I really recommend the TENS machine for labour!
I liked how it allowed me to feel in control of managing my discomfort by being able to adjust the levels as labour intensified and that I could do this in the comfort of home.
I hired the TENS machine for my second labour after my disastrous first labour experience. I didn't rest, eat or drink in that early labour. I turned on all the lights and spent hours at home, timing each contraction and throwing up. We then went to the hospital when it felt too early for me.
I didn't know how to prepare the first time as I hadn't been through birth before and optimistically thought I would wing it and see how it went.
My main plan was to try the gas, and when it didn't seem to have any effect on me (I think it was pretty low when I tried it and dismissed it as ineffective and a placebo), I felt very disheartened and had no real back up plan in mind. I believe this stalled my labour dragging it out for another 10+ hours and damaged my morale and coping ability, and I required a fair bit of intervention that I was hoping to avoid.
The second time around I, decide to be prepared and try anything and everything! I thought I would feel better to have all these backup coping ideas ready to go so if something didn't work or stopped working, I could go to the next idea. TENS machine was included in the list for sure!
"I really leaned into the relaxation breathing I had practised and told myself some of the affirmations that had been stuck up on our bedroom wall for weeks"
I had weeks of pre-labour as if my body was getting ready and we were just waiting for the baby to be ready also. Towards the final week, the practice contractions would ramp up each evening, and I would be convinced it could be that night, and then they would putter away.
Labour seemed to begin 39+3, and it was just a case of the usual practice contractions didn't stop and came with some mild period pain in the late evening, which was new. It was about 1.30 am when I suspected it was going to be the real thing at last. And this was because they were too uncomfortable to stay in bed obsessing about them as I fall asleep. Instead, I had to be up and moving.
I was excited to get everything ready and set up. The first thing was I put on the TENS machine (in the dark by myself, mind you!) and my special labour PJs. Told my husband to get some more sleep. Then I had a small meal of bone broth soup and some canned fruits. Also mixed up some Hydralyte in my special labour drink bottle to sip. I wore a sleep eye mask my whole labour to keep everything dark and to block out distractions. I also put on a birth blend of essential oils to defuse (which I was keen to turn off again after a few hours). The combs and birth ball didn't end up being useful, as I found pacing during contractions right for me. I started out listening to birth meditation tracks using cordless earbuds, but they became just noise to me after a few hours. I think it was beneficial I had spent time during pregnancy breathing and relaxing and listening to them instead of just relying on absorbing their message during labour.
I also took some anti-nausea ginger capsules as I wanted to avoid the frequent vomiting of last time. I really leaned into the relaxation breathing I had practised and told myself some of the affirmations that had been stuck up on our bedroom wall for weeks. And a heat pack on my lower tummy felt ah-mazing. This is how I laboured at home over the next 6 hours.
Just adjusted the TENS as needed, boosting when a contraction came and occasionally peeking at the time between contractions to see how things were changing. Really comfortable at this point, and I was trying to conserve my energy and pace myself for another labour that could potentially be 18 hours.
At 4am woke my husband to ring the hospital and let them know about the start of our labour as they were about 4 min apart but not too uncomfortable to cope with and he then began packing his bag.
At about 5 30am, our 2-year-old woke up and we got him ready for my husband to drop him off at family. Labour with a two-year-old wanting to ask 100 questions affected my contractions and they went really mild and 6 min apart.
"I was able to relax completely and work with the contractions (which I could feel completely with the TENS off, what a contrast! It really makes a difference)"
At the Hospital
We decided to go to the hospital because I was feeling like trying the gas alongside the TENS, and this thought was now remaining with me even during the breaks between contractions. I had a little game with myself where I wanted to stay at home until 5 am, then I got to 5 and thought, okay, let's stay until 5.30 and then 6 am etc. Moving the goal post forward just a little bit until I was only setting the next goal to 15min more, and then.... after the next contraction, we will go.
At about 7am arrived at the hospital. Again I had kept my sleep mask on so I didn't see the arrival of the hospital as my husband helped me inside and up the lift. I didn't want the transfer of location to stall my labour again, so I pretended I wasn't actually there... just another room in our house.
When we got to the hospital, I was 5cm. Contractions were 3 to 4 min at home but did back down to about 6 min when we arrived, and I got a few that lasted only 30 seconds. I almost felt silly being so normal and not acting in "labour enough", and now barely any contractions, and I was convinced they might recommend I go home, but they didn't.
At the hospital there was also the option to try the birth pool with gas, and that sounded nice to me. It was something I had planned on trying, but that meant taking off the tens machine, and I was really nervous about how I would cope without it on just in case I changed my mind and the pool and gas turned out NOT to help, and I would have to get out AND get dry AND put the TENS back on AND adjust it back where I needed it AND get back into my relaxation groove.
The TENS machine was still helping me cope so well that taking the risk to change things that were working was a little scary.
However, When I did enter the pool it was so lovely! I felt super happy with where I was in there and how much it was helping me that I entered "real" labour which really felt like things ramped up. I felt like I left and went to another zone in my mind where I was babbling to my husband and whoever was in the room what a great labour it was and how comfortable I was with this set up, and what a great way it was to labour there with gas that actually does something!
Just sitting in the pool, mask on, gas in one hand and my husband holding my other hand, sometimes patting my hair and offering sips of Hyrdalyte and juice, the sound of loud thunderstorm rain sounds playing on the Bluetooth speaker. Heaven!
I was able to relax completely and work with the contractions (which I could feel completely with the TENS off, what a contrast! It really makes a difference) and dilated from 5 to 10cm, then pushed out baby all within 2 hrs of arrival to the hospital!
"I truly enjoyed the whole labour and would go through it again purely for the challenge and fun of it with no baby at the end."
It felt like such a quick labour, and I think that is because I was able to spend 6 of the 8 hours at home, which would never have been possible without using a TENS machine. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is planning a vaginal birth.
One thing I didn't expect was how my practice relaxation breathing for labour was different to the breathing required to use the gas and air most effectively, where you want to suck in as much as you can at the build-up to a contraction and once it was taking effect, I would naturally fall back into my relaxation breathing on the way down from a contraction when you don't need the gas. Took a few contractions to come up with that change in strategy at the moment and I had not considered how I might need to adjust things to work with the gas during all my labour breathing preparations.
I had such a positive birth experience. At no point did I ever think, 'This is too hard', and 'I want to quit' or that I wanted epidural/c section/anaesthesia. I truly enjoyed the whole labour and would go through it again purely for the challenge and fun of it with no baby at the end. Totally opposite birth experience to my first. Thank you The Birth Store!