*** This is NOT a sponsored post. I am in no way endorsed by the manufacturer – this is a tool I used personally and believe it played an incredibly significant role in both of my calm, natural, fast and pain-free births with no tearing or complications. ***
Ladies, let me tell you about a cheeky little birthing preparation tool called EPI-NO which you may not have heard about but, and I can’t stress this enough, you NEED to know about!!! This device has the power to change your entire birthing experience, for the better.
Warning: it may seem a little ‘weird’ and if, like me, you’re on the prudish side, your first reaction may very well be: “Oh hell no!” Hear me out though, because I truly believe this product played a vital role for me in two crucial areas:
1) It physically prepared my body for the stretch that it had never done before, yet was imminent (let’s face it, there’s no escape!)
2) It gave me a ‘sneak peek’ into what birthing was like, what sensations I would experience… and I assure you it was nothing like I thought it was going to be!
May I introduce you to: “EPI-NO”. A brochure handed to me early in my pregnancy by a midwife at my obstetrician’s office aroused my curiosity. Neither her nor my obstetrician ‘sold’ it to me by any means. They said that they were seeing some good results from it and I figured it couldn’t hurt (well maybe it could…) to give it a go.
Due to the fears I’d always held about birthing a baby (just how exactly does something that size fit through there???), the friends I’d known who’d torn from front to back and my terror at the pain and complications that must inflict… I quite happily parted with the $186AUD to get my hands on this obscure item. I was a woman on a mission, actively taking steps to ensure I gave myself, and of course bub, the best possible outcome during the birthing process, and this was one of them.
EPI-NO is meant to imply ‘Episiotomy NO!’ An episiotomy is a surgical cut in the muscular area between the vagina and the anus (the area called the perineum) made just before delivery to enlarge your vaginal opening. The jury still seems to be out as to whether an episiotomy or allowing the body to tear naturally is the ‘better’ option… but ladies, I think we’ll all agree that neither is much more desirable!
What does EPI-NO do?
The following information has been taken directly from EPI-NO’s website:
“EPI-NO reduces the risk of tearing and episiotomy (stitches) during childbirth by working with the natural pregnancy hormone relaxin to prepare the perineum with gentle stretching exercises after Week 36.
“The human body performs more efficiently in any physical activity when the body has trained and prepared for it. Childbirth is no exception.”
– Dr Wilhelm Horkel (Inventor of EPI-NO)
Clinical Studies have shown a link between perineal injuries during childbirth with decreased bladder control, long-term incontinence, and sexual dysfunction. Women delivering over an intact perineum experience a more rapid recovery from childbirth and increased mobility.
EPI-NO also conditions the pelvic floor muscles both before and after delivery (i.e. it’s also a pelvic floor trainer).
EPI-NO consists of:
(1) a narrow contoured silicone balloon,
(2) a hand pump,
(3) pressure display,
(4) an air release valve,
(5) connected by a flexible plastic tube.
The EPI-NO balloon is soft, easily inserted, and naturally shaped so that it fits the vagina perfectly. EPI-NO must be used only with a water based lubricant.
EPI-NO stretching exercises commence after Week 36 and continue until the end of the pregnancy term. These exercises gradually stretch the perineum in daily sessions of 20 minutes comprising several cycles of 5 minutes duration. In these exercises the balloon is inserted and inflated at the perineum. Women training with EPI-NO will normally achieve a dilation of between 8.5cm and 10cm over 3-4 weeks. Women achieving 8.5cm will achieve the extra 1.5cm when the head is crowning. Following the stretching exercises the balloon can be glided out, simulating the experience of control during delivery.”
Does EPI-NO work?
So that’s the technical jargon, but if you’re anything like me, you want to know from someone who’s used it first-hand and, more importantly, does EPI-NO work???
Here is my personal experience and review of using EPI-NO:
The first time I tried it I made myself comfortable on my bed, hubby was with me, inserted it (I found I always had to hold it in position or it would just come out) and began inflating it. As the balloon gets larger, you start to notice a burning sensation and this is the start of you stretching. Just like you’d practice doing the splits as a girl, the longer you hold it in that position the less you notice it, and you can potentially push yourself a little further. There’s no rush though. The great thing about this is you always work within your comfort levels and you are in complete control. I tell you what though, when I ‘birthed’ the balloon (i.e. didn’t deflate it whilst it was still inside me but rather pushed it out), “Holy Guacamole!!!” For a few seconds it scared the crap out of me. It shocked me! I had visions of being in labour gauging my fingernails into my husband’s arms screaming “What have you done to me!!!???” But just as quickly, it was over. I re-gathered myself and realised I’d just been given an insight into birthing my baby. What a blessing. I could practice beforehand to avoid freaking out on d-day.
The flash of the woman I didn’t want to be during labour encouraged me to keep using EPI-NO. My husband was banished after that first experience and I used it in private, generally twice a day. It really was a form of exercise, and as Dr Wilhelm Horkel, the inventor of EPI-NO, says: “The human body performs more efficiently in any physical activity when the body has trained and prepared for it. Childbirth is no exception.” Makes perfect sense doesn’t it! Why oh why then do more women not know about this?
It is said not to use it prior to week 36 because it works with the relaxin increasing in your body during this late stage of pregnancy. My firstborn came at 38 weeks 6 days and by this time I was regularly inflating the balloon to the 10cm mark. I’ve read forums online of some women saying they could never reach that 10cm mark and that’s OK. Surely something is better than nothing.
Now, first timers, let me ask you a question. When you are birthing your baby, do you expect that you will feel like you’re birthing out of your vagina or your derriere? Because I most certainly was not expecting bub to feel like they were making their entrance into this world via my backside! But that’s exactly what it feels like! EPI-NO helped me get used to this bizarre, strange pressure so that it wasn’t a shock in the delivery suite. Honestly, for me, this was invaluable!
My obstetrician, who was away the weekend I birthed, visited me a day or two later. We received a handshake and a “congratulations” then he looked at my notes and questioned: “No tearing?” When I confirmed this was true I received a second handshake (but I could tell he really wanted to high-5 me!)… something very rare for first time birthers apparently!
If you haven’t read my firstborn’s birth story please be sure to because it is absolutely amazing! A completely calm, natural & pain-free birth with no tearing, no complications nor interventions. I dilated incredibly quickly… from 0 – 9cm in a very short time. I was stunned to say the least and I quote: “Does this mean I’m having a baby…?” The rest is history! I say without a doubt that I am certain the use of EPI-NO played a vital role in this success story, and I have been spouting about it ever since!
So that you don’t just have my review of EPI-NO to go off, I asked a friend of mine to write up a quick testimonial after her first birth. Different to mine, as every birth story is, but impressive results nonetheless.
Josie’s Story – An EPI-NO Review:
“A friend suggested I try EPI-NO during my first pregnancy. It sounded unusual and a bit quirky but I gave it a go and started around 38 weeks. I reached a maximum stretch of 8.5cm and was worried it may not be so effective.
I endured a long labour and finally out came my baby’s head, quickly followed by a big, broad and tall body. A baby boy weighing 9.5 pounds (4.230kg) and 55cm long.
The midwives were very concerned I’d torn my perineum given this was my first, he was a large baby and how quickly he shot out.
I only sustained superficial tearing on the outer vagina with no tearing to my perineum.
The midwives were astounded. I told them about EPI-NO and they believe without a doubt this saved me from having an episiotomy. The midwives said they will be recommending EPI-NO from that day on to all the women they see in antenatal clinics.
I strongly recommend EPI-NO to every woman in preparing for childbirth, it is so worth it. I will definitely be using it for my second.”
So yes, Josie still tore to a degree, but absolutely nothing like they were expecting her to and certainly nothing that caused her long-term pain or issues.
Another friend shared with me how she’d used it leading up to the birth of her second (because I’d not stopped raving about it after my first!). She’d sustained third degree tearing first time around and this time… nothing!!! Her nurses were amazed! What stunned my friend the most was how ‘normal’ she felt immediately after birth. “Yes!!!” I said. “That’s how I felt after my first and everyone looked at me like I was some kind of freak!”
Alas from another friend who I’d heard had an EPI-NO… she confessed it was still sitting in it’s box unopened… three natural births and she tore every time… I realise they may not be for everyone, but I sure don’t regret it’s use for a second!
More testimonials can be found on EPI-NO’s website.
What are the risks of purchasing EPI-NO?
- You may have purchased EPI-NO only to go into premature labour and hence not have even had the opportunity to use it.
- You may have started using it but go into labour earlier than expected and perhaps not have reached the ‘goal’ you were aiming for… though one would hope that something is better than nothing, as with any form of exercise.
- Despite your commitment and best efforts using the product in the lead-up to labour, circumstances find you having a caesarean.
As much as possible, one does need to mentally prepare themselves for the above mentioned. There are no guarantees in birth. But remember, it can also be used for pelvic floor exercises so it’s still a great purchase (I don’t think I’ve met a woman yet post-birth who’s pelvic floor is entirely as it should be…) And of course it can be used again for possible future vaginal births. Personally, I always like to be over prepared as opposed to under prepared and I like to know I’ve done all that I can do/control… but sometimes circumstances and situations are out of our control and, as disheartening as this can be, please remember that the health of both mum and bub are always of the utmost importance. Our medical professionals are professionals due to their education, training and experience… whilst it is wonderful to be well informed and have clear ideas as to your birthing plan, unfortunately there are times when it all doesn’t fall into place the way we had hoped.
I am not a medical professional and urge you to always do your own research and please liaise with your medical team. The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author based on their own personal experience. No guarantees of effectiveness or outcome can be made.
Before commenting please stop & think: is it kind, caring, positive & beneficial? Please remember that on the other side of this screen, be it the author or your fellow readers, that we are all humans with our own stories: needs, hopes, experiences, opinions &, most importantly, feelings. This is a respectful & safe place. I, the author, am not a medical professional. I offer simply my personal experiences & information gleaned in the sincere hope that it may be of use to another. This does not mean that I am ‘right’, whatever that means, but it did work for me. I reserve the right to remove any comments I deem unnecessary, inappropriate or negative. Thanks for being here. xx