Breaking News
More () »

Laugh it off: How more pregnant women are easing labor pains

Awalt heard about something kind of funny in her birthing class, but it's no joke. Nitrous oxide -- yes, laughing gas is being administered during labor to dial down the pain.

So many hardcore women are turning away epidurals to feel every single beautiful painful moment of childbirth.

"I want to do it all natural," said new mom Amelia Awalt. "Mostly I wanted to be able to walk around and move and have the freedom to get up out of bed if I wanted to," she explained.

Awalt heard about something kind of funny in her birthing class, but it's no joke. Nitrous oxide -- yes, laughing gas is being administered during labor to dial down the pain.

"Previously, the only options we had were IV narcotics which were very sedating to the patients," said Baylor labor & delivery nurse Jill Reynolds. "They make them very loopy, they make the baby very loopy as well."

For ten years, Reynolds has witnessed countless births with one trend gaining steam.

"We found that the population wanted another option that was safer for mom and safer for baby that could be used all the way until the end without having to get that epidural," Reynolds said.

In November, Baylor started offering nitrous as that option. The Dallas hospital has two machines with more on the way because 25 percent of women going into labor at this specific location are asking for it.

"With my first one, I tried to do natural but it didn't go as planned," said Simi Lujan, who happened to ask hospital staff for nitrous while we were shooting this story. Simi allowed us to stay as Reynolds talked her through contractions.

"Sometimes it takes them a couple contractions to really figure out the timing of it since there is a little bit of a delay," Reynolds explained.

But Simi seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly.

"After she took that first inhale, I could feel her body just relax and I could hear by the tone of her voice that she was pleasant," said Simi's husband Tony Lujan.

It seems nitrous might be making childbirth more pleasant for dads, too.

"It's not supposed to take the pain away completely," Reynolds said. "But it also has anti-anxiety effects and also relaxation effects so it helps them relax through the contraction which is really important."

While it may be new to us, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Finland and the U.K. have historically used a 50/50 blend of oxygen and nitrous to treat labor pains.

"I think it's a great option," said Awalt who opted for nitrous instead of an epidural.

"Instead of blocking out the pain entirely, which I appreciated that it didn't do, it forced me to breathe through the contractions because you have to inhale really deeply into the mask," said Awalt, who delivered son Ender with a little pain and a few giggles.

A few doors away, Simi persisted like a champ with help from her doula.

"Having this option which allows them to be upright and use their body versus being stuck in the bed with the epidural....lets them be a little more in control," Melissa Espey-Mueller explained.

Simi powered through some complications during labor and Reynolds administered nitrous again after Simi's delivery, which she said is especially useful in the event of tearing.

"We've found that the nitrous just helps them relax to get comfortable for that repair," Reynolds said.

Before Simi knew it, Ava arrived. And, as any mom will tell you -- regardless of her birthing experience-- it was all worth it.

Nitrous oxide has the support of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and is considered safe to use during labor. As with any medical intervention, talk to your doctor about the best options for you.

To read more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor, click here.

Photos from video courtesy Fat Baby Photography.