Cassie Moore, ACNM Writer and Editor
One of my favorite aspects of my job is speaking with
midwives and other health care professionals who are engaged and passionate
about what they do. Last week, I talked with Michelle Collins, CNM, PhD(c), RNC,
about how she and others at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville recently
began providing nitrous oxide as a pain relief option for their clients.
Michelle, who is an assistant professor of nursing in the nurse-midwifery
specialty at Vanderbilt, told me that she had first seen laboring women using
nitrous oxide for pain relief in England, where she worked at St. Mary’s
Hospital in London.
Having given birth just about 18 months ago, I was really curious about what
nitrous does for laboring women. Does it really make you giggle? Does it affect
the baby? Collins told me that nitrous tends to dull or take the edge off
contractions, but doesn’t make clients numb; they can still feel contractions
and the urge to push. It’s self-administered, so the client can decide how
frequently she uses it. And—what seems like the biggest benefit to me—nitrous
acts as an anxiolytic,
so it really cuts down on the anxiety and fear that laboring moms may have. Plus, evidence shows nitrous
is not harmful to mothers, babies, or health care workers in the concentration
used for labor.
Michelle and I agreed that if I get pregnant again, I’ll have to return to my
home state of Tennessee and waddle on over to Vanderbilt, because nitrous
sounds like a pain relief option I want to try. When I gave birth last year, I wanted
to avoid an epidural, narcotics, and other interventions. However, I did have quite
a bit of fear, anxiety, and pain, and I could have really used something to
help me relax.
nitrous doesn’t have to be used instead
of an epidural—it’s very versatile and can be used in earlier stages of labor
to delay an epidural, or it can be used for patients who are receiving an
epidural but are scared of needles, or it can be used for pain relief after the
baby is born if a midwife has to sew up a laceration or perform other
potentially painful tasks.
Are you interested in using nitrous oxide at your practice? Check out the N2O During Labor listserv to learn more from Michelle
and others who work with nitrous oxide. Here’s a longer Slate article that delves into the history of nitrous oxide.
Stay tuned to future issues of Quickening for a longer article about
nitrous oxide and the process Michelle went through to bring it to Vandy.