NASHVILLE, May 31 (UPI) -- Vanderbilt University Medical Center says it will be one of the few U.S. hospitals to offer nitrous oxide as an option for labor pain relief during childbirth.
Just two other U.S. facilities are knows to use the gas, often referred to as laughing gas, a Vanderbilt release said Tuesday.
A 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen mixture is self-administered by the mother, inhaled through a mask or mouthpiece she controls, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported.
The tasteless and odorless gas does not eliminate pain but can reduce it.
Commonly used during labor in the United Kingdom and other European countries, it fell out of favor in the United States after the 1950s, replaced by other options including epidurals.
The gas is safe for both the mother and baby because it is eliminated from the body through the lungs rather than the liver, Vanderbilt researchers said, and does not cause newborns to be groggy.
Heather Crandall, a doula -- someone professionally trained to assist during childbirth -- said she thinks nitrous oxide is a "great option" because it presents a middle ground when it comes to childbirth pain relief.
"Normally it's either all or nothing," she said.
"So having this option that will still give (laboring women) the full mobility to help the philological process happen and help their babies be born, I think is great."