TENS Simulator Lets Men Experience Pain of Childbirth

There are times in life when you should just take someone’s word for it. Labor pains, the fact that they hurt like hell and turn women into warrior queens of reproduction, fall into this category.

Pregnancy can have its rough moents, but trust the ladies on this: giving birth hurts. A lot.

Apparently, some men won’t believe it until they’ve tried it. Enter, the labor simulator for men. And they have to pay cash money for the experience.

It’s not really labor, of course. It’s something called a TENS machine, which uses electrical pulses to simulate labor contractions (Note, TENS units have other, much more useful applications). On YouTube you’ll find plenty of guys willing to be on camera for their so-called “labor” that’s artificial and can be stopped at any time.

Celebrities Can Be Idiots, Too

This isn’t really earth-shattering information, but some male celebrities say stupid stuff about labor. Out loud. To millions of people.

Take, for instance, Shay Mitchell’s (Dollface, HULU) boyfriend, Matte Babel (Degrassi: The Next Generation, CTV), who told People magazine he was afraid of medication and didn’t want his pregnant girlfriend to have an epidural when giving birth. He felt an epidural wasn’t necessary, saying,  “as a woman, your body is genetically engineered to give birth.”

Mitchell’s response was to try and find Babel the strongest labor simulator on the market, just to prove she deserved that epidural.

ALSO: What is a Postpartum Doula and Should You Get One?

Another celebrity feeling the need to weigh in on the topic was Piers Morgan. On Good Morning Britain, the talk show host spoke of the “suffering” of men during labor.

“It’s a tough old ordeal for men, too,’ he told co-star Susanna Reid, before undergoing a simulation experiment. “It’s the constant ferrying of coffee, papers, magazine, and making all the calls… I became perilously close to missing a big Arsenal European [soccer] game. I had to negotiate it and ended up watching it [the soccer match] in the delivery room.’’

After being hooked up to the TENS machine, Morgan only made it to the beginning of “childbirth” before throwing in the towel and admitting defeat.

Morgan learned his lesson. But why is this necessary to begin with?

There’s a Lot More to Labor Than Pain

While there’s a ton of focus on the pain of labor, and whether or not an epidural is a good idea, there’s plenty of other stuff going on.

Labor can take a loonnnggg time. Long enough that it’s got a name: prolonged labor. The American Pregnancy Association defines this as labor lasting over 20 hours for a first delivery, and over 14 for a second.

It’s also called “failure to progress.” This means all the pain, no gain, and then, perhaps, a c-section at the end. It’s double the fun because there’s absolute exhaustion if you don’t have pain relief, and then you might have surgery, which means a possibly harder recovery.

No labor simulator for men can simulate that.

Then there’s excessive bleeding. On average, women lose 500 milliliters of blood during a vaginal birth; c-sections lose 1000. And it’s not always immediate. It can happen for 24 hours or up to 12 weeks after delivery.

Plus, birth is still dangerous. The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 700 women annually die giving birth in the US.

It should be obvious that labor causes pain and a big physical reaction. Back in 1995, the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology did a lit review about it, called “The Nature and Consequences of Childbirth Pain.”

The conclusion was, well, obvious.

“As described in this review, it is now well established that uterine contraction pain evokes a generalised neuroendocrinal stress response producing widespread physiological effects during the first stage of labour. They include increased oxygen consumption, hyperventilation and respiratory alkalosis; increased cardiac output, systemic peripheral resistance and blood pressure; delayed gastric emptying; impaired uterine contractility and diminished uterine perfusion; and metabolic acidaemia. While other factors (such as anxiety, starvation and physical exertion) are also partly responsible for inducing some of these effects, pain appears to be the most potent source because they are all obtunded by effective epidural analgesia.”

In other words, epidurals sure help a lot.

Perhaps even Piers Morgan now agrees, having learned empathy through, ahem, experience. As he shrieked on Good Morning Britain, “I’ve got to say that was agony. If that’s what you honestly go through, my respect for women, in terms of childbirth, has gone through the roof.”

He added: “That was painful. I’m never again going to make any comment about childbirth. That was absolute torture. If every man did that for five minutes, we’d never joke about childbirth ever again. It was absolute agony. That’s put things into proper perspective.’

Danielle Martin

Danielle is a freelance writer who has has her work published at more than a dozen major media outlets over the past decade. She has two kids, two cats, and an unhealthy addiction to succulent gardening.

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