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'Laughing Gas' Now An Option For Mothers In Labor

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities birthing center is offering a new pain killer option for moms in labor.  But it's not a drug, it's a gas.

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is now being offered at the Minnesota Birth Center in Minneapolis. The gas is slowly being reintroduced in the U.S. as a self-administered pain control for labor pains.

"It felt more like a middle ground than getting an epidural," new mom Jenna White said. "It felt a little safer."

White chose to use the gas when she delivered her daughter on Jan. 5. She had originally planned for a completely all natural birth until she found out about the nitrous oxide option.

"It's totally patient controlled, I had complete control over when I took breaths and how many breaths to take," White said.

Laughing gas has been used for labor pains in the UK since the 1930s. Only now it's making a comeback in the U.S. since the FDA approved the new self-administering machines in 2012.

"It's growing by leaps and bounds," Kerry Dixon, a certified nurse midwife, said.

Nitrous Oxide Moms In Labor, Laughing Gas
(credit: CBS)

Dixon has been delivering babies for 20 years, and used the laughing gas for laboring mothers in New Zealand. She said it helps alleviate mental anxiety to ease physical pain, and poses less health risks for mom and baby than other options.

"They're also free to move around so they can be on a birthing ball, sitting in a rocking chair, they can be pacing," Dixon said. "Other medications we offer in the United States require them to be in bed."

White said she would recommend the option to any expecting mother.

"It's just another option to have out there," she said.

Dixon said the gas costs less than $100, whereas an epidural can run up to $1,000. Three other birthing centers have already signed on to use nitrous oxide in 2015.

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