How to Use a TENS Machine in Labour

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine is a physiotherapy device that transmits electrical impulses through electrodes that are applied to the skin.

The sensation experienced is like a tingling feeling which may feel strange for about 10 seconds, but then you’ll fall in love with it, as it’s just like getting a massage, and who doesn’t love getting a massage?!

A TENS machine is used as pain relief, particularly for chronic pain. However, it is becoming increasingly popular as a drug-free, non-invasive option for pain relief during labour.

Most women prepare for the event of delivering their baby by working with their midwife on a pain management and birthing plan. Like many other women you may prefer to avoid, or minimise the use of, medicated drugs during labour. There are a couple of good reasons for this:

  • It feels like the best thing to do for your baby.
  • It will mean you will stay alert and fully active during the whole delivery process.

Labour pains are caused by the contraction of the uterine muscles during labour. Obviously the contractions cannot be eliminated - or your baby would not be born! A TENS machine can provide effective relief from those labour pains.

A TENS machine can also help manage back pain, shoulder pain, breast pain or restless legs during your pregnancy. In addition, it may help with swelling around your ankles.

How Does a TENS Machine Work?

The two TENS electrodes are applied at the site of your pain. During labour, the electrodes are placed on your lower back. The electrodes are attached to wires that attach to the TENS machine itself. You control the electrical impulses – making them stronger or weaker as needed for your pain.

Can a TENS machine block all labour pains?

A TENS machine will not completely eliminate the pain caused by your contractions but it will block many pain signals going to the brain, and is a great distraction during the strong contractions. Many people say it keeps their mind off the pain so they still feel in control.

You can hire or buy a TENS machine. To learn more about the benefits of this non-medicated pain relief option, speak to your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist.

About the Author:

Natalie Doherty is a Health Educator with ActivLife Technologies. She instructs antenatal class teachers and hospital midwives, on how to use a TENS machine for pain relief in labour. ActivLife also offer private sessions to show pregnant mums-to-be and their partners how to use a TENS machine, so they’re comfortable with how it works before they go into labour.