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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Machine for Labor: How It Works and How to Use

A doctor sitting behind a standing pregnant woman

Pregnant women can experience intense pain during labour. Thus, many turn to various traditional methods of pain relief. They may prefer a non-invasive and drug-free alternative. One option is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS machine for labour. It emits mild electrical pulses to help alleviate discomfort by blocking pain signals to the brain and releasing endorphins. Expectant mums or their birth partners must place one or more pairs of electrode pads on the lower back.

Finding relief during labour is crucial because it can relax the mother-to-be. Consequently, this leads to smoother birthing experiences. TENS offers a natural form of pain relief. It is a safe and effective way to manage labour pain with minimal to no risks of adverse events. Nevertheless, they should consult a professional beforehand. Also, they must understand TENS to make informed decisions. The following sections will present the TENS device, including how it works and how to use it correctly.

What is a TENS Machine for Labour?

A TENS machine for labour is a portable device that provides natural pain relief. It sends low-voltage electrical currents to the body via electrodes placed on the skin surface of the pain area. The pads are available in different shapes, sizes, and designs to accommodate various body parts. For instance, larger patches are suitable for the back. The back is often a common pain site during labour.

In addition, pregnant women can choose from wired or wireless units. Each one has pros and cons. Thus, they should decide based on their personal preferences and comfort level. Nevertheless, all electrical nerve stimulation machines can reduce painful contractions. Also, expectant mums can modify the settings to have a sense of control over pain relief.

Mothers-to-be can hire a TENS device from various healthcare professionals or companies specialising in maternity equipment rental. Moreover, they can purchase one for personal use, especially if they plan to have more children. Owing a TENS unit is also beneficial because they can apply it for other types of pain. These include chronic pain like arthritis or acute pain like sports injuries.

Purpose and Benefits of TENS During Labour


  • Pain relief – The primary purpose of labour TENS is to lessen the pain of contractions. It targets the nerves that transmit pain messages to the brain, reducing pain perceptions.
  • Relaxation – TENS machines can help women feel calm during contractions. It can trigger the release of endorphins, providing a distraction during labour.


  • Natural – It does not require women to take medications or undergo intrusive medical procedures.
  • Portable – A TENS device is handy, allowing freedom of movement during labour.
  • Compatible with other pain management methods – Expectant mums can use TENS alongside breathing exercises, or pain medications. This enhances the overall experience during labour.

A TENS machine with necessary information

How a TENS Machine for Labour Works

TENS machines for labour deliver gentle electrical impulses to the nerves using electrode pads. These impulses help activate the natural pain-relieving mechanisms of the body. Subsequently, it can help reduce the perception of pain during labour. By stimulating the nerves, a TENS device can provide a non-invasive and drug-free method of pain relief.

Using a TENS unit during labour can be a beneficial tool for pain management. In the first or early stages of labour, when contractions are usually less intense, TENS can help alleviate discomfort and distract from labour pains. As labour progresses into the second stage and contractions are stronger, TENS can continue to provide relief. Then, women can cope with the pain in a non-invasive and drug-free way.

Expectant mums can control the level of pain relief. Through this, they can also activate various mechanisms of action to lessen discomfort. One example is applying low frequencies to enhance the production of natural endorphins. Another one is utilising high frequencies for pain gating. Additionally, they can select from different modes, such as continuous or burst mode. Boost buttons are also available.

Mechanisms of Action

There are two primary TENS mechanisms of action. The first one is the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It suggests that electrical stimulation stops the pain messages from getting to the brain. This occurs because electrical impulses activate larger sensory nerve fibres, known as A-beta fibres, which carry non-painful signals. Their activation effectively closes the “gate” and reduces pain.

The second one is the release of endogenous opioids. Electrical stimulation applied through TENS can release naturally occurring pain-relieving substances in the body, like endorphins. These endogenous opioids bind to opioid receptors in the spinal cord, reducing the perception of pain through analgesic effects.

A woman using a TENS machine on her lower back

How to Use a TENS Machine for Labour

Using a TENS machine for labour is simple. However, individuals must follow instructions to maximise the benefits of this natural pain relief method. They should begin by familiarising themselves with the functions, such as the burst and boost buttons. Then, they must prepare the skin by cleaning it before attaching the TENS pads to their lower back on either side of the spine.

Once the electrodes are in place, pregnant women must turn the TENS device on. Use the lowest settings and increase gradually until they feel tingling or pulsating sensations. It is essential to note that TENS does not thoroughly eliminate the pain. However, it can help make it more manageable. Expectant mums must stay in touch with their doctor throughout the TENS sessions for guidance.

People can turn the TENS unit off after 20-30 minutes of electrical stimulation. Afterwards, they can remove the electrode pads and store them well. Regularly administering this drug-free pain relief method during labour can help women cope with the discomfort of contractions on their own. Nevertheless, it may help to have someone assist them with electrode placements and TENS adjustments.

Safety Precautions

Conducting TENS for labour is generally safe. However, pregnant women and their birth partners must follow precautions. For instance, they must consult a doctor before the TENS session. Also, checking the electrodes for any signs of wear and tear is crucial. They must ensure the pads are in good condition for optimal efficiency.

Moreover, people should avoid operating the TENS machine in water. Otherwise, it could compromise the electrical safety of the device. Those doing water birth can use it before or after entering the birth pool. Additionally, do not place the patches close to the eyes, throat, or over broken or irritated skin.


The TENS machine for labour is valuable during pregnancy. It relieves pain without drugs or invasive procedures. Consequently, it allows for easy use and implementation. TENS produces low-level electrical currents to stimulate endorphin release and block pain signals to the brain. Pregnant women can hire or buy a TENS device. Having a unit is beneficial because of its portability. They can easily bring it to birth centres for immediate relief. Also, they can utilise it for other types of pain.

Furthermore, using TENS is straightforward. Expectant mums or their birth partners must place the electrode pads on the lower back. Then, they can adjust the intensity and frequency of the electrical pulses. This offers women a sense of control and empowerment in the labour process. Nevertheless, they should follow safety precautions to avoid concerns. For instance, they must not operate the machine in water. Those doing water birth can conduct TENS while dry to prevent electrical shocks.

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