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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Machine for Labour: Is It Reliable and Safe?

A pregnant woman sleeping on her bed

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) provides pregnant women with a non-invasive and natural method of pain relief from labour contractions. It uses low-voltage electrical currents to decrease pain sensations by using electrodes connected to the skin. Numerous women have utilised a TENS machine for labour without any harm or adverse events reported. While generally safe, it is important to have a good understanding of how it works to avoid any potential risks.

The experience of labour pain can differ among women. In most cases, contractions can range from mild to severe. For those who do not cope well with the intensity, using a TENS machine can help reduce the pain. It also helps minimise the need for oral painkillers that may have side effects. This article will present what a TENS device for labour is, including its mechanism of action and proper electrode placement.

What is a TENS Machine for Labour?

TENS machine for labour is a therapy device that utilises electrical stimulation to relieve pain. It consists of a handheld remote control and a set of electrode pads. The electrodes adhere to the skin to deliver the electrical pulses. In addition, traditional units use wires to connect the pads. However, several modern devices have wireless electrodes. Instead of lead cables, they integrate Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone or tablet.

TENS machines have adjustable settings, allowing for controllable pain relief. Users can customise the frequency and intensity based on their pain level. These settings control the pulse rates, duration, and patterns of the electrical stimulation. Hence, it creates various therapeutic effects that can help with drug-free pain relief.

Furthermore, a labour TENS machine includes specialised functions or modes for optimal treatment. One feature is the boost button for intuitive control. This delivers an extra surge of power to combat intense pain. Some may also include a contraction timer to help track the frequency and duration of contractions. Lastly, TENS devices use either rechargeable or 9v batteries.

Understanding Labour Pain

  • The expectant mother experiences contractions in her uterus during labour.
  • The muscles of the uterus tighten and relax, causing a sensation of pain.
  • The pain typically starts in the lower back and moves towards the front of the abdomen.
  • Each contraction helps the cervix to dilate, allowing the baby to move through the birth canal.
  • The intensity of the pain varies, becoming stronger as labour progresses.
  • Support from a birth partner or a doula is crucial in helping the mother cope with the pain.
  • The pain during labour is a natural part of the childbirth process.

iTENS large wing kit with written features

How a TENS Machine for Labour Works

A TENS machine for labour works based on the principles of electrotherapy. The device sends out small pulses of electrical currents through the electrodes placed on the skin. These currents stimulate the sensory nerves and interrupt the transmission of pain signals. This process is referred to as pain gating. During use, it causes the neural gates in the spinal cord to close, which prevents the brain from receiving pain signals.

Another mechanism of TENS is to use low frequencies to trigger the release of endorphins. These hormones bind to nerve cells, inhibiting them from sending pain messages to the brain. As a result, higher levels of endorphins produce an analgesic effect. This method takes a while before the individual can feel the results.

Additionally, TENS may enhance blood circulation, leading to a reduction in inflammation and muscle relaxation. This can help alleviate muscle tension that contributes to pain during labour. Lastly, the electrical impulses serve as a distraction from contraction. It diverts the attention away from the pain, reducing sensitivity. It is important to note that pain relief differs for each individual.

Benefits of Pain Management

Pain management during labour offers several benefits for expectant mothers. Firstly, it significantly reduces discomfort, allowing women to navigate the intense sensations of childbirth with greater ease. Secondly, it contributes to improved relaxation. When discomfort is minimised, women can focus on maintaining a calm and composed state. This enhanced relaxation fosters a more positive emotional state.

Thirdly, it enhances focus. By alleviating the intensity of pain, expectant mothers can direct their attention towards the birthing process. Lastly, pain management helps in lowering stress levels. Reduced pain translates to decreased anxiety and stress, fostering a more supportive environment for both the mother and the baby.

A hand peeling off the plastic from the iTENS gel pad

Electrode Placement When Using a TENS Machine for Labour

Proper pad placement is crucial when using a TENS machine for labour. The key placement of TENS electrodes is at the lower back. Position one set of electrodes below the ribcage and another just above the buttocks. Place the pads on either side of the spine two to three inches apart.

By positioning the pads at the sacral region, the electrical currents can target the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals from the uterus and lower abdomen. Additionally, it helps to alleviate contraction pain or cramping that extends to the lower back. In some cases, women may put extra electrodes on the legs for enhanced pain relief during labour.

It is important to avoid placing the electrodes directly over the abdomen, as this may cause increased uterine contractions. Additionally, it is important to avoid putting the pads near the head, neck, heart, and directly over the spine. Also, avoid areas with open wounds, infected skin, or decreased sensations. The placement should be comfortable for the woman and should not cause any discomfort or irritation.

How to Operate the Device

Women considering using labour TENS should first consult their health provider on the suitability of the treatment. The doctor may advise specific instructions based on individual conditions. In general, users should start by adjusting the frequency and pulse duration. It is recommended to start the stimulation with the lowest settings.

Gentle increases in stimulation enable the body to adapt to the sensations. Gradually increase the intensity as the cramping gets stronger. Furthermore, individuals may utilise the boost mode to provide additional power during periods of heightened contractions. The sensations should be firm but comfortable. If it causes further discomfort, check the settings and adjust accordingly.


In conclusion, a TENS machine for labour is a tool that uses electrical pulses to provide customisable pain relief during childbirth. By stimulating sensory nerves and triggering the release of endorphins, it interrupts pain signals and induces a distraction from the discomfort. With features like adjustable settings, boost buttons and contraction timers, it offers a drug-free option for managing labour pain. TENS functions through electrotherapy principles, aiming to make the birthing experience more comfortable.

Proper electrode placement is crucial for effective TENS machine use during childbirth. Focus on the lower back, positioning electrodes strategically to target pain-transmitting nerves. Extra pads on the legs can enhance relief. Operating the device involves consulting a healthcare provider and starting with low settings. The boost mode aids during intense contractions. It is vital to ensure comfort and avoid electrode placement over the abdomen. Following these guidelines help ensure the safe and optimal use of the TENS machine.

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