Archives for September 2009

TENS Provides Natural Pain Relief during Childbirth

Recently, I got an email from a friend sharing the happy news about the birth of their new first child, a beautiful daughter. Included in the announcement was an interesting note about birthing using a TENS machine:

One thing I want to share about the birth is what got me through… is the TENS machine. It was fabbbbulous!!!! I highly recommend it, but no one seems to know about it – so please look into it, and know that it was amazing for me!!! or

Actually, this is not the first time I’ve heard about the TENS machine, but I didn’t know much about it so I took a look around online to find out more.  If it’s something you want to use for your childbirth (or any other type of pain management) you can buy or rent one online, as most hospitals do not provide a TENS machine.

What is a TENS Machine?

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine is a small box with a clip that attaches to your clothes. There are four pads with electrodes connected by wires to a battery operated pulsar. The pads are smeared wtih gel (to ensure the best connection) and stuck onto your back (2 below your bra line and 2 above the panty line). Using a hand held control, you give yourself weak electric currents which then travel through to the points where you have the electrodes.  You control the frequency and strength of the pulses using dials on the machine. There’s also a “boost button” when you want maximum output from the machine to help you with a difficult contraction.

The pulses of electricity feel sort of like “pins and needles” and help combat pain during childbirth.

mama tens machine electrodes placement

image from

How does a TENS machine work?

It is unclear exactly how TENS works, although there are a number of theories. The stimulation from a TENS machine is thought to affects the way pain signals are sent to the brain. Pain signals reach the brain via sensory nerves and the spinal cord, which are blocked by electrical pulses. Another theory is that they electric currents stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural pain killers called ‘endorphins’ .

TENS also gives you a feeling of control over your contractions, which helps you feel more relaxed and less anxious, and may provide a distraction from the pain.

When to use the TENS Machine

It takes about an hour for your body to respond to the electrical impulses by releasing endorphins, so it’s best to start using it as soon as regular contractions (or backache) begins.

Start at the lowest setting, and turn it up gradually as your contractions gets stronger. Use the “boost button” at the peak of contractions.

The benefits of using  TENS machines include:

  • It is totally natural, safe, and drug free.
  • You are in control.
  • It is portable, so you remain mobile while using it.
  • It allows you to use other drugs simultaneously.
  • It is every effective if used from the onset of labor.
  • Once the correct strength of the current has been set, the effects can be felt immediately.
  • There are no side effects for you or your baby.
  • It can be used at a home birth with no need for a doctor’s or midwife’s supervision.

There are some minor disadvantages to using a TENS machine:

  • You will need someone to help you put the pads on.
  • It only helps if begun during early stages of labor
  • It may have to be removed if your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically
  • TENS cannot be used in water, so you need to remove it to use a birthing pool or take a bath.
  • It pads get in the way if you want a massage, which can also be an effective form of pain relief.

You can use if AFTER labor too!

You can use your machine for:

• shoulder pain from breast feeding
• menstrual pain
• back pain
• after pains (as your uterus contracts back to its normal size)
• post-operative pain following a caesarian section

feature image from BodyClock

Oh, my aching back!

During the second half of pregnancy, and especially the 3rd trimester, more than 50 percent of moms-to-be complain of back pain. The reason for this is three-fold, explains Dr. Sears:

  • Your ligaments are relaxing to allow for easier passage of the baby through the pelvis. However, they loosen up everywhere, putting more strain on your muscles, especially those supporting your spine.
  • Your overstretched abdominal muscles force you to rely more on your back to support your weight.
  • The change in your posture and the curvature of your spine creates still more work for the back muscles.

6 Simple Strategies to Prevent Backache:

1. Perform low-impact aerobic exercises such as swimming and biking to strengthen abdominal and lower back muscles.

2. Wear sensible shoes. Both high heels and totally flat shoes can strain back muscles. For every day wear walking shoes with a supportive arch, and for dressy occasions, try shoes with wide heels that are no higher than two inches.

3. Avoid jogging on hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, which can be jarring to the spine. Instead, try fast walking on natural surfaces like grass, earth or sand, which are easier on the muscles and joints than pounding a hard surface.

4. Don’t twist your spine. When you stand or sleep be sure your shoulders and hips are aligned. Avoid awkward reaches, such as getting a heavy box down from the top of a closet or lifting a sleeping toddler from a car seat. If you must, see if you can rethink the job. For example, consider unbuckling a toddler’s car seat and turning the seat toward you before you lift your child out.

5. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. When you do sit, use a footstool to raise your knees a bit higher than your hips, which takes the pressure off your lower back. If you need to stand in one position for a while, put one foot forward and place most of your weight on it for a few minutes, then switch your weight to the other foot. Better yet, prop the forward foot up on a step, stool, or cabinet ledge.

6. Sleep on your side, and frequently shift sleeping positions.

4 Safe Ways to Treat Backache:

1. Rest. Usually, simply resting strained muscles will ease the pain.

2. Soak in warm water. Try soaking in a warm tub or standing in the shower with the warm water streaming over the painful area.

3. Pack the back. Many mothers swear by a hot or cold pack (or alternating both) on the painful area. If baby pressing against your spine seems to be the cause of pain, as is common during the final month, try the knee-chest position for a while.

4. Massage it. Ask your mate to give you a back massage. Plus, practicing these back massages now may turn him into a pro who can help ease the pain of back labor.

For more pregnancy info and advice, visit Ask Dr. Sears!

Feature image from Woman’s Day

What Medication is Safe for Pregnancy?

There are medications that are considered safe to take during pregnancy, while the effects of other medications are unsafe or unknown. Even medicine that is considered safe for pregnancy is not guaranteed 100%, says WebMD. Therefore, you need to pay special attention to what medications you take during pregnant, especially during the first trimester, which is a crucial time of development for your baby.

If you were taking prescription medications before you became pregnant, you should talk to your health care provider about continuing these medications. Your health care provider will weigh the benefit to you and the risk to your baby when making his or her recommendation about a particular medication. With some medications, the risk of not taking them may be more serious than the potential risk associated with taking them.

Of course, if you are prescribed any new medication, you need to make sure your doctor knows you are pregnant. Be sure the medication is safe before taking it.

It’s a good idea to start taking prenatal vitamins, now available without a prescription, during pregnancy. Ask your doctor about the safety of taking other vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements during pregnancy. Many herbal preparations and supplements have not been proven to be safe during pregnancy. It’s also best  not take any over-the-counter medication unless it is necessary.

The following medications and home remedies have no known harmful effects during pregnancy when taken according to the package directions. If you have questions about a medications not listed here, please contact your health care provider. This chart is copied from WebMD.


Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy*



Cold and Flu

Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Tylenol Cold
Warm salt/water gargle
Saline nasal drops or spray

Sudafed, Actifed, Dristan, Neosynephrine*

Robitussin DM, Trind-DM, Vicks Cough Syrup, Romilar, Halls*

*Do not take “SA” (sustained action) forms of these drugs or the “Multi-Symptom” forms of these drugs.


Milk of Magnesia


For 24 hours, only after 12 weeks of pregnancy:


First Aid Ointment

J & J




Tylenol (acetaminophen)




Preparation H



Witch hazel

Nausea and Vomiting

Vitamin B6 100 mg tablet
Emetrol (if not diabetic)

Sea bands


Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
Caladryl lotion or cream
Benadryl cream

Oatmeal bath (Aveeno)

Yeast Infection

Monistat or Terazol

Do not insert applicator too far

*Please Note: No drug can be considered 100% safe to use during pregnancy.

Safe Alternative Pregnancy Medicine Therapies

Just because something is labeled “natural” does not mean it’s safe for pregnancy (or even for non-pregnant people). Here, WebMD lists some alternative therapies that are safe for pregnant women to take:

  • Nausea in early pregnancy: acupuncture, acupressure, ginger root (250 mg capsules 4 times a day), and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, 25 mg two or three times a day) work well.
  • Backache: chiropractic manipulation holds the best track record.
  • Turning a breech baby: exercise, hypnosis, and traditional Chinese treatment (burning incense-like substance on the fifth toe) have proven beneficial.
  • Pain relief in labor: epidurals are most effective, but injections of sterile water near a woman’s tailbone works surprisingly well, as do immersion in a warm bath, and a high tech nerve stimulator called TENS. Relaxation techniques, patterned breathing, emotional support, and self-hypnosis are already widely used alternative therapies in labor.

Alternative Pregnancy Medicine Therapies to Avoid

The following substances have the potential to harm a developing baby when used in a concentrated formulation (not as a spice in cooking). Some are thought to cause birth defects or encourage early labor.

  • Avoid these oral supplements: Arbor vitae, Beth root, Black cohosh, Blue cohosh, Cascara, Chaste tree berry, Chinese angelica (Dong Quai), Cinchona, Cotton root bark, Feverfew, Ginseng, Golden seal, Juniper, Kava kava, Licorice, Meadow saffron, Pennyroyal, Poke root, Rue, Sage, St. John’s wort, Senna, Tansy, White peony, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow dock, vitamin A (large doses can cause birth defects).
  • Avoid these aromatherapy essential oils: calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, wintergreen, basil, hyssop, myrrh, marjoram, and thyme.

Note: You need to continue being cautions about medication and alternative therapies if you are breastfeeding, as well.

For more information on pregnancy and drug safety, visit WebMD.

feature image from FDA

8 Signals that Labor is Near

It’s been more or less nine long months, and you are probably eager to get rid of this humongous bulge, and hold your precious baby in your arms. So when is it going to happen already? Some mothers start their labor with a bang, and progress quickly. Others ease into labor slowly and progress gradually.

Here are some signs to watch for that tell you labor is near!

1. Dropping. Some time during the final few weeks you may notice that your baby has moved down lower in your abdomen. Most first-timers notice their babies dropping within two weeks of delivery, though some mothers “drop” as many as four weeks before D-day. Second-time mothers often find their babies do not drop lower until labor begins, because mom’s pelvic muscles have already been stretched, and no warm-up is needed. Baby’s head settling into the pelvis is also called “lightening” (because the lower-riding load seems smaller and lighter) or “engagement” (since baby’s head engages the pelvic opening). Whether baby “drops,” “lightens,” or “engages,” you will feel and look different. Your breasts probably no longer touch the top of your abdomen. You might be able to sense baby’s head resting just beneath the middle of your pelvic bone.

2. Frequent urination. Now that baby’s head lies closer to your bladder you may be going to the bathroom more often.

3. Low backache. As baby gets heavier and drops lower, count on some aches or pains in your lower back and pelvis as your uterine and pelvic ligaments are stretched even more.

4. Stronger Braxton-Hicks contractions. You may notice that your warm- up contractions go from feeling uncomfortable to being rather painful like menstrual cramps. Even though these prelabor contractions are not as strong as labor contractions, they are strong enough to be starting the work of thinning out, or effacing, your cervix from a thick-walled cone to a thin-walled cup. While these contractions will get even stronger just prior to labor, they can continue this way, on and off, for a week or two before labor starts. They become less intense when you change position or start walking.

5. Diarrhea. Birth hormones acting on your intestines may cause abdominal cramps and loose, frequent bowel movements — nature’s enema, emptying your intestines to make more room for baby’s passage. Those same hormones can also make you feel nauseated.

6. Increased vaginal discharge. You may notice more egg white or pink- tinged vaginal discharge. This differs from the “bloody show.”

7. Bloody show. The combination of baby’s head descending into the pelvic cavity and the prelabor contractions thinning the cervix can “uncork” the mucus plug that previously sealed the cervix. The consistency of this mucus varies from stringy to thick and gooey. Some women notice the one-time passing of an obvious mucus plug; others simply notice increased blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Some of the tiny blood vessels in your cervix break as your cervix thins, so you may see anything from a pink to a brownish-red-tinged teaspoonful of bloody mucous. If your discharge shows more blood than mucus – like a menstrual period or a lot of bright-red blood — report this to your practitioner immediately. Once you notice a bloody show, you are likely to begin labor within three days, but some mothers hang on for another week or two.

8. Bag of waters breaking. Only 1 in 10 mothers experience their bag of waters breaking prior to labor. For most mothers this doesn’t happen until they are well into labor. If your water breaks before labor has started, plan on your labor starting intensely within the next few minutes or hours, or at least within the next day.

For more labor and childbirth information, please visit Dr. Sears.

Feature image from Real Simple.

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