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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Unit for Labor Pain: Pad Placement for Safe Usage

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is one of the most effective forms of pain management. Using a TENS unit for labor pain is generally safe. However, pregnant women must still practice caution. For instance, they or their birth partners must place the electrode pads correctly. Typically, it would be on the lower back, on either side of the spinal cord. To have a sense of control over their discomfort, expectant mums can adjust the settings to their needs or liking.

Women in labor often experience intense and overwhelming pain. Thus, medical professionals prescribe various methods of pain relief to help them cope during contractions. One such method is through TENS. It utilises a handheld device and one or multiple pairs of electrodes. Individuals can buy from physical or online stores, depending on their preferences. For more information, the following sections will present the science behind TENS, the pad placement, and the safety considerations.

The Science Behind TENS Units for Labour Pain

Many expectant mothers are choosing a TENS unit for labour pain. The science behind it lies in its ability to stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. The electrical pulses from the TENS machine interfere with the pain messages sent to the brain. This results in a reduction in the perception of pain. Also, this mechanism helps distract the brain from focusing on the intensity of labour pain.

Moreover, the electrical stimulation from the TENS device can block pain signals by overstimulating the nerve fibres. This overload of electrical signals essentially “crowds out” the pain messages. Hence, TENS prevents them from reaching the brain and causing discomfort. Furthermore, TENS may help improve blood circulation and relax muscles in the area where people apply the adhesive electrodes.

Research has shown that TENS can be an effective tool for managing the pain of contractions. Many women reported a decrease in pain levels when using the unit. This non-pharmacological approach to pain management during labour aligns with the growing interest in alternative and complementary therapies for childbirth. By understanding TENS, medical care providers and pregnant women can make informed decisions.

Benefits of Electrotherapy

  • Natural pain relief – Electrotherapy does not use drugs or needles to alleviate pain. Instead, it utilises gentle and safe pulses for stimulation.
  • Muscle rehabilitation – Electrical stimulation or e-stim can promote muscle contraction and increase blood flow. Thus, it aids in healing after injury or surgery.
  • Enhanced range of motion – E-stim therapy can help improve joint mobility and flexibility by reducing stiffness.
  • Accelerated healing – The stimulation can promote faster tissue recovery by increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for cell regeneration.
  • Low risks – Applying electrotherapy for pain relief carries minimal side effects compared to other medical interventions.

A person peeling the sheet from a TENS pad

Pad Placement When Using a TENS Unit for Labour Pain

Correct electrode placement is crucial for effectiveness and safety when using a TENS unit for labour pain. Before applying the sticky pads, people must remove the protective backing and clean the skin to ensure good adhesion. After the preparation, individuals must place the electrode pads on either side of the spine in the lower back region, as this is where the nerves related to labour pain are located.

Professionals recommend positioning the electrodes in a diamond or square formation to achieve optimum results. Each pad must be a few inches away from the spine. This placement helps to cover a larger area and ensures the electrical impulses reach the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals during painful contractions.

Also, it is essential to adjust the placement of the pads as labour progresses. This is because the intensity and location of pain may change. Furthermore, users must avoid attaching the electrodes to body areas with broken skin. Otherwise, this can cause potential irritation. It is also best to avoid placing them directly on the spine, as this can be uncomfortable.

How to Operate the Unit

To operate the electrical nerve stimulation machine, ensure first the device is charged. Then, place the electrodes on the lower back. Next, turn on the unit and gradually increase the intensity of the electrical pulses until it reaches a comfortable level. After 20-30 minutes, turn off the TENS machine and remove the sticky patches.

Throughout the different stages of labour, pregnant women can use TENS to reduce pain sensations. In addition, they can utilise this form of pain relief with other pain management techniques. However, they must do this under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

A TENS machine kit with a pack of gel pads and necessary information

Safety Considerations When Using a TENS Unit for Labour Pain

TENS units for labour pain are a popular non-pharmacological method for managing painful contractions. However, it is vital to use them safely. Consult a doctor before undergoing TENS therapy. This ascertains it is safe for the specific medical history and pregnancy. Additionally, following the instructions in the manual for the TENS machine is crucial to ensure correct usage.

Another safety consideration when administering TENS is to avoid using it in certain body parts. For instance, it is essential to steer clear of placing the electrodes directly over the pelvis or abdomen during pregnancy. This is because the electrical stimulation from the device can potentially disrupt the natural contractions of the uterus and cause harm to the developing fetus.

Moreover, avoid operating the TENS machine while in water, as it can increase the risk of electrical shock. Expectant mums doing water birth can use TENS before or after they enter the birth pool. Furthermore, consider the appropriate settings of TENS. Using it for extended periods or at a high frequency may pose safety risks. Apply TENS while adhering to the recommended duration and frequency of use.

When Not to Use the Device?

Women in labour should avoid using a TENS device if they have a pacemaker or any type of electronic or metal implant. The electrical impulses from TENS could interfere with the functioning of these machines, posing a potential health risk. Additionally, do not operate the TENS unit while sleeping because it can lead to unintentional prolonged use and potential muscle fatigue.

Also, if pregnant individuals are in the later stages of labour and are close to delivering their baby, it is recommended to discontinue the use of TENS. This ensures the healthcare provider can accurately monitor and assess the progress of labour.


A TENS unit for labour pain is a valuable tool. The science behind this pain relief method involves mild electrical currents that stimulate the nerves. Then, this stops pain messages and enhances the release of the natural painkillers in the body. TENS is beneficial because it has minimal risks compared to other methods, such as drugs. Nevertheless, individuals must use the machine appropriately for optimal outcomes. For instance, they must place the patches on either side of the lower back.

Safety considerations include avoiding TENS near water and being cautious with certain medical conditions. In addition, pregnant women or their birth partners must set the frequency and duration properly to prevent skin redness or other safety hazards. Ultimately, TENS offers a non-invasive and drug-free option for pregnant individuals experiencing labour pain. With the correct usage, TENS can provide much-needed relief during the intense and challenging pregnancy experience.

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