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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS for Labour Pain: What It Is, How It Works, and the Benefits of Using TENS

A pregnant woman sleeping while holding her belly

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS for labour pain is a therapy that uses a device to deliver electrical currents to provide a method of pain relief. TENS works by stimulating the nerves, which can block the transmission of pain signals. Additionally, the electrical stimulation can trigger the release of endorphins. Furthermore, there are a multitude of benefits of using TENS treatment. It is a non-pharmacological therapy, non-invasive, customisable, portable, and safe form of pain relief.

The childbirth process is natural and beautiful, but it can also be quite painful. Many women are looking for alternative pain relief options without relying solely on medication. Fortunately, TENS has been used for pain management in various medical settings for years, whether for chronic pain or acute pain. However, its use in labour is becoming increasingly popular. This article will present TENS for pain in labour, including how it works to alleviate discomfort and the benefits of using it.

What is TENS for Labour Pain?

Pain during labour refers to the discomfort experienced by a woman during labour or delivery. This is caused by the strong contractions of the uterine muscles as they work to push the baby through the birth canal. Furthermore, this discomfort is divided into three stages. Fortunately, there is a TENS for labour pain. It is an effective method that utilises a battery-powered machine to send electrical pulses to the body.

The TENS therapy approach to labour pain is commonly used by medical professionals in hospital settings and individuals in home births. In clinical settings, healthcare providers may use TENS to provide a form of pain management. In-home births, some women and their birth attendants may choose to use TENS as a natural pain relief. However, it is crucial to not use TENS units in water births.

There are two types of TENS devices: wired and wireless. Wired TENS units consist of a control machine connected by wires to the electrode pads. On the other hand, wireless TENS units are self-contained devices. Nevertheless, people can control the therapy manually or on a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth technology.

Understanding the Stages of Labour

  • First stage of labour: involves the gradual opening of the cervix. This allows the baby to move through. Nevertheless, this stage is further divided into early, active phase duration, and transitional.
  • Second stage of labour: begins when the cervix is fully dilated, and it involves the actual birth of the baby. This stage is characterised by the mother pushing while the healthcare provider guides the baby through the birth canal.
  • Third stage of labour: the shortest and involves the delivery of the placenta. After the baby is born, the uterus continues to contract to expel the placenta. This signals the completion of the birthing process.

A small and large wing iTENS with refill gel pads

How TENS for Labour Pain Works to Alleviate Discomfort

TENS for labour pain works to alleviate discomfort through several physiological principles. Foremost, when TENS delivers electrical impulses, it can trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural chemicals in the body that have pain-relieving properties. These endorphins interact with opiate receptors. Therefore, it diminishes the perception of discomfort and induces a sense of well-being.

Another mechanism through which TENS works is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. According to this theory, the spinal cord contains a “gate” that can either allow or block pain messages from reaching the brain. The electric currents from TENS can help close the “gate”. Hence, it prevents the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This can result in a reduction in the perception of labour discomfort.

Furthermore, TENS therapy can influence blood flow in the body. The electrical currents from TENS can cause vasodilation. This can lead to an increase in blood circulation to the treatment area. Nevertheless, this activity can potentially contribute to labour discomfort and the promotion of relaxation. Overall, these mechanisms provide a natural alternative for pain management.

Importance of Pain Relief During Labour

Effective pain relief during labour is crucial for physical well-being. Utilising methods of pain relief, like TENS, can reduce discomfort. It allows the birthing person to conserve energy and endure the physical demands of labour more effectively. Additionally, it supports women in maintaining focus during labour. This fosters a sense of control and mindfulness.

Pain relief methods have a significant impact on emotional comfort. The experience of severe pain can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and a loss of control. TENS can help alleviate the emotional distress caused by discomfort. Hence, it promotes a more positive and emotionally supportive birthing environment.

TENS charger which indicates TENS with 24 hour run time in 2 hours of charge

Benefits of Using TENS for Labour Pain Relief

Using TENS for labour pain offers several compelling benefits. Firstly, TENS therapy provides targeted pain relief. This allows for localised relief without affecting the entire body. Secondly, TENS is non-invasive. It does not require the use of needles or surgeries. Nevertheless, this aspect avoids the potential complications or side effects associated with invasive procedures.

Thirdly, TENS treatment is a drug-free alternative. It has the ability to provide relief without the use of pharmaceutical medications. Fourthly, TENS is customisable. It allows people to adjust the frequency, intensity, and duration of the electrical stimulation. This ensures that the birthing person can tailor the TENS therapy to their own comfort level and specific needs.

Moreover, the portability of TENS devices enhances their practicality for use during labour. The compact and lightweight nature of these units allows the birthing person to move freely and change positions. Finally, the use of TENS is generally safe when used appropriately. TENS has been found to be a safe and well-tolerated method for managing labour pain.

Are There Potential Side Effects?

While TENS therapy is safe, there are potential considerations regarding its use. One potential consideration is skin irritation at the electrode placement site. This is a relatively common side effect and typically resolves after TENS use. Moreover, there is a possibility of muscle twitching. Proper electrode positioning and adjustment of the TENS setting can often mitigate these effects.

Additionally, individuals with certain skin conditions or sensitivities may need to exercise caution when using TENS. Nevertheless, it is essential for women considering the use of TENS during labour to consult with a healthcare provider before use.


In conclusion, TENS for labour pain is a valuable tool for many women. It is a therapy that uses an electronic device to deliver electrical currents to the body. These devices are available in wired and wireless functionalities. Furthermore, TENS works through several mechanisms to alleviate labour discomfort. It disrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Additionally, TENS therapy prompts the production and release of endorphins and improves blood circulation.

TENS treatment provides several compelling benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, portable, safe, and gives targeted relief. Nevertheless, it is essential to note the importance of pain relief during labour. Moreover, while TENS is safe, it is crucial to know its potential side effects. Women who consider using TENS during labour should consult with a healthcare provider before using the device. The TENS devices are available in the market, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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