Open the accessibility options menu Open Accessibility Menu
Close the accessibility options menu Hide

Nitrous Oxide to Help Manage Labor Pain

Birth Center director Sue Shafranski, Malachi, Alyssa and Caleb Ballweg, and Dr. Todd Schad.
Birth Center director Sue Shafranski, Malachi, Alyssa and Caleb Ballweg, and Dr. Todd Schad

Alyssa Ballweg has worked in the Birth Center at Sauk Prairie Healthcare for six years and has helped hundreds of women bring a baby into the world. She knows first-hand how labor progresses, and what women want and need in order to have a positive outcome and a good experience.

When it came time to have her first child, she knew what to expect, and was grateful for
a new option, nitrous oxide.

“Nitrous oxide is not new, it was first synthesized in the 1700s,” said Alyssa’s physician, Todd Schad, MD, FACOG, who has also helped moms deliver babies at Sauk Prairie Healthcare for many years. “It was used in delivery rooms for a long time but fell out of favor with the advent of more powerful drugs, like what you would receive in an epidural.”

“But there are some drawbacks to epidurals; part of it is how it manages pain. The goal of an epidural is to provide relief by blocking of the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segments. This can impact a woman’s ability to push at the right times. Nitrous oxide reduces anxiety and makes patients less aware of pain, but does not eliminate it. Using nitrous and an epidural are not mutually exclusive, but can be timed for the maximum benefit to mom and baby,” explained Dr. Schad. “Nitrous is another tool in the toolbox which allows women to have more options to manage their discomfort. It is great to see Sauk Prairie Healthcare investing in choices for women to help manage their labor.”

Sue Shafranski, Director of Sauk Prairie Healthcare’s Birth Center, said, “There has also been an increasing demand from patients for a less intensive pain management option. Nitrous allows the mom to relax, but still focus on her breathing and pushing when necessary. She is also able to move around. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly, whereas the effects of an epidural can take several hours to recover from.”

When patients began requesting nitrous oxide as an option, the Birth Center team put together a proposal and requested funds from Sauk Prairie Healthcare Foundation. Todd Wuerger, Executive Director of the Foundation, said, “This was an easy decision, and the Foundation was happy to support the $6,400 request.”

Alyssa was one of the first patients to take advantage of the new option when she delivered baby Malachi. In addition to the sedative effect of the nitrous, she liked the idea of being more “present” in the moment. “I was thankful to have had this option, and grateful and proud that my hospital is able to provide it to our moms.”

A gift to Sauk Prairie Healthcare Foundation can improve lives. To learn more about how your gift can make an impact, visit

Give Now