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Professionally endorsed

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TENS Labour: Is It Safe?

A pregnant woman experiencing pain and holding her bump

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy is a non-invasive and drug-free technique that uses electrical pulses to alleviate pain. Many people use it to manage pain from various conditions. In addition, it is safe to use TENS for labour pain without significant risks. Hence, many mothers hire or buy personal units to administer at the onset of contractions. However, they must consult their healthcare provider before a TENS session to ensure safety.

TENS machines are portable, battery-powered devices that many use in medical settings. Some services offer TENS for hire for short-term needs, while some purchase them for long-term use. They are cost-effective units that are useful for various conditions. Moreover, its natural method of alleviating pain is ideal for many people, including expectant mothers. This article will present information on labour TENS machines, how they work, and their benefits.

What is TENS for Labour?

TENS for labour is a form of electrotherapy that some women use at the onset of their labour pains. It utilises a small, battery-powered device to deliver low-voltage electrical pulses. Then, it provides relief during labour. Some use it to supplement other options for relief, but it can also be utilised as a standalone option.

Many people undergo TENS therapy for various conditions. Some use it in medical settings, but there are also products that people can rent or buy. Traditional devices have lead cables that connect the control unit to the electrodes. Meanwhile, wireless units use Bluetooth to remove the restrictions from wires.

A common feature of labour TENS machines is adjustable settings. These allow women control over pain relief, depending on the pain of contractions and their comfort levels. Many also have intuitive controls and preset modes. In particular, boost buttons can give an extra surge of power when needed. Other units may also have contraction timers to help keep track of their duration and regularity.

Importance of Pain Relief During Labour

The process of labour and childbirth can be arduous and intense. These are some reasons why pain relief is crucial during labour:

  • Effective pain relief can help the mother while experiencing intense aches and discomfort from contractions.
  • It can help the mother have a more positive experience of childbirth.
  • Reducing pain intensity from contractions can help them focus and conserve energy during the birthing process.
  • It provides relaxation and can help calm the mother in the highly stressful situation.
  • It can help reduce the risks of complications and the need for methods like a cesarean section.

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new method for pain relief

How TENS for Labour Works

TENS for labour use analgesic mechanisms to provide a non-invasive, drug-free method of relief. It works by delivering electrical impulses to the sensory nerves, which can activate natural pain relievers. Women can access this by adjusting the setting levels of their unit to control the electrical stimulation.

The pain gate mechanism is one of the ways TENS can alleviate acute pain. This is a mechanism suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It proposes that spinal nerve cells can block pain signals from reaching the brain. This process can work within minutes, providing instant relief. Furthermore, TENS can also ease muscle tension by increasing blood circulation.

Another method is endogenous opioid release. Using lower frequencies can trigger the release of natural painkiller hormones called endorphins. They bind to opioid receptors, which reduce the overall pain intensity. Endorphins can also help lessen stress and improve moods. They also help promote a sense of control and well-being. This effect can take longer than pain gating, but its effects typically last longer.

Low and High Frequencies

People can use different frequencies when using TENS to produce various outcomes. Frequency refers to the rate at which the machine delivers electrical pulses to the body. It is measured in Hertz or Hz. Low frequencies, typically below 10 Hz, are used for endogenous opioid release because they stimulate the production of endorphins.

On the other hand, high frequencies, ranging from 80-120 Hz, induce pain gating and muscle relaxation. Users may also alternate between these frequencies by selecting preset modes, such as modulation mode. Doing so can help prevent the body from forming a tolerance against electrical nerve stimulation.

A woman sitting down while holding her belly

Benefits of TENS for Labour

There are several benefits of using TENS for labour. Firstly, TENS therapy provides non-invasive and drug-free pain relief. This reduces the risks of complications or adverse effects from traditional methods of pain relief, such as injections and medication. Furthermore, it is also complementary to other treatment methods since it does not interfere with other medical interventions.

Secondly, TENS machines are portable and have lightweight designs. This makes it convenient to use whenever needed. In particular, wireless machines reduce the set-up time and eliminate the worry of the cables coming loose while moving. Hence, it is a reliable method for pain management during labour.

Lastly, TENS therapy is easy to self-administer. They do not require prescriptions or medical supervision. Therefore, a birth partner can start the treatment while ensuring safety. Furthermore, by experimenting with the settings early, they can gauge the tolerance and comfort level of the expecting mother. However, consulting a healthcare professional remains crucial before using TENS to ensure compatibility.

Safety Guidelines

Although TENS is generally safe for most people, it is still essential to practice safety guidelines. This is especially true for pregnant women. Foremost, they must consult their healthcare provider before using TENS. They may ensure it is safe and advise on how to operate it when the labour pains start.

Moreover, TENS is not suitable for women with a history of miscarriage, epilepsy, and heart disease. In addition, people should not use them in water since they are electrical devices that can cause shocks. Lastly, ensure the machine is in good condition before using it and observe proper pad placement.


Using TENS for labour is an effective and safe method of alleviating pain. It utilises a TENS machine to deliver low-voltage electrical currents to the body. This can trigger various mechanisms, depending on the settings used. This includes pain gating, endorphin release, and increased blood circulation. It can provide immediate and long-lasting relief while relaxing tense muscles and reducing stress. These devices are often seen in medical settings, but people can hire or buy units for convenience.

Although TENS is non-invasive, safe, and drug-free, consulting a healthcare professional is essential before using it for labour. These professionals can assess the overall condition and ensure TENS is safe for the expecting mother. They can also advise on how and when to use it. It is crucial to follow these instructions for the safety of the mother. Moreover, individuals must remember that TENS is an electrical device that should not be used in water.

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