What is TENS?
Two electrodes are stuck to your skin and connected to a battery-powered machine. The machine delivers small pulses of electrical current to the body. You can adjust the amount of electricity delivered to your body. The pulses feel like tingling sensations on your skin.
How can I use TENS to relieve pain?
It is not clear how TENS works to relieve pain.
It's possible that it blocks pain signals by stimulating different nerves in your spinal cord. It might also cause the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers.
There is not a lot of evidence to show that TENS works to reduce pain, but some people find it helpful.
What are the advantages of TENS in labour?
The advantages of TENS are that:
- it doesn't require medicines or injections
- it may give you some control over pain relief
- you are able to move around
- you can use other methods if TENS does not give you enough pain relief
- there is no harm to you or your baby
- it can be used at home during early labour
What are the disadvantages of TENS in labour?
TENS doesn’t work for everybody. It can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. You may experience skin irritation where the electrodes are stuck on. TENS can’t be used in the bath or shower.
When should I not use TENS?
TENS is thought to be very safe, but it shouldn't be used:
- if you are pregnant but not in labour
- before 37 weeks gestation
- by people who have a pacemaker
- by some people with epilepsy
Where can I get a TENS machine?
Not all hospitals and birthing centres have TENS machines. If you’re interested in using one, it's best to discuss it with your doctor or midwife before you go into labour. You may wish to ask about whether it is safe for you to use a TENS machine, where you can get one and about any costs involved.
You can find more information about other methods of pain relief during labour here.