Claire is a Mama, midwife, Bliss Birth customer and creator of the Mum Will Know podcast - a FANTASTIC resource for mums and mums-to-be. She shares her experience of using TENS for her breech birth.
Studying and then working as a midwife meant that pregnancy, birth and babies consumed most of my thoughts for years before we started for our own family. Experiencing a missed miscarriage then meant anxieties crept in and my longing for a baby continued to grow. Thankfully our next pregnancy was smooth sailing and generally symptom free as I prepared for my 'dream' natural labour and birth.
However, the week I started maternity leave I found out my baby had turned breech and plans to have a waterbirth and a long, calm, early labour at home started looking less possible. The next few weeks were filled with ultrasounds and anything I could possibly try to turn my baby including moxibustion, acupuncture, swimming, spinning babies exercises and an ECV by an obstetrician. To my despair nothing worked and my little baby remained stubbornly bum down. At 37 weeks, my mindset needed to then shift to accepting this position and working towards a vaginal breech birth (VBB).
I had been referred to a tertiary hospital that are more experienced in VBB and found the doctors and midwives there very supportive. At 38 weeks, I started feeling my braxton hicks were more uncomfortable - more like period pain, but put this down to early labour that can come and go for weeks before established labour kicked in. Little did I know this was labour, and after contracting every 2-4 minutes for a number of hours, not being able to sit down but still in denial, it wasn't until around 10 or 11pm that night when I tried to lie down for bed, that I really understood I was in labour, and these contractions weren't going anywhere.
As soon as I had that shift in perspective and realised this was the real deal, I had my husband put on the TENS machine. I laboured comfortably at home using the TENS for another hour or so but because breech birth is seen as high risk the midwives asked me to come into hospital pretty quickly. I had a shower, put the TENS back on and we drove the 45 minute trip to birth suite. As I got out of the car at the hospital I had a hind water leak, and then when the doctors performed a vaginal examination about half an hour later my waters completely broke and flooded the bed. At this stage my cervix was only 2-3cm dilated, which I found pretty discouraging as I knew I'd been having strong contractions for a number of hours. From there however everything picked up and after an hour and a half I'd made it to fully dilated!
The TENS had remained on this whole time until the transition phase where my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, both in a contraction and in the break between contractions. I’d remained upright and swaying throughout the labour but once I started feeling the intense pressure of baby coming down I climbed up onto the bed on my hands and knees to start pushing. The room filled with something like 10 people – doctors and midwives, NICU nurses and paediatricians (as breech births are fairly uncommon and can also see complications with the baby getting stuck on its way out).
Thankfully, after 20 minutes of pushing, my baby was born without any assistance. Bub fell onto the bed between my legs where I scooped the little body up to my chest, and my husband and I could find out the gender. Our little boy Rupert was here, screaming and kicking about. The perfect birth with a gorgeous and healthy baby meant all my ‘observers’ could leave and we got to enjoy a lovely time of breastfeeding and getting to cuddle our baby boy.
I delivered my placenta another 20 minutes or so later physiologically, on the toilet with Rupert still breastfeeding. And after having a few hours of rest and general baby checks we headed home, snuggled into bed before lunch and settled in to our new normal at home as a family of three.
You can listen to the extended story on Claire's podcast Mum Will Know.