What is a ‘TENS’ Machine

I talk to many women in the early stages of their labour and discuss coping mechanisims for staying at home as long as possible. We know staying in your own environment with all your home comforts often results in better progress.

What surprises me is that not many women have considered a TENS machine which may have really helped them to stay at home a little bit longer.

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. You can hire your own, ask your local hospital if they hire them or ask your friends that have had a baby recently. You just need to make sure that the TENS is suitable for use in labour as some machines are for back/shoulder pain but not necessarily for labour.

TENS has been shown to be effective during the latent (early stage) of labour, active phase and I have known some women not want to take it off at all,  but it would appear that it is less effective during the pushing stage.

How does it work?

Electrodes are stuck to your back with sticky pads and are connected to a small battery-powered stimulator button. Holding the button enables you to change the pulses whether you’re having a contraction or inbetween. You can move freely while wearing the pads. It is believed that the TENS works by stimulating your body’s natural endorphins, which are your natural painkillers. It also reduces the pain signals that are sent to your brain by the spinal cord. There are no known side effects.

Handy tips from the midwife:

  • Hire/borrow the TENS prior to labour as it is handy while you’re at home in the early stages, just make sure it is suitable for use in labour
  • If you borrow a TENS buy new pads so that there are sticky enough
  • Bring spare batteries
  • It is very helpful if you have backpain during your labour
  • Use while having regular paracetamol, on you ball at home or going for a walk
  • Adjust the pulsing to suit you, you are in control of the button
  • Take it off while having a bath