Expecting women often craft well thought out plans for the births of their babies and most of the time, pain control is at the top of the list. Many women gather information and options such as epidurals, water labor, and pain medications and injections early in the pregnancy in order to make an informed decision on whether or not they want their pain controlled during labor and delivery and if so, what they would like to use.
For local teacher and Children’s Director for Washington Street Church of Christ, Terry Smith, the pain control options were more limited. Terry was left paralyzed from a car accident and due to surgery for her injuries, her spine is fused from T11-L5. Because of the spinal fusion, Terry is unable to receive an epidural since the process includes an injection of a local anesthetic into the space around the spinal nerves in your lower back. This pregnancy was Terry’s third, all of which have been since the accident and without the ability to have an epidural. During the delivery of Terry’s first child, the nurses kept telling her if she could relax, the baby would come faster so she agreed to take a pain relief injection to help her relax and hopefully encourage the baby to come. Her son Abram, now 13, was born perfectly healthy but still seemed to take a few seconds to cry, which Terry couldn’t help but think may have been a side effect of the shot. The delivery of Terry’s second child, Ephraim, age 9, was completely natural and free of any pain-relief interventions, but due to the recent increase in sensation in her legs, Terry was concerned about pain control during labor.
Terry brought her concerns to her obstetrician, Dr. Theresa Morrison, at one of her prenatal visits. Dr. Morrison, who also delivered the family’s second child, was very familiar with Terry’s history and suggested the use of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, for pain control during labor. Lincoln Medical Center, where Dr. Morrison delivers, has been offering nitrous oxide for pain control during labor since 2016 and the facility has seen the pain control method to be very helpful in helping laboring moms endure the pain during birth.
“I trusted her 100% when she told me about the laughing gas because I knew she wouldn’t have anything happen to me or the baby,” said Smith. She said she trusts and respects Dr. Morrison and she made the choice to have Dr Morrison deliver her third child even though she has reached an age that places her in the ‘advanced maternal age’ category. Upon finding out she was pregnant, Smith visited an obstetrician that specializes in higher-risk pregnancies. Smith described the experience by saying, “[they] made me feel like a number and made me feel like I was dumb for getting pregnant and being a disabled person.” Her experience with Dr. Morrison was different. “I love Dr. Morrison, she doesn’t see me as a disabled person. She knows what I want and what I need and she just sees me as normal,” said Smith.
Terry was scheduled to be induced at 37 weeks and she and her husband Adam arrived at LMC at 12:01 am on May 31, 2019, to get the induction started. Unfortunately, labor did not progress quickly and by that next night, there was still no baby. They took a break to allow Terry to rest. Saturday morning, they began more aggressive measures to jumpstart progressive labor and the contractions came on strong and fast and Terry was grateful for the relief the nitrous oxide provided.
She quickly discovered that as she felt the contraction start, she could take 3 deep breaths of the nitrous oxide and the relief was tremendous. When asked to describe how the nitrous oxide made her feel Terry said, “Calming, for me it was very calming. I didn’t feel like I do with pain pills. You don’t feel that way with laughing gas. You just feel relaxed and a little loopy.” She said the effects of the laughing gas did not last long, just enough to get her through the contractions. She said. “It relaxed my muscles and relaxed my mind where I didn’t feel anything and if I did, I didn’t care.”
Pretty soon, Miss Evelyn Rose Smith was born, perfect in every way. She weighed in at 8 lbs. 2 oz. and measured 19.75 inches long. She cried immediately and Terry saw the nitrous had no effect on Evie at all and their family was now complete!
Reflecting back on the experience Smith said, “I don’t know if I would have been able to do it without it. Thank goodness for laughing gas. [Evie] came at the right time when they had this kind of medicine. We were very lucky.”
About the Women’s Center at Lincoln Medical Center
The Women’s Center at Lincoln Health System is designed to highlight the labor and delivery experience. The expert physicians at LMC’s Women Center keep the health of both mom and baby at the forefront of every decision and provide our families with the comfort of their expertise. The Labor and Delivery Unit offers spacious Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Post-Partum Rooms to allow our families space and privacy needed to enjoy the birth of their child without being shuttled to a recovery room hours after delivery. Birthing options are offered to allow moms to choose how much or how little pain management intervention they desire. Conventional pain management and epidurals are available as well as natural childbirth options including labor pools for water laboring with wireless waterproof fetal/maternal monitoring to ensure the safety of both mom and baby. Patient-administered nitrous oxide is also available allowing mom the ability to self-administer relief when needed. The Women’s Center at LHS strives to provide personalized care which celebrates your health and empowers your birth experience, balancing the options you desire for your labor with the safety you need to ensure a safe and happy birthday. For more information on the Women’s Center or to schedule a tour, please visit www.LincolnHealthSystem.com or call 931-438-1201.