn
• Acid regurgitation
• Belching
• Difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Waterbrash sudden excess of saliva
• Dysphagia the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus
• Chronic sore throat
• Laryngitis
• Inflammation of the gums
• Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
• Chronic irritation in the throat
• Hoarseness in the morning
• A sour taste
• Bad breath
• Coughing at night

What is gallbladder disease?
The gallbladder is located below the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is made in the liver and allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Any condition that affects the gallbladder is considered a disease, and there are many different scenarios that fall under gallbladder disease:
• Inflammation
• Gallstones
• Common bile duct stones
• Biliary Dyskinesia
• Infection
• Perforated gallbladder
• Gallbladder polyps
• Porcelain gallbladders
• Gallbladder cancer

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec share "the most common disease of the gallbladder is gallstones. Most people with gallstones do not even know they have them.  Once they cause problems, the gallbladder may need to be removed. Symptoms include pain below the right rib cage or in the “pit” of the stomach. This pain may radiate to the right upper back, chest, or shoulder. Other symptoms may include, bloating, nausea or vomiting, fever or chills, chronic diarrhea, jaundice yellow-tinted skin, or unusual lighter-colored stools or dark urine.”

After taking a closer look at GERD and gallbladder disease, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec are able to provide helpful insight on common distinguishing factors between the two diseases.

Common distinguishing factors:
• Location: Although both may feel like a “pit in your stomach”, if you experience symptoms located closer to your throat or in your chest it is more likely to be GERD related. Symptoms located near your right lower rib radiating into your right upper back, chest and shoulder are more likely to be associated to your gallbladder.
• Pain: Unlike GERD, gallbladder pain usually begins suddenly, and changing positions, belching, passing gas or taking medications rarely helps pain symptoms go away.
• Timing: With heartburn being the most common symptom of GERD, symptoms of reflux are likely to occur shortly after eating, where symptoms of gallbladder disease usually occurs several hours after eating and have more consistent patterns of reoccurrence the same time each day.

What does treatment look like?
The symptoms of GERD are commonly and effectively treated with over-the-counter medications such as anti-acids and proton pump inhibitors. However, if relief does not go away from these medications your provider may recommend you be evaluated by one of our surgeons at Divine Savior.

After a thorough history and physical, our surgeons may recommend further evaluation of the esophagus and stomach with endoscopy.  Similar to colonoscopy, but without the need for prep, upper endoscopy allows the surgeon to visualize the esophagus, stomach and intestine to evaluate for damage to the esophagus, infection and a hiatal hernia.  Depending on the findings, further testing may be indicated to evaluate the function of the esophagus. 

Patients with severe GERD benefit from surgery to prevent reflux from occurring.  This procedure is commonly performed by both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec, is minimally invasive, and very effective at treating GERD.  In fact, most patients no longer require any antacid medications after the procedure.

If you are found to have stones in the gallbladder causing symptoms, the best course of action is to have the gallbladder removed.  Leaving the stones in place will continue to cause pain and may result in serious infection of the gallbladder and bile ducts, jaundice or pancreatitis. 

Both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec routinely perform minimally invasive removal of the gallbladder.  This is most often an outpatient procedure and very successful.  After a short recovery, most patients will find their symptoms are gone and they are able to live a normal life. 

If you experience symptoms related to GERD or gallbladder disease, or have concerns about either, it is best to consult your provider for further examination. Treatment for either disease varies person to person, but taking action immediately and being properly treated can help you prevent problems from worsening.

To schedule an appointment with Divine Savior Healthcare General Surgeons, Dr. Anderson or Dr. Pogorelec, call 608-745-5176.

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