By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Labor that leads to childbirth is usually no laughing matter. But women at one Montgomery County hospital are feeling better thanks to something that is being given to expectant mothers.

First-time mom Candace Hager is overjoyed with her baby boy, Hayden. His birth on Dec. 20 was an early Christmas present.

“The delivery was probably better than I thought it could be,” Hager said.

And that’s saying something, since Hager was committed to having a drug-free delivery.

“I’m pretty sensitive to drugs and I just wanted the unmedicated experience,” she said.

Her registered nurse, midwife Ronni Rothman, was happy to be able to offer a new option at Einstein Medical Center in Montgomery County.

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Nitrous oxide –laughing gas — is now available to help women in labor.

“She will self-administer, so she puts the mask over her face,” Rothman said. “During contractions, she’ll breath in and out during contraction, keeping it over her face.”

Nitrous oxide works by increasing the release of feel-good endorphins. It’s more commonly used for dental procedures, to ease pain and anxiety.

It can also make people feel euphoric, which is why it’s called laughing gas.

“No, no one laughs in labor, it’s called laughing gas but it makes them calm,” Rothman said. “I think they should call it calming gas because it definitely helps women calm down.”

The nitrous given during labor is much less than what’s provided at the dentist.

“It helps you calm yourself,” Hager said.

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Hager says she used it for a couple of hours at the height of labor.

“It relaxes you as best as you can during that pain,” she said. “It helps you focus on the breathing.”

Doctors say nitrous oxide is less invasive than an epidural that numbs the lower body. And unlike narcotics, the gas doesn’t affect the baby and is quickly out of the mom’s system.

For Hager, it was the perfect solution to bring her 7 pound, 12 ounce baby into the world.

Stephanie Stahl