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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS and Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

A standing pregnant woman holding her abdomen

Physical therapists and other medical professionals typically utilise Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) as a natural form of pain relief. It helps reduce acute and chronic pain conditions. However, some people are wondering if they can use it during labour and birth experiences. Women can apply TENS during pregnancy, as it is safe, generally. Nevertheless, they must consult a health professional beforehand for maximum protection. Doctors can show the suitable electrode sites and settings.

Pregnancy is a time when women need to be extra cautious about their health and well-being. Many expectant mothers may experience discomfort or pain. Thus, they search for different pain relief options. Traditionally, they may turn to medications or other medical interventions, but some may be hesitant due to potential risks to the baby. Fortunately, alternative methods are available. One such choice is TENS. To learn more about it, the following sections will present its benefits, functionality, and application.

Benefits of Using TENS During Pregnancy

TENS utilises a portable electronic machine that emits mild electrical currents. Individuals can use TENS during pregnancy. Women can get many benefits from it. One of these is the fact that electrical nerve stimulation offers a natural pain reliever. Unlike pain medicines or more intrusive procedures, TENS does not pose risks to the mother or the baby. Hence, they can apply TENS throughout the entirety of the pregnancy.

In addition, TENS is easy to use and adjustable. Visiting a physical therapy or pain clinic to undergo TENS sessions is no longer necessary. They or their birth partners can operate the device at home, making it a convenient and cost-effective option. Moreover, they can modify the settings according to the severity of pain or discomfort the woman is experiencing, providing personalised relief.

Furthermore, TENS can help pregnant women manage various types of discomfort during pregnancy. These include back pain, pelvic girdle pain, and labour pains. After pregnancy, they can still use TENS as a method of pain relief for other conditions, such as sciatica, neuropathic pain, and pubic symphysis dysfunction.

Effectiveness of TENS in Reducing Labour Pain

  • TENS stimulates the nerves with low-level electrical currents, which activate non-painful sensory pathways. Then, it blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Transcutaneous nerve stimulation encourages the release of endorphins or natural painkillers, relieving labour pains.
  • The electrical sensations from TENS units can act as a distraction. Consequently, this diverts attention away from the pain during pregnancy.
  • Women can use TENS alone or with other pain relief methods, making it a flexible and adaptable option for many.
  • There are minimal to no harmful side effects when administering TENS therapy.
  • It potentially decreases the usage of pharmacological pain relief interventions, like epidurals or opioids, during labour.

A TENS machine with necessary information

TENS and Pregnancy – Mechanisms of Action Behind TENS

Women can activate different mechanisms of action when using TENS during pregnancy. Firstly, it is pain gating. This method is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It suggests that the sensation of pain can be blocked or reduced by stimulating specific nerve fibres. The electrical impulses travel through the skin and stimulate underlying nerves. Subsequently, this causes a tingling sensation that can help stop transmitting pain messages to the brain.

Secondly, it is endorphin release. Electrical nerve stimulation can boost the production of natural painkillers in the body. Endorphins are hormones that help reduce discomfort and promote feelings of well-being and relaxation. Increased endorphin levels can aid pregnant individuals in coping with pain during pregnancy more effectively.

Lastly, it is blood circulation improvement. The electrical currents from the TENS machine can cause the blood vessels to dilate, allowing for better blood flow to the tissues and organs. This improved circulation can help reduce swelling and discomfort in expectant mothers, especially in areas like the legs and feet where edema is common.

Understanding Frequencies

Electrical nerve stimulation involves gentle electrical currents to relieve pain. The frequency of the electrical pulses plays a significant role in determining the effectiveness of the treatment. Higher frequencies, typically above 50 Hz, are suitable for targeting acute pain. Also, they have a fast-acting analgesic effect.

On the other hand, lower frequencies, usually below 10 Hz, are more appropriate for chronic pain and muscle rehabilitation. The reason is that they have a longer-lasting impact. Understanding the correct frequency range for specific conditions is vital for optimal pain management and successful TENS therapy. This is especially true when people use it to alleviate pain during pregnancy.

A woman using a TENS machine on her lower back

How to Conduct TENS During Pregnancy

Conducting TENS during pregnancy is simple. Expectant mothers or their birth partners must begin by selecting a TENS unit that is specifically designed for labour pains. These models have special safety features and adjustable settings to cater to the unique needs of pregnant women. Also, they must consult a healthcare provider beforehand for a comprehensive guide on settings and electrode pad placements.

Once ready, pregnant women can place the adhesive electrodes on the pain site. They can ask for help from their guardians. Then, they can turn the device on. They should start with the lowest intensity setting of electrical nerve stimulation to prevent sudden shocks. After a while, they can gradually increase if necessary, ensuring they remain comfortable throughout the session.

Remember to avoid using TENS while in water. Also, expectant mothers with a heart disease or cardiac pacemaker must be extra cautious. Furthermore, they can use TENS with other modalities to provide relief and improve the overall well-being of pregnant individuals. These include physical therapy, stretching exercises, and relaxation techniques.

Pad Placement for Safe Stimulation

The correct placement of electrical nerve stimulation pads is essential for optimal results. Also, this minimises potential risks. It is recommended to avoid placing the TENS electrodes directly over the abdomen or the uterine area to prevent possible harm to the developing fetus. Instead, apply them on the lower back. Position them on either side of the spinal cord.

Aside from aiding low-back pains during pregnancy, women can attach the transcutaneous nerve stimulation patches to their hips. It should be away from the abdomen and pelvic area. Overall, labour pain mechanisms can be alleviated by proper TENS usage.


TENS can lessen a wide range of conditions, including acute and chronic pain. Moreover, TENS during pregnancy is safe. It provides various benefits to expectant mothers. For instance, they do not have to worry about potential risks associated with medications or invasive procedures. Also, operating the TENS machine is user-friendly. Through different settings, they can activate the pain gating, endorphin release, and blood circulation improvement mechanisms of TENS. Nevertheless, they must consult a health professional beforehand.

To use an electrical nerve stimulation device, pregnant women or their birth partners must place the electrode pads on the lower back or hips. Then, they can turn the unit on, adjust the settings, and experience relief. Adhering to safety precautions, such as avoiding stimulation on the abdomen or around the uterus, can help ensure the well-being of both the mother and baby. Furthermore, individuals can incorporate TENS with other techniques for a more holistic approach and positive experience.

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