Genesis BirthCenter, Davenport Now Offering Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief - Genesis Health System

Published on June 12, 2017

Genesis BirthCenter, Davenport Now Offering Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief

Nitrous OxideGenesis BirthCenter, Davenport has joined a small but increasing number of U.S. birth centers giving women the option of possibly giggling through the pain of labor contractions.

Nitrous oxide, commonly called “laughing gas,’’ was once the standard pain relief option available during childbirth.  It was phased out about 60 years ago in favor of more potent pain relievers delivered intravenously or by injection.

But now nitrous oxide is slowly returning in U.S. birth centers.  In Europe, nitrous oxide is used as the primary pain relief in about 70 percent of births.

Genesis BirthCenter, Davenport is now the first birth center in the region to offer nitrous oxide for pain relief during childbirth and only the second center in Iowa.

Nitrous oxide use is gaining momentum again in the U.S. for several reasons, according to Kim Nimrick, RN, BSN, manager of the Genesis BirthCenter, Davenport.

In Control

“There are benefits, especially for the woman giving birth, and limited risks,’’ Nimrick explained. “Nitrous oxide allows the woman to be in control.

“If she needs help coping with the pain or the anxiety of feeling pain, she puts on the mask herself for a few seconds … 15 to 60 … and gets through the next contraction.  It is very fast acting.  Just as quickly, the gas clears from the system.

“There is no lasting effect on the mom or on the baby.’’

Nimrick added that use of nitrous oxide has no negative effect on fetal heart rate or Apgar, the scale for evaluating the health of newborns.

The use of nitrous oxide does not diminish the pain of contractions, but gives women giving birth euphoria that helps them cope with the pain.

“The pain is still there. The woman delivering using nitrous oxide just doesn’t care as much about the pain, or fear the pain,’’ explained Ken Naylor, M.D., medical director of the Genesis BirthCenter in Davenport.  “She is more relaxed throughout the process, which we hope moves the labor process along and helps the baby descend smoothly during birth.’’

Reduced Caesarian Procedures

Nimrick believes expanded use of nitrous oxide could help Genesis reduce what is already a low rate of caesarian deliveries.

Some U.S. birth centers deliver 30 percent or more babies by caesarian section. Genesis is at about 19% caesarian sections for first-time deliveries.  In March, only 7% of deliveries at Genesis BirthCenter, Davenport were c-sections for first-time deliveries. The Genesis goal is 15%.

“Any time caesarian delivery is necessary for the health of the mother or the fetus, it is available.  But we don’t want to perform c-sections unnecessarily. C-sections create higher risk for the mom and baby,’’ Nimrick said.

According to national statistics, sixty percent of patients who choose nitrous oxide over epidurals are able to deliver using only nitrous oxide.

“It’s safe for everyone, effective and much less expensive to use nitrous oxide instead of other pain relief,’’ Dr. Naylor said.

The cost of supplies and the gas is less than $30 for each birth.

Genesis BirthCenters in Davenport delivers more babies than any other birth center in the region.  Should babies arrive early or need specialized care following birth, Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, has the most advanced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the region.  Premature and sick babies at Genesis are cared for by University of Iowa neonatologists.

For information about birthing services available from Genesis, go to

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