By Beverly Littlejohn

Since welcoming its first baby into the world on February 5, 2015, St. Joseph’s Hospital-South delivered 616 babies last year. In addition to having their babies at the newest hospital in Hillsborough County, expectant mothers were treated to some of the most up-to-date maternity services, such as nitrous oxide, aromatherapy, gentle C-sections and skin-to-skin contact.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, has been used as anesthesia in dentistry for 170 years. More recently, hospitals in the U.S. have begun offering nitrous oxide as analgesia for mothers during childbirth. St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview incorporated the practice in November 2015.

When a laboring woman chooses this option, a machine is brought into the labor and delivery room that produces a 50/50 blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide, which is self-administered.

The reasons for using nitrous oxide for pain relief vary: sometimes mothers in labor use nitrous oxide until they can get an epidural or in addition to it; sometimes there isn’t time for an epidural or the patient doesn’t qualify for one. Others choose nitrous oxide from the beginning.

Patients should discuss the method of pain relief with their physician ahead of time. Others learn about it during St. Joseph’s Hospital-South’s Prepared Childbirth classes. To find a Prepared Childbirth class, visit BayCareEvents.org.

Another service offered to mothers is aromatherapy. During labor, women are given a menu of available scents that serve different purposes: Lavender produces a calming effect, eases pain and soothes itching. Peppermint eases nausea and lessens headache.

For women who deliver their babies by Caesarean-section, Gentle C-section is another patient satisfier. If the mother wants to be able to see the birth, clear drapes are used in the OR. In addition, the baby is immediately handed to the mom for skin-to-skin contact, when the newborn is placed on the mother’s chest.

“At St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, patient centered care is at the core of all we do,” said Norma Gonzalez, nurse manager of Women’s Services.  “Aromatherapy, gentle C-sections and nitrous oxide are a few of the options we offer to our patients. Providing a safe and memorable experience is the priority for each and every patient that entrusts us with their care.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital-South is located at 6901 Simmons Lp. in Riverview. To learn more, visit BayCare.org/sjhs/services/maternity.