I’m beginning to think about my birth plan for my first pregnancy and finding that I’m getting a lot of people’s opinions put on me (without even asking).
Anyway, the latest is tens machine vs epidural. I’ve been told by some friends to not be a matyr and take the epidural before it’s too late in late in labour. Then I’m told to use a tens machine by others because an epidural would be bad for me and the baby.
They all have strong opinions and it’s all a bit overwhelming and confusing! Argh!
I don't think there's a comparison between the two. They are entirely different and aim to ease very different types of pain. I had both at different stages of labour.
Why don't you take each minute of labour as it comes and decide what you need then? You may find that you are in complete control of the pain till the end or you may find that it gets too much. Suck it and see.
Well, they're two very different things, and also not mutually exclusive. A lot depends on how your labour is going, whether it is spontaneous or induced, how baby is positioned, whether you have access to a birthing pool.
I've had one spontaneous labour where I used TENS and the water and was glad I didn't have an epidural, and one induced by drip labour where I used TENS for the first several hours but was glad to have utilised an epidural for the last few. TENS is easy, drug free and won't have you off your feet, but not everyone finds it helpful. An epidural will relieve pain completely as long as it works but you have to have it at the right stage, not too early or too late, and it can slow down your labour which in a first labour can be problematic.
I'd take a TENS and stay open to the possibilities.
Write your birth plan but be prepared for it to go to shit. I won’t bore you with my story but I knew at different points that I wanted the epidural (birth plan was water birth no drugs). I didn’t get to sneeze out my babies in the bath unfortunately.
I used both in my labour, tens machine, warm baths and paracetamol got me through three days of strong but irregular contractions, and the epidural saw me through the last 12 hours. Both very effective in their own way. I'd not write anything off, just make sure you're fully informed of all of the risks and benefits for all your pain management options.
My advice would be to not plan an epidural. They're not great for birth, slow things fown, can't move around etc.
At my antenatal classes I was told that the midwives would offer an epidural if you were in labour but not progressing very quick. This way you could rest until ready to push. They didn't recommend it for normal labour.
I used the birthing pool, gas and air, and 1 dose of morphine, none of which I decided on until it was happening. Just keep an open mind and see what happens on the day!
I thought of it like a ladder of pain relief... start at the bottom and work your way up depending on how things are going so: - deep breathing / other relaxation - paracetamol - tens - gas and air - pethidine / other injectable things - epidural
TENS did literally nothing for me. Breathing, water and a bit of gas and air were much better! I agree that most midwives won’t just give you an epidural straight off without trying to cope with using breathing and gas and air.
My advice re. birth plan, FWIW, is: a) it’s YOUR birth plan so ignore the opinions offered, however well-meaning they may be, unless you ask for them which in this case you clearly haven’t. (Also be prepared to apply this when baby has arrived!)
b) just write what is particularly important to you and leave everything else. If you don’t have any strong feelings about pain relief or are feeling unsure or confused, then being open to all potions is probably the best, and then you can see how you go and take the midwife’s advice during labour.
schoolworrier has it bang on in my opinion (speaking as a midwife). Although read up a bit on pethidine, it can make you quite sick and crosses the placenta. Some trusts offer meptid instead, it's a milder version. Tens machine is good for early labour, it's not an either/or for epidural. By the time you want or need an epidural, a tens machine will do very little. And for the record, brace yourself for a LOT of uncanvassed opinions about what you should or shouldn't do. Read as much as you can from evidence based sources. Listen to the opinions, smile politely (or don't!) speak to your healthcare professionals (who sadly will also sometimes have conflicting opinions) and then do what makes the most sense to you.
Agree with others - it depends on what sort of labour you had. My first labour was long (20 hours from 5cm dilated to birth) and I don’t know how I’d have got through it without an epidural. Second was much shorter (3.5 hours from first contraction to birth) so I was fine with tens and gas and air.
My "plan" is basically the same as schoolwarriors and I'm prepared to skip some rungs if need be, e.g. if I need the syntocinon drip I know I'm more likely to need an epidural. I've bought a tens machine so we'll see how I go with that for the earlier stages. I also haven't written my pain relief preferences down in my birth plan as it's mostly stuff that's important to me if I'm too out of it to request it.
I loved my tens machine. I'd highly recommend it. Personally I didn't want an epidural for many reasons, so for me it was a last resort. I think for me personally natural pain relief was the best way- tens, ball, pool. But everyone is different and you need to do what is best for you when the time comes
Thank you all. This has been very helpful to me. Appreciate you taking the time to respond.
Definitely going to avoid pressure from people and do my own research to help build my own birth plan. I guess that will be helped with joining NCT too.
On another note....20 week scan today! The little scamp is a wriggler and doing well....just need to go back next week for another scan because it wouldn’t get in the right position to see it’s heart 🙂.