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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

Labour TENS Machines: Definition, Benefits, and Safety Considerations

Pregnant woman resting on couch

Childbirth is one of the most significant and transformative experiences but it can also be painful. Many women consider various things when expecting a baby, including pain management during labour. As such, many turn to labour TENS machines to find relief without medicines or injections. It is a portable device that sends electrical impulses to the body. Upon placement, the currents activate the body’s natural pain relievers. However, ensure not to place directly on the abdomen or use in water.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a form of therapy that has been used in managing chronic pain and injuries. It is also useful in providing relief during labour without adverse risks or side effects. It is non-invasive and easy to use, allowing women to control their pain. In this article, we will explore how TENS works, its benefits and general precautions in labour pain management.

What Is A Labour TENS Machine

A labour TENS machine is an electronic device worn on the body to relieve pain. The device has a set of electrodes placed on the skin to deliver low-voltage electrical currents. These currents help stimulate the nerves to reduce overall pain sensations. In addition, it has programmable settings to control the strength of the frequency, intensity, and pulse duration.

TENS machines come in many types and forms. Conventional devices have a set of wired electrodes for various types of pain. However, an obstetric TENS device is designed to ease labour contractions and other discomfort. It integrates an intuitive boost button to send extra pulse power to combat intense pain. 

Moreover, some devices have wireless electrodes to enable mobility and more comfort. It is beneficial for women who need to move around without the restrictions of wires. These devices connect to a smartphone app to control the stimulation. Thus, the choice of using a device depends on the need for efficient and convenient operation.

How It Works

A TENS machine can help relieve labour pain through the following mechanisms:

  • The device sends electrical impulses to the body through electrode placement.
  • The pulses reach the underlying nerves and stimulate them to close the gating mechanisms in the spinal cord.
  • TENS also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Endorphins help reduce stress and anxiety that may come with labour.
  • The impulses also help distract the brain from intense contractions.
  • Using the boost function sends more power to combat peak contractions.
  • Increasing the intensity as the labour progress helps address severe pain.

Pregnant woman sleeping

Benefits of Using A Labour TENS

Using a labour TENS device offers numerous benefits and advantages for women. Firstly, it helps to alleviate pain and discomfort during childbirth. It is a natural pain relief allowing women to manage their labour without the associated risks of medicines. The device is easy to operate and can be used as soon as labour starts.

Secondly, using the TENS machine can help to minimise the need for medical interventions. The electrical nerve stimulation allows women to avoid or delay the use of other pain management methods, such as epidurals. This can lead to a more positive and empowering birth experience, reducing the risks of invasive procedures. It also has no adverse effects on the mother and the baby.

Lastly, obstetric TENS machines are suitable for home use. Women may hire or purchase their device and start using it without the need to travel to a hospital or birthing centre. It is also non-invasive, without leaving permanent marks on the skin. Women may stop using the device at any time without affecting their labour.

How To Use The Device

To use TENS, first, ensure the device is fully charged or has new batteries and electrode pads. Then, place the electrodes on the back, following the instructions of a professional. Once the pads are securely in place, turn on the unit and adjust the settings. It is recommended to start with low settings and gradually increase as needed.

Low frequencies allow the body plenty of time to produce endorphins. Additionally, the electrical pulses promote relaxation. During labour, increase the intensity as the contractions get stronger and longer. The boost button sends extra power for a few seconds without changing the settings.

iTENS large wings as a wireless labour TENS device

General Precautions When Using A Labour TENS

Although safe for labour, using a TENS device require safety guidelines and precautions to avoid risks. It is vital to check if TENS therapy is a suitable pain management method. It is not advisable for some individuals with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, heart illness, and pregnancy complications. People with electric-implanted devices should also avoid using TENS.

Moreover, use the labour TENS machine as directed and not exceed the recommended settings. Overstimulation may cause discomfort, so it is important to follow the guidelines. It is advisable to start using the machine during the early stages of labour, as it may take some time to find optimal settings and benefit from the pain-relieving effects.

Regularly monitoring the intensity of the electrical impulses and adjusting them as necessary is vital to ensure that TENS provide the desired pain relief. Lastly, since it is an electrical device, do not use TENS in a birth pool or near water to prevent electric shocks. If the machine causes discomfort at any point of labour, discontinue use and consult a doctor. 

Proper Pad Placement

Proper electrode placement is crucial to ensure the effectiveness of TENS therapy. Generally, position the pads on the lower back, below the bra line and above the buttocks. The electrodes should be on both sides of the spine, approximately 1-2 inches apart. Do not put the TENS pads directly over the abdomen.

It is best to use large pads on the back for maximum nerve coverage. Additionally, ensure good skin contact for proper adhesion. Likewise, do not place the pads on irritated or infected skin or near open wounds. An obstetrician or birth partner can assist with pad placement on the back.


A labour TENS device is a useful tool to get pain relief during childbirth. It is a portable machine attached to the pain area to deliver mild electrical currents to reach the nerves. The stimulation causes the gating mechanisms to block pain signals from reaching the brain. It also triggers the release of endorphins to help reduce pain and discomfort. Thus, it provides a natural method of pain relief, minimising the need for medicines or invasive procedures. 

TENS machines are easy to use and can be administered at home. However, it requires following the proper usage and safety guidelines for effective pain relief. It is best to start using TENS at the early stages of labour. Then, start with low intensity and gradually increase. Also, ensure correct pad placement for optimal results. Overall, it is an effective choice for women looking for a safe and non-invasive pain relief option.

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