MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Laboring mothers now have another option to cope with pain at the Hennepin County Medical Center: nitrous oxide.

The Birth Center at HCMC will offer the option whether it’s contractions, IV start-ups or lab procedures.

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“Nitrous oxide is quick to set up, great for any time during labor, and it’s safe for both mom and baby,” Sara Wendt, Clinical Care Supervisor at The Birth Center, said. “Many of our moms are looking for a natural experience. Nitrous oxide combined with our Doula program, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy offer women many options to reach that goal.”

HCMC began offering nitrous oxide – also called laughing gas – earlier in the year with “overwhelmingly positive results.”

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“It doesn’t take all the pain away, but patients report an increase in satisfaction of the labor experience,” Wendt said.

HCMC officials say European countries and Australia have been using nitrous oxide inhalation for years. Also, some studies found it reduces C-section rates and speeds up labor progress because the patient is able to relax and allow her body to do the work of labor.

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A common side effect with nitrous oxide is nausea but medication is available to help reduce the discomfort.