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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Machine in Labour: Is It Safe?

A pregnant woman sitting on a chair

Painful contractions can be a challenging experience, both physically and mentally. Thus, pregnant women seek for relief during labour. One option is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It is a safe, non-invasive, and natural form of pain relief. Instead of drugs or intrusive procedures, a TENS machine in labour utilises mild electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves. Then, the device provides analgesic effects by blocking pain messages and triggering endorphin production.

Traditionally, medical professionals utilise TENS to manage acute and chronic pain symptoms. Through clinical trials, researchers have proven TENS as one of the most effective methods of pain relief. Moreover, it has minimal risks, which is why it is suitable for expectant mothers. Nevertheless, consulting a doctor before its administration is vital to prevent adverse events. The following sections will present TENS maternal pain relief, including how it alleviates discomfort and correct pad placement.

Purpose of TENS Machine in Labour

The purpose of the TENS machine in labour is to provide non-invasive pain relief to women during pregnancy. It achieves its goal by using electrical stimulation. TENS consists of electrode pads and a control panel. The former can be wired or wireless and has adhesives to stick to the skin. On the other hand, the latter allows users to adjust the settings and find the burst and boost buttons.

Moreover, the electric nerve stimulator aims to distract expectant mothers from the intensity of birth pains. When they or their birth partners activate the TENS device, it sends low-voltage electrical currents through the electrode pads to specific nerve pathways in the body. These impulses create a tingling or buzzing sensation that helps mask the pain from uterine contractions.

TENS units are user-friendly. Hence, pregnant individuals can operate it, giving them control over their pain management during labour. TENS is a safe method for reducing the discomfort of contractions, back pain, and other sensations commonly experienced during different stages of labour. Future mums do not need to constantly rely on drugs that can cross the placenta and affect the baby.

Benefits of Electrotherapy

  • Electrical stimulation or e-stim therapy can alleviate acute and chronic pain naturally. As a natural pain reliever, electrotherapy can also offer instant relief during labour.
  • Aside from minimising labour and other types of pain, e-stim therapy can help activate and strengthen muscles. This is especially true for people with muscle weakness or paralysis.
  • Electrotherapy can aid in improving blood circulation and reducing inflammation. Thus, it leads to faster recovery from injuries.
  • An electric nerve stimulator can stimulate the muscles and reduce tightness, resulting in better flexibility and range of motion.
  • E-stim can promote tissue regeneration and repair, contributing to overall healing.

A TENS machine with necessary information

How a TENS Machine in Labour Provides Relief

A TENS machine in labour provides analgesic effects by interfering with pain signals travelling to the brain. Pain gating is the process by which the brain prioritises certain incoming sensory information over others, essentially “gating” the pain messages so that they are not felt as intensely. In the context of labour, people can use TENS to stimulate the nerves and activate this pain-gating mechanism.

Additionally, TENS relieves labour pain by boosting the production of endorphins. Then, the stimulation binds to opiate receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing discomfort. Similarly, TENS promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. This can help women feel more comfortable and have a sense of control during uterine contractions. Consequently, this can lead to a more positive birth experience.

Expectant mums can apply TENS during a stage of labour where they can still move around and be active. Also, they can utilise the electric nerve stimulator when experiencing severe contractions. The portable nature of TENS devices enables women to use them at home during the early stages of labour, providing continuous maternal pain relief until they are ready to go to the hospital or birthing centre.

Frequencies and Intensities

An electric nerve stimulator typically offers a range of frequencies and intensities to provide customisable maternal pain relief. Frequency refers to the number of pulses delivered per second. To experience relief in labour, individuals can utilise lower settings (around two to nine Hz) for a gentle massage-like sensation. Also, they can use higher frequencies (around 50-120 Hz) for more intense pain.

Intensity in TENS allows for gradual adjustment to find the optimal level of relief during labour. Lower intensities at five to ten mA may be preferable during the early stages, while higher intensities at 20-30 mA can be used to manage sharper uterine contractions.

A woman using a TENS machine on her lower back

Pad Placement When Using a TENS Machine in Labour

Using a TENS machine in labour to provide analgesic effects is easy. However, pregnant women or their birth partners must ensure correct pad placement. Doing so leads to successful pain management during labour and prevents adverse events. Attach the electrodes on either side of the spine in the lower back. This is typically the area where labour pain is most intense.

People can experiment with different positions to find the most effective configuration for their needs. According to the appropriate electrode placement guide, individuals must avoid applying sticky pads on broken skin. Otherwise, this may aggravate the condition of the skin surface. Furthermore, following the guidelines from the manufacturer or a doctor is essential for optimal maternal pain relief.

Aside from placing the patches correctly, utilising the settings and modes of TENS is vital to maximise pain relief. Individuals can usually control the intensity, frequency, and duration of the electrical stimulation. Moreover, they can press the burst or boost button to increase the intensity temporarily for added pain relief during labour.

How to Operate the Device

To operate the TENS unit, insert the battery or plug the device into an electrical outlet, depending on the model. Then, attach the pads to the affected area. Once they are in place, turn the machine on. For a sense of control over discomfort, adjust the intensity of the frequency of TENS. Typically, low frequencies are suitable for chronic pain, while high frequencies are for acute pain.

After receiving the analgesic effects from TENS for 20-30 minutes, turn the unit off and remove the adhesive patches carefully. Make sure to clean the device and the skin. Afterwards, store the machine and the electrodes appropriately.


A TENS machine in labour is one of the methods of pain relief that naturally relieves contractions. The purpose of TENS is to block pain messages from reaching the brain by using electric nerve stimulation. Subsequently, it helps alleviate painful contractions. Moreover, TENS aims to distract pregnant individuals from the intensity of labour pains by providing a tingling or buzzing sensation on the skin. Instead of taking drugs for pain management, people can utilise a non-invasive pain relief device.

Alternative therapies, such as TENS for labour care, produce optimal results when used correctly. Thus, knowing the pad placements is essential for pain management for women. They should attach the electrode pads to the lower back. Avoid directly applying them on the spine for successful transcutaneous nerve stimulation. Also, they may use the different settings and pre-programmed modes. There is the burst mode and the boost mode to utilise to help with the active phase of labour.

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