TENS Machines are an efficient and proved method to to alleviate the pain before, during, and after childbirth. And while there are other pain-management options, TENS is frequently chosen by mothers because it is an excellent way ease the pain of contractions without drugs.
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) devices are small, battery-powered, hand-held devices used to relieve pain. The machines work by sending small electrical pulses through electrodes attached to the skin by gel-adhesive pads.
When used during labour, the electrodes are placed in the lower back on both sides of the spine. The pulses pass through the skin into the muscle and tissue producing a light buzzing or prickling sensation, helping you relax the muscles on the back and assist to have a pain-free birth.
TENS units are great because they allow a mother in labour, to remain active and upright—you can labour with a TENS in any position you want. Moreover, it has been suggested that TENS enhances placental blood flow (Enzelsberger et al. 1991)1 making labour easier in some cases.
TENS usually does not interfere with electronic fetal monitoring, so they are fine to use when during labour in a hospital setting.
To use a TENS machine follow these easy instructions:
1) Start by making sure your TENS MACHINE is off. If it’s on, turn it off first.
2) Locate the area where you want to place the pads and clean oil from the skin with a wipe for the adhesive gel to attach better.
3) Place the gel pads around the area in pain:
a. Place two of the pads on either side of your spine with the tops of the pads at about bra-strap level.
b. Place the other two lower down, at about the level of the dimples on your lower back, just above your bottom.
Make sure they are at least 2-3cm apart from each other. Once the pads are placed, they should form a box shape like in the image below:
4) Turn your TENS MACHINE on. In this case, the appropriate program should be for back pain, or lower back pain.
5) Increase the intensity to a level which is comfortable but stimulation is felt;
6) Programs will normally run for 30 to 40 minutes and can be repeated as frequently as needed.
You can keep moving around while using it
It won’t directly interfere with your labour
You can use it for as long as you want to and take it off if you want or need to
There are no lasting side-effects
It’s safe for you and your baby
You don’t need a doctor, nurse or midwife to help you use it
It can be used for a home birth
It’s portable and non-invasive
You control it
It’s easy to use
After labour TENS/EMS MACHINES are also useful. You can use them for post-labour exercises so you can avoid issues like muscle separation and to do pelvic floor exercises. Also, they can help alleviate other types of pain, such as back pain, commonly experienced by carrying the baby around, and the get back to shape quickly after giving birth.