New pain management option for mothers in labor

“He’s doing really well. He’s grown a ton. Sleeping for me during the night and taking long naps during the afternoon. He’s started to smile at my face, even at 3AM when I have to change poopy diapers."

Jessica Schabdach says the first six weeks of motherhood have flown by, but the nine months leading up to the birth of baby Wesley were nerve-wracking.

“I think it made it even worse that I worked in labor and delivery. Even with all that knowledge and background, I was still nervous about what I was going to do for pain and how labor was going to progress,” said Schabdach.

But a new option at UPMC Pinnacle peaked her interest: nitrous oxide, sometimes known as laughing gas.

It can wear off as quickly as it kicks in, and nurses say it helps with pain and nerves.

“Basic labor pain, contractions, tension associated with labor, or any other procedures a woman may need,” said Gina Mazzotta, a registered nurse at UPMC Pinnacle's Harrisburg location.

Here’s how it works: the mask pumps 50 percent nitrus and 50 percent oxygen into the mask.

The mom holds the mask and breathes it in when she feels nervousness or pain, like before a contraction.

“I was still feeling contractions, but it made them a little bit easier. And actually being able to hand use the mask myself was a little bit distracting from the contractions, so it kind of helped take my mind off of what i was feeling,” said Schadbach.

It also allows mothers to be mobile, whereas with an epidural, they have to stay in bed.

And, nurses say, of course, it is totally safe for the baby too.

It is worth noting, nitrous oxide can be used leading up to an epidural, but not at the same time.

Right now this option is offered at UPMC Pinnacle’s Harrisburg and Hanover locations, and it will be offered at their Lititz location in July.