TENS machine during labour
Labour TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machines are a fantastic conservative, drug-free tool that you can use for pain relief during labour.
How does it work?
Labour TENS machines work by bombarding the brain with pain-free stimulus. It provides a “tingly” or “pins and needles” type sensation to your back which helps to ease labour pains, typically experienced in the back and abdomen during stage 1 labour.
Picture this. You hit your thumb with a hammer. The first thing you do is rub your thumb vigorously, or jump around like a lunatic or someone punches you in the arm to distract you.
This is how TENS works.
It distracts the brain from focusing on the “labour pains” and instead focuses on the tingly sensations, which lessens the overall experience of pain. It is also theorised that it may help increase the production of endorphins.. your happy hormones!
Is it easy to use?
100%. Absolutely. Yes!
That’s why I recommend them so highly to my pregnant clients, because not only do they provide fantastic pain relief but they are super simple to operate.. no brain power required!
Each machine and brand has a different operating system but most machines should have an “intensity” button and a “boost” button. They should also have leads connecting to either 2 or 4 adhesive pads that you place on your back. Most pads are recommended to be placed from your thoracic spine (bra line) down to your sacral spine (near your buttocks).
I prefer machines which also allow you to be “hands-free” by providing a neck lanyard or belt clip so that you don’t have to hold the machine the entire time.
The intensity button allows you to increase and decrease the sensations to tailor it to your needs. As labour progresses you will naturally find you will prefer to increase the TENS sensation to match your labour sensations.
The boost button increases the sensation of the TENS during a contraction. Once the contraction is over, you switch the boost button off and it returns to the original intensity level.
Do I have to take it off during labour?
Most machines will recommend that you remove it (including the adhesive pads) prior to entering the shower or bathroom, as they aren’t waterproof. You can put it back on as soon as you are dry though.
You may also need to turn the machine off, or reduce the intensity, if foetal monitoring is required. Your healthcare professional will instruct you if this is necessary.
Who can’t use a labour TENS machine?
Anyone who has a pacemaker, or cardiac condition is NOT advised to use a TENS machine. Always consult with your healthcare professional should you need further advice.
Where can I find one?
I recommend most patients to call their local physiotherapy clinic, chemist or maternity hospital to see if they hire labour TENS machines out to patients. It is always worthwhile to have an appointment with a healthcare professional to instruct you correctly on how to use the machine.
If these options are not available to you, you can purchase or hire some machines online.
I personally am familiar with 2 different brands and I have had great feedback from clients on their ease of use and effectiveness. There are plenty of other machines on the market or that will be available in your area, so make sure to do your research!
The brands I am familiar with are:
FreeMoms surveyed their clients and found that 92% of them reported that TENS was effective for reducing pain during labour, and 34% reported that they required nothing else but the TENS as their only source of pain relief!
Whilst you’re reading up on pain relief techniques, check out the best positions for labour and birth!
Good luck Mamas!
xo Physio Laura