Getting through a long labour with the help of the TENS - Ashleigh's Story

Having a long pre-labour can end with us feeling exhausted and well past our 'pain threshold' with many hours still to go before we can meet our baby. Ashleigh chose to educate herself on pain relief options and was glad she did!


My husband and I were over the moon the day we found out we found out we were pregnant. We had spent months trying, so when our time came, we couldn’t be more excited. 


I knew from early on, I wanted to make an effort to engage in as much education as I could into techniques to help facilitate a physiological birth. I had a positive birth for my first baby (from a previous relationship) but felt I wasn’t as well prepared with pain management options or breathing techniques. Something I planned on doing differently this time round. 


Once I reached 38 weeks, I started trying everything in the book to get this bubba out as I was struggling with bad back pain and hyperemesis until the end. Had many promising tightenings/cramps for weeks and had been losing my mucus plug since 38+6 following a stretch & sweep, but nothing actually eventuated.

The day before labour started, I had another stretch & sweep (was already 2cm dilated) and I had an labour inducing acupuncture session.


I woke the next morning to contractions having started around 5am. 

Contractions continued all day but left me feeling uncertain and they consistently changed in regularity and severity, leaving me thinking I was experiencing a prodromal labour. I put my TENS machine on early in the day and found it so relieving! Even with mild contractions it created lovely relief as I was feeling my contractions all in my back. I found due to my previous back issues (I have a fracture in my L5 and an angry coccyx), the TENS machine helped the continued relief of the pressure I felt in my back even between my contractions. After contracting all day, I attended the hospital at 9.30 at night after being frustrated that nothing substantial was happening. I hoped for a vaginal exam to see if my cervix had changed at all. The VE showed I was 4cm dilated (so I’d progressed 2cm after almost 15 hours of contractions). 


Ashleigh uses a tens during her long birth to manage back pain, seen here held by her husband in a loving embrace


Luckily for me, after the VE my contractions suddenly picked up to being painful and unable to talk through them and they were 1.30-2mins apart. I continued religiously with my TENS machine during our time spent in the assessment room waiting to be admitted. 


Not long after we were taken to the birth suite where I still laboured all night long, jumping between the use of the TENS machine, shower with warm water on my back and the bath. I was 9cm with bulging waters before getting in the bath around 3.30am. A few contractions after getting in, my waters broke and I felt the urge to push. I pushed for 1.5 hours in the bath, while my contractions actually got shorter in length and almost 10 mins apart. I was falling asleep in between them. They became extremely difficult to work with, I was unable to get in any significant pushing & was also experiencing severe leg cramps at the same time which distracted me. Bubs wasn’t showing signs of wanting to come out, despite his head almost hanging out low between my legs. My perineum just didn’t want to stretch enough to birth him. 


The midwives suggested a position change. Trying to get out the bath to the bed with his head so low, (almost all the way out) was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do, it felt completely unnatural.

I had a similar situation when birthing my first baby, where I was asked to move to the bed & turn onto my back for an episiotomy, something I requested as a part of my birth plan this time round to avoid if possible as I remember this being extremely painful and possibly the beginning of all my coccyx pain which became an ongoing issue for years to follow. Funnily enough having the exact same thing happen this time made me understand the need for such intervention. Luckily this time round the requirement was less urgent as bubs heart rate was nice and stable throughout. My beautiful midwives were completely respectful to my wishes of minimal intervention, however we all new due to the way my body was responding, some thing had to give and this bubba had to come out somehow.



Woman births crouched on a hospital bed with a tens machine for pain relief

Therefore when the suggestion of movement was made, I knew it needed to happen. Moving from the bath to the bed instantly helped ramp up my contractions again, but bubs still wasn’t coming. Doctor suggested an episiotomy, but this time round knowing I didn’t want to be on my back, they left me to labour leaning over the back of the bed & said they would tell me when they were ready for a quick turn over. The doctor was prepped ready to make the incision and they prompted me to turn over. Right as I did I had another contraction and our bubba was born on the bed with me half hovering with my lower back up off the bed to avoid the added pressure and pain. I ended up tearing badly in the posterior wall of my vagina and also upwards from my labia as the doctor didn't get a chance to do the episiotomy. The staff were beautifully accommodating in helping support my position following birth with rolled up towels under my hips to help my back while I was sutured up. We were surprised with a beautiful baby boy & couldn’t be more in love.


Happy to have had a beautiful physiological birth utilising all the breathing techniques I had learnt & managing the pain with just the use of the TENS machine & heat/water therapy. We are obsessed with our little guy, and in awe over the beautiful birth photos our photographer captured.


Ashleigh holds her baby after her natural birth experience

Photos by Sophie Mosss Photography 

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