How to use TENS machine in labour

Congratulations! You’re pregnant – and you’re looking ahead to labour and what you can do to give yourself the best chance at a more comfortable birth. A labour TENS machine is a really easy and effective way to give yourself some drug free pain relief in labour. ¬†You may be wondering exactly how the labour TENS machine works in labour and how you should use it. Whether you’ve already hired a labour TENS machine from Sweet Beats, or whether you’re just learning about how TENS can work in labour, here’s a rundown that will give you an overview on everything you need to know on how to use TENS machine in labour.

How the labour TENS machine works

You may know about this already, but just in case, we’ll recap quickly. TENS stimulation stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, i.e. electrical stimulation of the nerves through the skin. Mild electrical signals are transmitted through the skin to the nerves by a TENS machine and they compete with any pain signals that your body is sending to your brain, preventing all the pain signals reaching your brain, so you feel less pain. The TENS stimulation also stimulates endorphins, so you are better able to compete with pain that you’re experiencing. A labour TENS machine is specially designed for use in labour – as well as the usual TENS machine functions, it has a ‘boost’ button which ramps up the TENS stimulation during contractions.

When you’re using a TENS machine in labour, the TENS stimulation will compete with pain from your contractions, and it will also help your body produce endorphins to handle labour pain. Most women find that it takes them longer to feel high levels of pain and they are able to remain calmer with the pain they do experience.

Preparing to use the labour TENS machine

The TENS machine is super easy to use – basically you just attach the electrode pads (the pads that attach to your skin and transmit the TENS signals) to your back as per the diagram you’re given. You then use the controls on the TENS machine to turn the power up and down and also to use the boost button when you’re having a contraction.

How to Attach Electrode Pads
Correct way of attaching the electrode pads to your back

Before you go into labour, you should make sure you’re confident using the TENS machine and familiar with the controls. Once you’re past 37 weeks, you might like to use the TENS machine for back pain and pelvic pain.

Start using the TENS machine once you go into labour

Don’t save the TENS machine for the later stages of labour. It’s up to you exactly when you start using the TENS machine, but remember that it has a cumulative effect – the earlier you start using it, the more effective it will be. We suggest you start using it once you’re feeling regular, ‘bitey’ contractions. This will give the labour TENS machine the best chance of helping to build your endorphin response and allow you to practice focusing on the TENS stimulation rather than the contractions.

Focus on the TENS sensations

Techniques such as hypnobirthing, having mental ‘chants’ or imagery can really help you work through contractions and give you something else to focus on. Many Sweet Beats customers have told us that they found focusing on the sensation from the TENS machine, rather than the contractions, really helped get them through. The earlier you start doing this the better.

You will need to take the labour TENS machine off if you’re going in water

One of the drawbacks of the labour TENS machine is that it cannot be used around water. You’ll need to take the electrode pads off and stick them back on their plastic backing (they are totally reusable – just don’t let them get squashed or crushed) if you’re going to get into the shower or a birthing pool. Once you’re out of water and ready to put the labour TENS machine back on, make sure your birth partner or care provider thoroughly dries your back before reapplying the electrode pads, so they can get a good contact on your back and work well.

The TENS stimulation takes about 45 minutes for full effect

Be aware that it takes about 45 minutes for your body to respond fully to the pain relieving effects of the TENS machine. After that period, the TENS machine will have boosted your body’s endorphin response and be helping to dull any pain signals you’re feeling.

Remember.. the TENS machine is always competing with pain signals and supporting your body’s own natural pain relief mechanisms of endorphins. You may get to a point where you feel like the TENS machine isn’t doing anything… but it actually still is. (And also remember, when you get to this point, your baby is probably very close so just keep going!)

You can walk around, change position and do whatever you like using labour TENS

One of the best things about the TENS machine as a method of pain relief in labour is that it won’t restrict you from doing anything else you like. Rock on a fitball, get on all fours, walk around, or lie on your side.. do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Make sure your birth partner is briefed in their job keeping an eye on the electrode pads and cords, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught up in anything.

Don’t forget you can use labour TENS after your baby arrives

There are lots of other ways that you can use your labour TENS machine. After the baby is born, you may experience ‘afterpains’ – mild to painful tightenings as the uterus contracts back to a non-pregnant size. If you experience afterpains, use your TENS machine as a great form of drug-free relief so you are less likely to need painkillers. If you have an episiotomy, stitches or end up with a c-section, the TENS machine can still be used to provide pain relief and reduce your need for drugs (which is great when you’re breastfeeding).

We hope we’ve covered all your questions on how to use labour TENS machine when you’re having your baby. If we left anything out, just let us know! Drop by our facebook page or ask a question on our ASK US tab!

If you’d like to hire a labour TENS machine from Sweet Beats now, just click here. You can hire for immediately delivery of your TENS machine or book ahead in advance.

We wish you all the very best when the time comes for you to meet your baby!

2 thoughts on “How to use TENS machine in labour

    • Alli - Sweet Beats Team says:

      Hi Cass,

      You can use the tens for after pains, absolutely. You can attach the electrodes to your back for best effect.

      Sweet Beats

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