FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Meredith Jones is tough. She eschews taking pain relievers for headaches and even refuses numbing agents when having dental work done.
She was more than four hours away from home when her water broke earlier than expected. Instead of panicking, the first-time mom went home to weigh her options and decide where she wanted to deliver her daughter.
Her original plan was to deliver at home, but the interview with her midwife wasn't scheduled until the following week. After weighing her choices, she chose to deliver at Womack Army Medical Center because of the alternate options the hospital offers when it comes to delivery, including being able to walk, squat and use a balance ball while in labor.
An additional and newly implemented option Womack provides for mothers in labor is the use of nitrous oxide as an alternative pain management method.
"Nitrous oxide helps us provide more options for moms who want assistance managing their pain, but don't want an epidural," said Maj. Shemica Ward, clinical nurse officer in charge, Labor and Delivery, WAMC. "It doesn't take the pain away, but it helps relax you and take your attention away from the pain."
Jones, who delivered her daughter, Hannah Olson, a little after midnight on Sept. 18, said that this was a great option for her because she was able to decide when, if and when she wanted to use it.
"It really helped me," she said. "I was able to use it sparingly and it was able to keep me more focused on more breathing."
Womack Army Medical Center is the first Army medical treatment facility to offer nitrous oxide as an option during delivery. Ward said that it has no effect on the baby and that each person is different as far as side effects for mom, but that they are minimal and mostly include being a little dizzy or queasy.
Jones said that she appreciated the option and the fact that she was able to use it only as needed.
"I didn't have any light-headed feeling and I felt like it wasn't invasive at all," said Jones. "It really helped me relax and that was the most important thing for me -- to relax and breathe."
Ward said that it's important to offer moms alternative pain management methods to help meet their individual needs when they deliver. Moms who decline an epidural and are at least 37 weeks can choose to use nitrous oxide.
"We've been using it as an option since mid-September with great results," said Ward. "The patient has full control of when and how often they use it while in labor."