Importance of TENS in managing labour pain

The potential advantages of using TENS for pain management during labour.

Having a baby can be an exciting yet challenging experience, as it requires effort and dedication.

Expectant parents who are having their first child may have questions regarding the pain levels during labour and the most effective methods for pain management.

According to a study, first time mothers reported that although labour was painful, it was still manageable. Additionally, almost 50% of participants stated that the pain was not as bad as they had anticipated. Great news right?!

What are effective methods for managing pain during labour?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to labour pain relief. Even epidurals don’t always provide effective pain relief. Many pain relief methods are available during each stage of labour, including natural options like deep breathing, massage, hypnosis, and water births. Sterile water injections are effective for 60-70% of people in labour, according to research. Pharmacological pain relief options like pain relief drugs, nitrous oxide gas, and epidurals can also be explored to help relief severe pain.

TENS is a non-invasive option to help manage the pain of labour. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It involves applying mild electrical currents across the skin. The impulses are believed by some experts as a way of disrupting pain signals sent by the nerves.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a commonly used method for managing pain during labour. TENS involves applying gentle electrical currents to the skin using small electrodes and can be used as a complement or alternative to more invasive methods of pain relief.

TENS devices are a practical option for use during labour due to their portability and ease of use.

How does TENS work?

The mechanism of action for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is not fully understood, but two theories propose possible explanations.

1. Pain signals can be blocked through nerve stimulation.

2. The promotion of endorphins can aid in pain relief as they are the body’s natural pain relievers.

Endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers, are significant in managing labour pain. They are released as a response to physical and psychological stressors and act as natural painkillers, reducing pain sensation. TENS, a non-invasive technique of delivering small electrical currents to the skin, can encourage the release of endorphins, aiding in reducing the intensity of labour pain.

TENS has several advantages. It is portable and user-friendly, it promotes active engagement during all stages of labour, which can shorten the labour process, and most importantly, TENS can aid in pain relief throughout the entire labour process.

Does it work?

There have been numerous studies on TENS devices for pain management during labour.

According to research, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation resulted in a notable reduction in pain and delayed the requirement for medication, including analgesics or anaesthetics.

According to a study, TENS reduced pain during early and active labour, as well as for up to four hours after delivery.

Who should consider it?

Women with chronic pain who have found success with a TENS unit may want to consider it for labour pains, says Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert. However, results for using a TENS unit for labour pain are inconsistent, and caution should be taken. Ross advises that a TENS machine should not be the only form of pain relief used, and a combination of methods, such as water immersion and other forms of pain management, should also be employed.

Ross suggests that women who are considering using a TENS unit during labour should consult with their healthcare provider beforehand. By discussing the potential risks and benefits with a qualified professional, individuals can determine if this treatment is appropriate for their specific circumstances. It is important for every woman in labour to create a birth plan with their healthcare provider that addresses their individual needs.


Instructions on the use of TENS during labour.

A TENS machine can be used during labour to provide pain relief. The device is worn by the mother and sends electrical pulses through electrodes attached to her skin. These pulses stimulate nerves in the back and block pain signals from the contracting uterus , reducing the pain of contractions.

To maximise the benefits of your TENS machine, it is important to follow certain steps.

  • It is important to ensure that the TENS machine is set to the appropriate level of intensity, which should be established prior to the onset of labour and adjusted accordingly as labour progresses.
  • Confirm that the electrodes are positioned correctly on your back and securely fastened.
  • It is recommended to move around during labour to enhance the effectiveness of TENS, as movement can increase electrical stimulation.
  • It is important to take breaks from using a TENS machine to give your body a rest from the electrical stimulation and maximise the benefits.
  • Consult with your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns related to the use of a TENS machine during labour.

Summary of Benefits

  • TENS provides an alternative method for pain relief without the use of medication and has been shown to decrease the severity of labour pain.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation has been proven to be both safe and effective through scientific research.
  • This procedure is considered non-invasive as it does not require the use of needles.
  • Individualised pain management can be achieved through the use of TENS devices, as women can adjust the settings to their preferred level of comfort to create a sense of control.
  • TENS allows women in labour to maintain mobility and activity, which can aid in optimal positioning of the baby and progress in labour, unlike other pain relief methods that restrict movement.
  • For some women, choosing a drug-free labour experience is a natural preference. TENS can be considered as an alternative option.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation may have limitations for certain types and levels of labour pain, but it can provide assistance in promoting a positive birth experience.

TENS is drug-free method of pain relief during labour. It can reduce the intensity and duration of labour pain without being invasive. Women using TENS can remain active and mobile throughout the labour process. Endorphin release is encouraged, which offers natural pain relief. TENS should be considered an option for managing pain during labour.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Do not use with any electronic medical devices e.g. pacemakers; prior to last 3 weeks of pregnancy; or on the abdomen at any stage of the pregnancy.




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