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

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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