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TENS Machine During Labour: General Overview

Pregnant woman about to go into labour

Labour pain can be intense and overwhelming for most women. In an effort to manage and alleviate this pain, different pain management methods are available. One such option is using a TENS machine during labour. TENS, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a drug-free pain relief method using small electrical currents. It is safe and easy to use, involving electrode placement on the back and adjusting the settings. Thus, it is ideal for those who want to avoid taking medicines.

A TENS machine is a portable electronic device that delivers mild electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin. These impulses are believed to activate the body’s natural pain mechanisms against pain. In addition, TENS therapy helps to reduce the intensity of contractions but does not completely eliminate the pain of labour. In this article, we will delve into the safety and uses of the TENS machine for labour pain management.

Is It Safe To Use A TENS Machine During Labour?

Several studies have shown that using a TENS machine during labour is safe and can provide effective pain relief for many women. The device has adjustable settings to help address varying levels of pain. Users can regulate the pulse rate, duration, and intensity to find a comfortable level. This gives pregnant women a sense of control over their labour pain.

The TENS machine does not interfere with other pain relief methods, such as epidurals or gas and air. It can be used as a standalone treatment or with other therapies, like stretching and breathing techniques. Moreover, TENS is non-invasive and drug-free. Since it is all-natural, it does not have the associated risks or side effects of pain medications.

Furthermore, the electrode pads adhere to the skin without leaving permanent marks. If the person wants to stop treatment, they can turn off the device anytime without affecting labour. However, it is vital to follow the instructions of a healthcare professional to ensure safe use. Despite being generally safe, TENS may not be suitable for certain conditions, such as heart problems, epilepsy, and people with pacemakers.

How It Works?

  • A TENS machine sends electrical impulses through the skin to reach the nerves.
  • High-frequency TENS (HF-TENS) override the nervous system, inducing the nerve pathways in the spinal cord to close and block pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • The impulses also stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Using low frequency at the early stages of labour gives the body adequate time to produce endorphins.
  • The tingling sensations help reduce the awareness of contractions and cramping.
  • TENS boosts blood circulation, relaxing the muscles and reducing tension.
  • The adjustable programs and settings give women control over pain relief.

The iTENS as a suitable wireless TENS machine during labour

Preparations Before Using A TENS Machine During Labour

There are several preparations to follow before using a TENS machine during labour. Firstly, consult an obstetrician or a healthcare provider to ensure that TENS therapy is appropriate for your situation. Secondly, prepare new pads and fresh batteries so they are ready to use anytime. If you hire a maternity TENS machine, check that the device is in good working order.

For traditional TENS devices, ensure the wires connect to the pads securely. In addition, familiarise the functions of the TENS machines. Most labour TENS devices have a boost button to send extra power at the peak of each contraction. Thus, knowing the device features help maximise the benefits.

You may try the device on other body parts, like the arm or leg, to feel the electrical pulses. The pulse strength should change when you increase or decrease the intensity level. Moreover, ensure the skin is clean and dry before placing the electrode pads. Finally, check that the electrode attachments will not interfere with medical monitoring devices. This way, you can use the TENS machine while receiving healthcare without any obstruction.

Advantages of TENS Device

TENS machines offer numerous advantages for labour pain. TENS does not require medicines or injections. However, it can be used alone or with other pain management methods to maximise relief. Additionally, it enables mobility. Pregnant women can move around to find a comfortable position without staying in one spot.

The device is safe for the baby, as the electrical currents do not reach the uterus. Furthermore, a TENS device is portable and convenient to use at home or in the hospital. The device is ready within seconds. Finally, the settings are adjustable to suit various pain levels.

Adjusting the TENS intensity level through a smartphone app.

How To Operate A TENS Machine During Labour?

Operating a TENS machine during labour should not be hard or complicated. Most devices are ready to use in a few easy steps. At the start of labour, peel the protective cover on the TENS pads and place them on the lower back. A birth partner or midwife may help attach the pads correctly. The electrodes should be below the bra line and above the buttocks on either side of the spine.

Turn on the device and adjust the frequency, pulse width, and intensity. Start with low intensity and gradually increase as the contractions intensify. It is vital that the stimulation settings should be at a comfortable or tolerable limit. Press the boost button or increase the intensity during peak contractions for maximum pain relief.

You may experiment with the settings during labour to find what works best for you. TENS can be used throughout the labour process. However, discontinue use if you develop skin irritation or allergic reactions. After use, turn off the TENS machine before removing the pads.

Safety Precautions

Avoid placing the TENS pads on the abdomen, head, chest, and front or side of the neck. Other areas to avoid are near open wounds and broken or infected skin. It is not advisable to use a TENS machine in the early weeks of pregnancy. Always seek medical advice before using TENS.

Check the connections before use to make sure there are no open wires or loose ends. Do not use the TENS machine while bathing or in a birth pool. Additionally, do not turn the settings too high that it causes more discomfort than relief. This may risk muscle contractions and skin irritation.


A TENS machine during labour is a valuable tool for many women. It can be a safe and effective way to manage intense pain from contractions and other discomfort. TENS is a portable device that provides targeted pain relief. It has adjustable settings to suit various types and levels of pain. Furthermore, it is non-invasive and drug-free. Hence, it is an ideal alternative for those who want to avoid medicines or epidural injections.

Before using TENS, it is vital to know how they work and the device’s features. It is easy to operate, involving proper electrode placement and setting adjustments. Also, know the safety precautions to prevent any potential risks or side effects. Always follow the instructions of a health professional for safe treatment, including avoiding pad placement on sensitive areas. With the right usage, you can get effective pain relief for labour.

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