Labor & Delivery

Rely on the birth care team at your Essentia Health hospital to help you stay as comfortable as possible during labor and delivery. Trust us to follow your birth plan as closely as possible while keeping you and your baby’s health and safety our top priority.

One-to-One Labor Support

Count on our experienced and supportive labor and delivery nurses to help you through childbirth. You’ll appreciate having the same nurse tend to you throughout your active labor. That means your nurse gets to know you and your preferences—so you get care that fits you.

What Does Labor Feel Like?

When you go into labor, you may feel pressure or intense cramping sensations in your lower abdomen. Rest assured that labor pain is natural and productive. It’s also predictable. It begins, rises, peaks, and subsides.

For Labor Coaches

Learn how to provide support during childbirth by visiting our Guide for the Labor Coach page.

Managing Labor Pain

Rely on your care team at Essentia to help you understand your options for effective pain management during labor. We’ll help you choose techniques or medications that consider:

  • How much pain control you want
  • Effects on you and your baby
  • Your stage of labor

Drug-Free Pain Control

If you prefer a non-medicated delivery, or natural birth, your care team can help you cope with labor pain using tools such as:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Birthing balls
  • Breathing techniques
  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Hydrotherapy in a whirlpool tub
  • Massage
  • Movement and positioning
  • Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery

Medications for Pain Relief

Depending on your needs and preferences, you may receive:

  • Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – Reduces anxiety and increases feelings of well-being; you’ll inhale it through a mask you hold
  • Systemic analgesics – Lessen pain; you won’t lose any feeling or ability to move, but you and your baby may feel sleepy
  • Local anesthesia – Numbs a small area of your body
  • Regional anesthesia – Decreases feeling in the lower areas of your body
    • Intrathecal analgesia – Relieves pain for two to four hours after a one-time injection during active labor; you’ll remain awake and able to walk
    • Epidural anesthesia – Controls pain continuously or by a button you control; you’ll remain alert and relaxed but will need to stay in bed
    • Spinal anesthesia – Causes total numbness in the lower body; you’ll remain alert and awake

Medical Insight - Laughing Gas Video Transcript


The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Medical Insight. Christina Harmon sits on her couch speaking to an interviewer, holding her infant daughter Addy. Addy sucks quietly on a pacifier.

TRACY BRIGGS: Christina Harmon is savoring the last few weeks of maternity leave with her two-month-old daughter Addy before heading back to work. As she enjoys some late-morning snuggles, she reflects on how something most-commonly associated with a dentist's office helped make delivering her daughter much more comfortable. She used nitrous oxide, or as it's more commonly known, "laughing gas" while in labor.

Text, Laughing Gas. A breathing mask is shown in a photograph, held by a healthcare professional.

CHRISTINA HARMON: It makes me feel extremely relaxed. For me, it definitely took the edge off of the pain. I almost felt a little bit loopy. But the good thing is as soon as you feel like you've had enough, you can pull the mask away from your face, and the effects wear off almost instantly. TRACY BRIGGS: It might not be generating giggles, but Essentia Health certified-nurse-midwife Mandi Brodeur says many moms like Harmon are choosing laughing gas during labor after Essentia Health became the first hospital in the region to offer it earlier this year.

Mandi Brodeur, certified nurse midwife, speaks to the camera.

MANDI BRODEUR: The gas itself is not going to take the pain away like some of the other pain-relief methods would. But a very good at reducing anxiety. And it's very good at making you kind of disassociate from the pain. So it kind of makes you care less that you're in pain, for lack of a better word.

Brodeur demonstrates pulling the mask from its stand near a patient bed.

TRACY BRIGGS: Brodeur says women choosing to use the colorless, odorless gas simply place the mask over their mouth and nose as they feel a contraction starting. As a contraction intensifies, mom will take a deep breath of the gas, while having the ability to take the mask off in-between contractions. MANDI BRODEUR: If you get an epidural, you're confined to your bed, so you can't get up and move, whereas the nitrous oxide can be used sitting on the birthing ball, or in the tub, or walking around, if you feel up to it. TRACY BRIGGS: Studies show laughing gas has no adverse effects on the fetus. And only a few moms report feeling lightheaded or nauseated. CHRISTINA HARMON: I've already told just about everybody I know to definitely look into it. It's a great alternative to having any type of pain medicines. So if you want natural labor, it's wonderful because you can still have that, but it helps you get through it a little bit more comfortably. TRACY BRIGGS: With this Essentia Health medical insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Medical Insight.

Family-Centered Cesarean Birth

If a Cesarean section, or C-section, is the safest way for you to deliver your baby, ask about having a family-centered C-section. You may also hear this called a gentle C-section. This approach to care means you and your partner will be as involved in the birth as much as possible. As long it’s safe for you and your baby:

  • Your partner will remain by your side during birth
  • You may have the option for a clear drape, so you can see the delivery
  • You’ll be able to hold your baby on your chest immediately after delivery

Nicole's Cesarean Birth Story

Nicole Everson shares how the OB care she received at Essentia Health's Birth Center gave her a sense of calm as they welcomed their new daughter. 

Nicole's Story Video Transcript

A woman with a young girl on a hillside. The girl slides through leaves on the ground. The woman tosses leaves in the air.

[BABY SQUEALING]NICOLE EVERSON: My name's Nicole Everson. I work as an environmental consultant. My daughter is Emily. And she is 2 and 1/2 years old.

Nicole, Emily, Nicole's husband and a baby at a sandbox.

She is wild and crazy, super intelligent. My husband and I, we had gotten married pretty recently. And we knew we wanted to start a family. I had plans to do a holistic birth.

Staff and patient room at a health facility, A wall sign reads, The Birthplace

I was really excited because Essentia offered low intervention birthing, and had this great plan of following in my mom's footsteps. She had both my sister and myself with no pain medications. She was present for both of our births and can remember all the details really well. And that was something that I was really interested in. My pregnancy was so uneventful. It was really easy. I felt great.

A sonogram depicts a uterus. A hand holds a sonoscope on a woman's pregnant belly.

Close to the end, I developed a condition called polyhydramnios. It's when you have too much amniotic fluid around 36, 37 weeks. I think I was measuring like 45 weeks. So I was really enormous. I was starting to swell. And

169 over 118 on a blood pressure meter

I was monitoring my blood pressure at home. And it was starting to rise a little bit. They had to go forth with some suggestions for inducing and things like that because it was a dangerous level. Lots of scary things happened. And lots of unexpected things happened. So I was bummed. But I also was really, really excited to meet my daughter. And I knew I could trust the team of people that I was with. There was never a moment where I felt like I didn't have a choice, and felt like I was being pressured into anything. We went forth with the induction. They made sure everything was all happy and fine. And Dr. Greenleaf came in and sat on my bed because she knew, I mean, we were already kind of grieving this together because she knew I didn't want this. And she was just so kind. And she put her hand on my leg. And she just sat with me and said, you have about an hour left of pushing that we can give you before we have to do a c-section. I can remember them cutting open. And everything was fine.

Newborn and mom

My daughter was born. She was crying. It was beautiful. They laid her on my chest. Everybody was so respectful of keeping things calm for me.

The family of four at the sandbox.

And I was able to remain calm the entire time. My midwife, she was present for almost every hour of my 32-hour labor. She went and put her kids to bed once and had dinner with them. And she was right back with me. I guess I've never really thought how hard things really have been, and how hard things were, and how scary they were, and how lucky we are. And I just kind of rode the waves. And we just made our way through it. I feel like we're a really happy family. And we have gone through a lot of stuff that is really hard. I feel like the actual physical care I received is absolutely unmatched. I would never consider going anywhere else. [GENTLE MUSIC]

Text, Like Nowhere ElseThe Essentia Health logo, consisting of three leaves in a circle.

Prepare for Labor & Delivery

Learn what to expect during childbirth by taking a class at an Essentia location near you. Explore our pregnancy and birth classes.

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