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Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Maternity TENS Machine: Is It Safe?

A pregnant woman sleeping on the bed

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive and drug-free pain relief method. Pregnant women can utilise a maternity TENS machine during childbirth. This portable device sends mild electrical pulses to the nerves, which can help to block pain signals and provide comfort during labour. It is considered safe to use and does not harm the baby. It works best when used at the first stages of labour and throughout the active birth.

There are various methods available for pain relief during labour. The conventional treatments for pain include pain medications, epidural blocks, nitrous oxide, and TENS. Among these methods, TENS therapy is often regarded as a safer and more natural choice. However, it is always best to consult an obstetrician or midwife before using any pain relief method during labour. This article will provide information about a maternity TENS device, including how it works and correct usage.

What is a Maternity TENS Machine?

Maternity TENS machine is an electrotherapy device that utilises electrical stimulation to relieve pain. It consists of a handheld remote control and a set of electrode pads. The electrodes stick to the skin to transmit the electrical pulses. Additionally, traditional units use wires, which attach to the pads. However, several modern devices have wireless electrodes. Instead of lead cables, they integrate Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone or tablet.

TENS units have adjustable settings that provide customisable pain relief. Users have the option to adjust the frequency and intensity according to their level of pain. These settings regulate the pulse rates, duration, and patterns of the electrical stimulation. Therefore, it produces different therapeutic effects that can aid in pain relief during labour without the use of drugs.

The price of a maternity TENS device can range from $80 to $300. The cost may depend on the type of medical device, features, and additional components. A basic model with limited settings is often less expensive than those with multiple functions. Moreover, a rechargeable TENS unit can be more expensive.

Advantages Over Medications

  • Unlike medications, labour TENS machines do not involve needles or invasive procedures, offering a less intrusive option for pain management.
  • TENS machines avoid potential side effects associated with medications, ensuring a safer and more comfortable experience for expecting mothers.
  • Users have the power to adjust the settings, giving them control over their pain relief without relying on external factors.
  • Being portable, TENS devices allow for movement and position changes during labour. This can aid in comfort and progression.
  • Maternity TENS devices do not lead to dependency issues, promoting a more sustainable approach to pain management.

iTENS large wing kit with written features

How Maternity TENS Machine Works

A maternity TENS machine operates on the principles of electrotherapy. The device produces mild electrical currents through the electrodes placed on the skin. These currents can stimulate sensory nerves and disrupt the transmission of pain signals. This process is referred to as pain gating. During the session, it causes the “neural gates” in the spinal cord to close, preventing the brain from receiving pain signals.

Another mechanism of TENS involves using low frequencies to stimulate the release of endorphins. These hormones bind to nerve cells, causing them not to send pain messages to the brain. Therefore, higher levels of endorphins result in an analgesic effect. This method takes a while before the individual can feel the results, but the therapeutic effects last longer even after using the device.

Additionally, TENS can enhance blood circulation, leading to a reduction in inflammation and muscle relaxation. This can help ease muscle tension that contributes to pain relief during labour. Lastly, electrical impulses serve as a distraction from muscle contractions. It shifts focus from the labour pain, decreasing sensitivity. It is important to note that pain relief differs for each individual.

Features and Settings to Customise Pain Relief Levels

Most maternity TENS devices have special features to enhance the efficiency of pain relief. One beneficial feature is the boost button. It provides an extra surge of power to combat the intense pain of contractions. Pressing the button delivers stronger currents without adjusting the frequency or intensity.

TENS machine enables tailored pain relief through adjustable settings. Firstly, users adjust the pulse rate to determine the frequency of pulses. Secondly, they modify the pulse width, altering the time duration between each pulse. Thirdly, the amplitude is set, ranging from mild to strong. Finally, people choose from continuous, burst, or modulated pulse patterns.

Step-by-step guide on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Use a Maternity TENS Machine

Pregnant women should consult their healthcare provider for guidance on the proper use of a maternity TENS machine. A doctor can guide suitable settings based on their conditions. Typically, the placement of electrodes on the back is necessary. Then, the user can turn on the device and adjust the settings.

It is recommended to begin with the lowest intensity level and gradually increase as the contractions grow more intense. Women can continue adjusting the settings until they find the sensations that are most comfortable for them. Gradual increases can help prevent electric shocks while giving the body time to adapt to the stimulation. However, the intensity and frequency should remain at a tolerable level.

If the device causes discomfort, people should check the settings and readjust accordingly. Additionally, using TENS is most effective during the early stages of labour. Moreover, it should be noted that the machine is not suitable for water birth. This is because there is a risk of electric shocks when exposed to water. Lastly, women should pay attention to their body response to the device.

Pad Placement for Safe Use

Proper electrode placement plays a crucial role when utilising a maternity TENS device. The lower back is the optimal region for alleviating labour pain. In this case, a birth partner should position the pads alongside the spine at the waist level.

Additionally, people should maintain a distance of two to three inches between the pads. It is crucial to avoid placing them directly on the spine or abdomen. Similarly, one must ensure that the electrodes do not come into contact with open wounds or irritated skin. In certain situations, women might attach extra electrodes to their legs for added relief.


In conclusion, the maternity TENS machine is a portable device for pain relief during labour. Operating on the principles of electrotherapy, it stimulates nerves, disrupts pain signals, and promotes the release of endorphins. The versatility of this device lies in adjustable settings, allowing users to customise intensity and frequency. With benefits such as improved blood circulation and muscle relaxation, the machine offers a drug-free alternative for alleviating labour pain.

Furthermore, pregnant women seeking relief through a maternity TENS device should consult their healthcare provider for personalised guidance. Proper electrode placement along the lower back, avoiding the spine and abdomen, is crucial for safe and effective use. Starting at the lowest intensity and gradually increasing during contractions helps prevent discomfort and electric shocks. Users should also be mindful of their body response to TENS. Overall, careful and informed application enhances the benefits of this pain management tool.

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