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Hey there Mamas! My name is Serena and I just gave birth to my first child, a beautiful little boy, 4 weeks ago, and I wanted to introduce you to the Perfect Mama TENS machine! Maybe you’re all made of stronger stuff than I am but I was straight up terrified of giving birth throughout most of my first and second trimester. By the time the third trimester rolled around, I was merely extremely nervous about labour (thank goodness for prenatal classes and kind sisters who told me their birth stories). It was at this point that I was told about TENS machines specifically designed for labour, which completely changed my whole labour experience and helped me deliver the sweetest Christmas present ever!
If you haven’t heard of a TENS machine, people usually use them for back issues – my mom has had one forever but I had never heard of ones specifically for labour. Essentially a TENS machine takes advantage of Gate Control as a pain management tool during labour. Your prenatal class may talk about Gate Control in terms of pleasure/pain – if you give your body a pleasurable sensation, like a kiss or caress, it will beat the pain of your contraction to your brain and cause the pain to be significantly less. TENS machines send a low-level electrical current through your body which essentially does the same thing by reducing the pain of each contraction. I would strongly recommend getting a labour-specific one like the Perfect Mama as I doubt other TENS machines will be able to deliver the right level of electrical current in the right places to help with labour.
The Perfect Mama comes with 4 pads and very specific instructions as far as pad placement goes – they’re meant to be placed essentially where the large nerves feed to your spine from your uterus. The pads are large and easy to apply, although I do recommend testing out the placement and sensation of the TENS machine before you go into labour (but after your are 37 weeks pregnant) so that you feel comfortable with it before labour starts (trust me, your labour partner is going to want to know how to apply the pads quickly and efficiently!).
The Perfect Mama Labour TENS Machine has a huge range of settings. You start in ‘A’ mode as soon as your labour starts and then you can ramp up through ‘B’ and ‘C’ modes as your labour progresses. There are 40 levels in each mode so it is super easy to customize exactly what level you need as your labour progresses. The machine is constantly delivering low level current the entire time in a pulsing sensation, and then when you have a contraction, you press the ‘Boost’ button on the side to give you a steady current throughout your contraction. When your contraction is over, you press the ‘Boost’ button again and it returns to a pulsing pattern. In ‘C’ mode the ‘Boost’ button works slightly differently, by ramping up intensity throughout the contraction, but I didn’t end up using that mode in my labour.
I am not going to lie (and it was only 4 weeks ago so I have not forgotten how much labour hurts yet!), I held on to my Perfect Mama like my life depended on it. I started using it as soon as my contractions started, and they came hard and fairly close together. My labour started right as I was getting to bed (the first sign that my son planned on stealing all my sleep, likely for the rest of my life) and as soon as I realized I wasn’t going to sleep through any contractions, I got my husband to apply the pads and I started up my Perfect Mama. One of the most important in-the-moment features of the Perfect Mama is something so simple – a cord to hang it around your neck. I changed my clothes at least four times throughout my labour but the Perfect Mama never came off me, hanging around my neck while I clutched the machine.
In early and active labour, I used it on every single contraction and it took the edge off every time. It helped me feel in control of my contractions and the ability to change the intensity as needed, easily and intuitively, made me feel like I could manage my labour so much better. The battery life is also phenomenal – I laboured for 18 hours before I headed to the hospital and never once did I have to change batteries on the Perfect Mama. I’m not going to pretend that my labour was painless, far from it, but the Perfect Mama helped me manage the pain naturally and scaled flawlessly as the pain changed.
Because I wasn’t dialating properly (apparently I have a very strong ‘fight’ reflex when it comes to pain), I was in transition-like pain for well over four hours (generally it is supposed to last about 20 minutes and is often the time women tell their partners they will never have another child – I certainly did). During the entire time I still faithfully used my Perfect Mama TENS machine, because even at that level of pain, it still helped! Eventually the midwife and I decided that I had to have an epidural or this baby wasn’t coming and we headed to the hospital, which I absolutely dreaded because it meant I had to take the Perfect Mama off (the manual said you can’t use it in a moving vehicle, and it was the longest drive of my life). As soon as we were at the hospital, I fired the Perfect Mama back up until I had to take it off for the epidural.
There are two small areas that I would love to see improve in version 2.0 of the Perfect Mama TENS Machine. Number one, the pads could be a bit stickier – maybe I had some leftover lotion on or something but even after wiping myself totally clean before applying the pads, we had to use some additional sticky tape to keep the pads on. Second, I would have loved it if there was the option to only have the current during the contractions as opposed to all the time.I found that I was often reducing the level between contractions as the pulse was too strong, and then having to increase the power level back up during a contraction, which was more work than just pressing the ‘Boost’ button and meant the Boost didn’t happen before the peak of the contraction sometimes. I’m not sure if there is a medical reason the pulse needs to be on all the time but it would be wonderful to see that option in the future. In fact I didn’t make it out of the ‘A’ mode for this reason – the pulse was too strong between contractions but would have been perfect during a contraction.
The Perfect Mama Labour TENS Machine was a fantastic, natural way to manage my pain throughout labour, especially in the early and active labour stages. I was super grateful to have it throughout the process and hung onto it for dear life. I will (and already have) absolutely recommend it to other Mamas I know for their labour and it will be a key part of my birth plan for my second (yes, I did eventually tell my husband I was open to having a second, although we will see how sleep training goes with this one first…). Good luck with your labours Mama – as cliche as it is to say, it will all feel worth it when you hold your sweet baby for the first time, and every moment afterward.