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TENS in Labour FAQ’s

Using TENS in labour FAQ

Every woman approaches childbirth in her own way. A woman’s decisions about the types of pain relief available in labour are no different. Whatever your goals or decisions about your birth, knowing the options available to you is always helpful.

More and more Australian women are learning about TENS as an effective option for pain relief in labour. Sweet Beats is very pleased to provide a quality obstetric TENS unit hire to Australian women at an affordable price because we believe that all women should have their birth choices available to them.

If your question is not answered below, scroll down to submit a question to our FAQ.

What is TENS?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Signals””or electrical stimulation sent through the skin. The basic idea of TENS has been around for a long time – in fact there’s even references to it in literature from Ancient Rome. It’s a form of pain relief that has no side effects, is drugfree and won’t cause drowsiness.

Portable, hand-held TENS machines are very useful for mobile, non-invasive pain relief. When applied to your skin using electrode pads,it has a sort of buzzing sensation, like fingers drummed on your body. Sweet Beats uses a specially designed obsetric TENS unit that is programmed to help you relax during the rest time between contractions, and has a ‘BOOST’ button that you press at the start and end of a contraction to increase the intensity when needed.

How does TENS work in labour?

The TENS pain relief is easily applied to the acute pain of labour. It will work as pain relief in three ways:

  • Endorphin release – the TENS, whilst not painful, stimulates your body’s natural painkillers – endorphins. These endorphins will help you relax and will help your body to cope with pain.
  • Blocks pain signals – our nerve pathways are like train tracks – they can only transmit one signal at a time. The stimulation of the TENS will compete with the pain signals from a contraction and prevent some of them from reaching the brain. This is most effective in the first period of labour.
  • Focus – the TENS stimulation gives you a source of focus as you work through a contraction, reducing your conscious awareness of the sensation of the contraction.

How I will use the labour TENS machine?

During a contraction you will press the integral ‘BOOST’ button to deliver a burst of high intensity TENS stimulation in order to block pain signals. You do not need to keep holding the BOOST button – just press at the end of the contraction to return to normal stimulation. Between contractions you will set the TENS to an intensity comfortable for you in order to enhance your body’s endorphin response and encourage relaxation and recovery.

You should start using your TENS unit as early as possible in order to get most benefit.. Hiring a TENS unit is great because you will be have pain relief on hand to use at home from the very start of your labour. In fact, studies have shown that women who use TENS spend a greater portion of their labour at home.

Will TENS work for me?

Every woman’s body responds differently to the TENS stimulation AND to labour, so there’s no definitive answer. It is difficult to accurately measure how effective a form of pain relief it is. Research has shown that women using TENS in labour are less likely to request additional forms of pain relief, and are less likely to report very high levels of pain. Probably the best indication of TENS’ effectiveness is that nearly every woman who uses TENS in her labour says she will do so again.

TENS won’t stop pain – no form of pain relief in labour can do that other than an epidural – but it does help women manage the pain they experience. TENS has helped many, many women avoid or reduce drugs in labour.

Benefits of TENS use in labour

Using an obsetric TENS unit in labour provides a woman with many benefits. The most obvious of these are that there are no side effects for either mother or baby. In addition, TENS:

  • is totally under your control
  • gives you a positive source of focus during labour
  • allows you to be mobile and upright
  • can be combined with other forms of pain relief, such as gas and pethidine
  • can be used at home from the start of labour

You may wish to combine TENS with other forms of pain management such as hynobirthing, the shower, and a fitball. Please be aware though that the TENS unit will need to be removed if you get into water, and the endorphin effects of the TENS stimulation can dissipate after removal.

Precautions

The TENS unit should not be used:

  • in the first 36 weeks of pregnancy except under the advice of your care provider
  • on the abdomen at any time
  • by people with pacemakers or epilepsy
  • on the head, neck, over the heart, on the inside of the body, or on broken or inflamed skin
  • TENS should not be used in water.

Electronic Fetal Monitoring may be affected by TENS use.

Note on C-Sections

It is worth noting that studies have found that using TENS for pain relief following a c-section can reduce a woman’s opiate requirements by 50%, with obvious benefits for mother and baby.

Can I get a rebate on my TENS order?

Check with your PHI about a rebate on TENS in labour. Many PHI providers do give a rebate of around $130 on a TENS purchase, and in some cases it may be more economical to buy a TENS unit outright ($209) than to hire. You may need a letter from your care provider to obtain a rebate. Also check that your PHI provider will rebate TENS ordered online.

Can I buy outright?

Yes you can. The cost to buy an obstetric TENS unit is just $209. This is a highly competitive price for the top of the range unit that we provide. Many women choose this option so that they can use the TENS unit for pain reliefafter pregnancy, or to utilise their PHI rebate. Our obstetric TENS unit also has a back pain program and is suitable for many other forms of pain relief, such as period pain.

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