The Family Birthplace


Compassionate, Expert Care with Alternative Birthing Options

At the Irvin & Margaret Houck Family Birthplace, you, your family, and your new baby will be treated with the utmost care and compassion by skilled doctors and specialists.

Our Alternative Birthing Center offers parents a variety of choices to manage their delivery, including water for labor and birth. You’ll be surrounded in a home-like setting with a queen-size bed for family bonding, along with many amenities, like a television, refrigerator, and microwave, to make everyone feel more at ease.

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Patient Stories

Alternative Birthing Center. Your Baby, Your Way!

A comfortable, home-like environment for your birth experience.

To make an appointment with a physician, or to register for our pre-natal classes and orientation, please call (866) 938-7256.

At the Alternative Birth Center (ABC), we put the parents in control of their birthing experience. Many birthing parents prefer natural childbirth in the company of family. The Alternative Birthing Center provides families with the room and resources to create a welcoming setting for natural childbirth that encourages use of alternative comfort measures such as tub immersion and positioning during labor and birth.

The ABC rooms are designed for patient and visitor comfort. Rooms have a queen-sized bed, soaking tub, shower with bathtub, mini-refrigerator and microwave, and various options for dim lighting available.

If you have questions about the Alternative Birth Center, please call 708-763-6604.

family birthplace showing tub and queen size bed
family birthplace showing queen size bed and bassinet

West Suburban Medical Center has been named to Newsweek’s 2021 list of Best Maternity Care Hospitals. This designation means our maternity care program is now ranked among the best in the United States, and as one of the top three in Illinois, as verified by the 2020 Leapfrog Hospital Survey. Learn about the Best Maternity Hospitals ranking.


West Suburban Medical Center’s midwifery services is one of the largest in the area. Our certified nurse-midwives are accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and offer a wide range of gynecologic care and birthing options.

Nitrous Oxide Use for Labor and Birth

West Suburban Medical Center is proud to be one of the first hospitals in Chicagoland to make this option available.

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas, has been used for pain relief during dental procedures since the mid-19th century. In the 20th century, its use also became common in childbirth, but lost popularity in the U.S. with the development of other pain control options.

The gas is still commonly used as labor analgesic in Canada and many European countries, and it is slowly returning to U.S. hospitals as more and more birthing parents seek to control labor pain in a less invasive way than epidural anesthesia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved new nitrous oxide equipment for childbirth use in 2011, which may also explain its revival.

Nitrous oxide used for labor pain is a mixture of 50 percent nitrous gas and 50% oxygen, which birthing parents self-administer (inhale) through a mask or mouthpiece. While the pain may still exist for some patients, the gas should decrease the intensity.

In addition to the gas being a less-invasive option, it also offers significant cost savings to patients. The average cost for nitrous oxide is roughly only 3-5% of the cost of an epidural anesthesia fees.

How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?

A patient holds their own mask or mouthpiece and begins to inhale the gas mixture about 30 seconds before a contraction begins. This method allows for the gas to reach its peak effect at the same time as the contraction reaches its peak, hence providing the greatest pain relief.

Does it require extra fetal monitoring?

There is no additional fetal monitoring required when using nitrous oxide.

Is there a need for an IV?

No. It is not necessary to have an IV inserted to use nitrous oxide.

Can nitrous oxide and intravenous narcotics be used at the same time?

Birthing parents who have received IV narcotics, need to wait two hours before using nitrous oxide. Patients who are using nitrous oxide and choose to use IV medications, will need to wait 15 minutes before those can be administered.

Can nitrous oxide be used while in the tub?

No, nitrous oxide cannot be used while in the tub. However, birthing parents can get into the tub 15 minutes after the last time nitrous oxide was inhaled.

Are there any reasons a birthing parent would not be able to use nitrous oxide?

Yes: nitrous oxide may not be used if the patient:

  • cannot hold their own mouthpiece or facemask; or
  • has received a dose of narcotic in the past two hours; or
  • has pernicious anemia or a B12 deficiency, for which they are taking B12 supplements

Does nitrous oxide affect the baby in any way?

No, nitrous oxide does not affect the baby. It is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs, so as soon as the birthing parent pulls the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within a breath or two.

Does a birthing parent need to choose between either using nitrous oxide OR having epidural anesthesia?

No; some birthing parents choose to use nitrous oxide before epidural anesthesia. Although they would not be used together, patients can use nitrous oxide first and move on to a different type of pain relief as labor pain progresses.

Alternative Birth Center Eligibility And Requirements

Eligibility for Use of the ABC:

  1. Desire for non-interventive birth
  2. Low-risk pregnancy
    1. Pregnancy with one baby greater than 37 weeks gestation
    2. Baby in head-down position
    3. Birthing person does NOT have any of the following:
      1. Severe anemia or other blood disorder
      2. High blood pressure
      3. Diabetes requiring insulin
      4. Serious medical condition or disease
      5. Illicit drug use during pregnancy
  3. Normal baseline fetal heart rate on admission to hospital
  4. Spontaneous labor (no induction of labor with pitocin)

Requirements for Use of the ABC:

  1. Agreement of midwife or physician
  2. Attendance at childbirth class (current or previous pregnancy)
  3. Attendance at ABC Orientation (this is currently virtual)
  4. Understanding that use of epidural anesthesia requires transfer out of ABC

Risking Out of the ABC:

A patient will “risk out” of the ABC and be admitted or transferred to a regular birthing room if:

  • The birthing person develops a fever over 101 degrees or high blood pressure
  • The baby’s heart rate becomes concerning
  • No progress in labor over several hours
  • Bag of water ruptured for over 18 hours without active labor
  • Thick meconium in bag of water and delivery is not imminent
  • The birthing person desires an epidural for pain management
  • Complications develop that prompt the midwife or physician to request the patient be moved to a regular birthing room

West Suburban Medical Center provides comprehensive obstetrical care supported by additional neonatal expert care from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Please join one of our orientation classes to learn more and find out why modern parents are choosing our midwife-led and physician-supervised alternative birthing options.