Created by a German company, the EPI NO has been around in Europe for several years. It is now finally working its way into the US from Canada. Here is what the website has to say:
The EPI·NO birth training exercises are designed to gradually and gently stretch the vaginal muscles, increasing their elasticity, thus allowing the baby to pass with greater ease
According to the site:
EPI·NO is clinically proven to:
- Reduce the incidence of an episiotomy or perineal tear from natural birth
- Increase apgar score (rating for the health of a newborn)
- Decrease the need for drugs during birth
- Reduce the parturition phase of birth (resulting in less stress for the baby)
- Reduce anxiety in the mother-to-be for a more enjoyable birth experience
In addition to the German doctors study, there was also an Australian study that confirmed results with the EPI NO.
There are numerous testimonials on the website, and I found a forum where women posted their experiences with it and liked some of the things they noted. One woman said it was difficult to learn to use at first, as her muscles kept squeezing it out on their own and she had to learn to breathe, but she said, "But I would highly recommend getting one. To get used to sensations, have an idea of what things will feel like, and to train my mind and body."
So even if its not perfect on reducing tearing, an EPI NO, or simply perineum massage, can help you prepare for the sensations that you will feel during childbirth. And hopefully once you recognize the sensations, you will be prepared to relax your body rather than tense up.
In case anyone reading is unaware, an episiotomy is a cut that the doctor or midwife makes in the perineum from the vaginal opening towards the rectum to enlarge the opening for the baby. This is painful, often unnecessary, takes longer to heal than a tear, and causes future problems such as incontinence. Additionally, I would like to note that if you tear with your first birth you are likely going to tear with subsequent births.