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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Labour Pain Relief: How It Works and How to Operate the Device

A pregnant women lying on her bed

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) helps relieve labour pain by blocking pain signals. It can also trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Using a TENS labour pain relief device is easy. Place the electrodes on the lower back or sacrum. Then, turn on the unit while adjusting the settings to a comfortable level. This simple and user-friendly machine can provide much-needed relief during childbirth. Nevertheless, it is essential to consult obstetric professionals before using TENS.

The pain of labour can vary between women. In most cases, it can range from mild to severe contractions. Thus, pregnant women often seek pain relief methods for labour contractions. Conventional treatments include pain medications, epidural blocks, nitrous oxide, and TENS. Among these methods, TENS therapy is considered a safer and more natural option. This article will provide information about TENS for labour pain, including its importance, mechanism of action, and correct usage.

Importance of TENS for Labour Pain Relief

TENS labour pain relief is an invaluable early intervention option. By initiating TENS early, doctors can diminish the overall intensity of pain, fostering a more positive birthing environment. The electrical stimulation provided by the TENS machine during labour delivers safe pulses. It effectively targets the pain of contractions and provides women in labour with a sense of control.

Additionally, TENS is highly adaptable to the progression of childbirth. Contractions vary in intensity and dynamics throughout different stages. Nevertheless, TENS can seamlessly integrate. This adaptability ensures that relief of pain remains consistent and tailored to the specific needs of each birthing stage. It offers continuous support as labour progresses.

Furthermore, TENS is a valuable complement to traditional breathing techniques and other natural coping mechanisms. When combined with deliberate breathing exercises, TENS creates a synergistic and comprehensive natural pain relief strategy. This dual approach enhances the overall effectiveness of pain management during labour, empowering mothers with a versatile toolkit to navigate the birthing process with greater comfort and control. Integrating TENS into the various stages of labour provides a holistic and supportive approach.

Benefits of Electrotherapy

  • Electrotherapy is a non-invasive way to manage painful sensations during labour.
  • The TENS devices are small and portable, making them convenient for use during labour and easy to transport.
  • The intensity and frequency of the electrical currents are adjustable to suit the needs and pain levels of expectant mothers.
  • It provides relief during labour without the use of medications, which can be beneficial for both the mother and the baby.
  • People can use electrotherapy alongside other alternative treatments, and it does not interfere with other medical interventions.
  • Electrotherapy has a calming effect, which can help reduce anxiety during childbirth.

iTENS large wing kit with written features

Exploring the Mechanisms Behind TENS for Labour Pain Relief

TENS labour pain relief is a therapy that uses a device that sends electrical pulses, stimulating the underlying nerves. Most labour TENS are handheld with intuitive controls. For instance, a boost button gives an extra surge of power during painful contractions. On the other hand, some may prefer a wireless TENS device for more comfort.

The TENS machine floods the nervous system with electrical stimulation, activating the natural defences of the body against painful experiences. It is based on two mechanisms: pain gating and endogenous opioid release. The first method utilises high frequencies (ranging from 50 to 150 Hz) to override the nerves in the spinal cord. This leads to the closure of pain gate controllers, preventing the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

The second method for relieving labour pain involves using low frequencies (2-10 Hz). This stimulation level promotes the release of endorphins. These hormones are considered natural painkillers. They work by inhibiting pain messages being sent from the pain site to the brain.

Frequencies and Intensities

The frequency refers to the rate at which the electrical pulses are delivered to the body. During labour, a TENS unit typically delivers frequencies ranging from 20 to 100 Hz. Higher frequencies can help to provide a more intense sensation, while lower frequencies may offer a more gentle feeling.

On the other hand, intensity refers to the strength of the electrical pulses. Higher intensities may provide a stronger, more noticeable sensation. Meanwhile, lower intensities may offer a more subtle feeling. It is vital to find the intensity level that effectively reduces labour pains without causing any discomfort.

A hand peeling off the plastic backing of the iTENS gel pad

How to Apply TENS for Labour Pain Relief

Pregnant women can operate a TENS device at various stages of labour. Many of them begin using a TENS machine in its early stages. This is when the contractions are still mild. Administering the therapy early on allows the body to adjust to the electrical pulses slowly. Also, it can help the expectant mother to stay relaxed and comfortable as labour progresses.

To apply TENS labour pain relief, start by placing the electrode pads in a comfortable position. Ensure that the pads are securely attached to the skin. Then, turn on the machine and adjust the settings. The birthing partner can increase or decrease the intensity as needed throughout labour.

Most TENS machines come with a boost button. People can press it during each contraction to provide an extra surge of electrical currents. They should experiment with different modes until they find what works best for the women in labour. However, not utilising the TENS machine during a water birth is essential to prevent safety hazards.

Where to Place the Pads for Safe Usage?

The correct positioning of electrodes is crucial when using a TENS machine during childbirth. Generally, individuals use a pair of electrodes, placing the pads either on the lower back or sacrum. It is essential to apply them firmly, ensuring secure skin contact and positioning them at least two finger-widths apart.

For additional relief, pregnant women can use multiple TENS units simultaneously, particularly with wireless devices. They can place one set of electrodes on the lower back while positioning another set on the hips. This approach is beneficial as it allows them to move more freely.


In conclusion, TENS labour pain relief offers women a sense of control and diminishes overall pain intensity. Its adaptability to varying stages of childbirth ensures consistent support. Paired with traditional coping methods, TENS forms a versatile toolkit, enhancing overall pain management. Mechanically, TENS works through pain gating and endorphin release, utilising electrical pulses to override nerves and stimulate natural pain defences. With user-friendly devices, TENS provides a versatile toolkit for expectant mothers.

Using a TENS machine for labour involves strategically placing the electrode pads on the lower back or sacrum. Pregnant women can start in the early stages of labour, gradually adjusting to the electrical pulses for comfort. The birthing partner can manage intensity, experimenting with modes for effectiveness. Some may find additional comfort by simultaneously using multiple TENS units on the lower back and hips. However, remember not to use TENS during a water birth.

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