Giving birth…a top achievement and at the same time so normal because millions of women have already given birth to children. However, if you are about to give birth for the first time, you can feel quite insecure. Many women wonder whether they can handle the pain, whether ‘it will fit’ and are afraid of cutting or tearing, for example. For these women, there is a possibility to make the muscles of your pelvic floor a little more flexible, so that you can go into labor more confidently. There is a handy device for this, the epi-no.
Epi-no literally means no cut. Epi is short for episiotomy, the medical term for cutting and no means no. The thought of a cut or tearing of the perineum is something that many women may worry about before giving birth. Very understandable, because cutting often also means stitching. Recovery after childbirth takes longer because the pelvic floor area remains painful and sensitive to inflammation for longer. A cut is sometimes necessary, for example if the baby is in need and needs to be born faster. Such a cut is made during a contraction, so you hardly experience any pain. However, prevention is better than cure.
The epi-no was developed based on the experiences of some African women who train their vaginal muscles using gourds. They insert these and after some time they carefully squeeze them out again. By inserting and squeezing a larger gourd each time, they stretch the muscles a bit. It has been found that by practicing these women are less likely to tear during childbirth.
The epi-no is not a gourd, but an inflatable silicone balloon that you insert into the vagina with a little water-based lubricant. You can inflate the balloon a little with the help of a pump, a little bigger every day. You let the balloon sit for about ten minutes, after which you carefully squeeze it out. This allows you to practice the pushing phase of childbirth, as it were. The ultimate goal is to reach a diameter of 8 to 10 centimeters. This is approximately what an average baby’s head measures at the widest part of the head. You can start exercising from week 37 of pregnancy, but earlier is not recommended.
Training the pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor muscles can be trained with the epi-no. You insert the balloon a little, then try to move the balloon upwards by gently tensing the muscles. Do this for ten seconds, after which you relax for ten seconds. Try to maintain this contraction and relaxation for ten minutes.
By inserting the balloon and gently inflating it to a size that still feels comfortable, you gradually stretch the muscles in the vaginal area. By inflating the balloon a little larger with each training session, the tissue becomes increasingly flexible. Remember never to go over your pain threshold. Once you have squeezed out the balloon, you can measure it afterwards to see how much progress you have made. In the beginning it may be nice to let some air escape through the air valve. This makes squeezing easier. Over time you can let the air in the balloon because the pressing will become increasingly smooth. It is possible to deflate the balloon at any time via the air valve. This is a reassuring thought if you are unable to squeeze out the balloon. Twenty minutes of practice a day is enough.
Three weeks after childbirth it is possible to train the pelvic floor muscles to promote recovery. The supplied manual of the epi-no describes various exercises that you can do in this context.
Effect of training with the epi-no
Because you already have some experience with bringing out the balloon, you know what to do during the pushing phase of labor. You know what it feels like and you can respond to that. You will go into labor with more self-confidence and you will also have more confidence in what your body can naturally do.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are trained with the epi-no, which allows you to recover faster after giving birth. This greatly reduces the risk of incontinence complaints .
You practice at home in peace and quiet, so you learn to relax. The more relaxed you are during childbirth, the smoother and faster it usually goes. You resist the pain less and therefore produce less adrenaline , which means you actually experience less pain.
Do not use if…
The use of the epi-no is not recommended in the following situations:
- If it has already been determined during pregnancy that for whatever reason a natural birth cannot take place and a caesarean section is therefore planned.
- If there is a risk of infection, for example due to premature rupture of the membranes or a vaginal infection or bleeding in the vaginal area.
- If cervical cancer has been diagnosed.
- If using the epi-no causes too much pain.
If you search the internet for experiences with the epi-no, they are generally positive. The epi-no is frequently used and recommended by specialists, especially in Switzerland and Germany.
In the Netherlands, opinions are more divided. Some midwives are enthusiastic and recommend the use of the epi-no to their clients. Other specialists are sceptical, consider it a waste of money and claim that the epi-no achieves the opposite and is more likely to promote fear of childbirth.
Ask your midwife about it, or google it if you have any doubts about using the epi-no. You will find birth stories on various pregnancy pages . Based on this you can decide whether or not you want to use the birth trainer.