Tens Machine – Using A Tens Machine For Labour

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is an option available for women in labour to assist with pain relief. During pregnancy, you’ll probably be researching your options on pain relief, especially natural methods in order to reduce side effects and further interventions. A TENS machine is a drug-free option, but is it helpful? Here are my pros and cons on using a tens machine in labour which you may want to consider.

Pros for using a TENS Machine

  • A non-invasive method of pain relief
  • Is able to be used in your own home in early labour
  • No harmful effects on the mother or baby
  • Doesn’t restrict movement in labour
  • The woman is in control of the machine with a handheld device, so she can use it exactly when needed and at what strength she prefers
  • Could prevent medical pain relief
  • Many women swear by them

Cons for using a TENS Machine

  • If you would like to use water for pain relief (bath or shower), you can’t wear the machine and will need to remove and replace the pads each time you get in and out
  • Its recommended to be used as early in labour as possible (from the first contractions), when there should be less attention and focus on contractions and ‘pain’. Early labour can go for some time so its best to find other things to do than start focusing on pain relief
  • Conflicting research on the effectiveness of TENS during labour – more quality research would be ideal
  • It works most effectively if you start the stimulation early on in a contraction, so you may find yourself sitting there waiting for contractions, when you should be distracting yourself, moving around or finding other ways to cope with labour discomfort
  • Some women find they don’t like the sensation – try out the machine before labour and/or purchasing if possible
  • Cost consideration: to purchase a tens machine, you’re looking at approximately $200-300 for a good quality machine. Alternately there are now some cheap, basic models being made by various manufacturers and you can now hire them (online too) so you will be spending considerably less
  • A tens machine is more effective when used in combination with other pain relief aids (e.g. relaxation, positioning, massage)

BellyBelly Members Tens Machine Reviews

Here’s some feedback from BellyBelly forum messages who are discussing tens machines here

“I have used a TENS twice, had no other pain relief. It doesn’t take the pain completely away but it certainly helps! I also liked having something to concentrate on as there is a button you press down on when you’re having a contraction. You probably know that you can’t use them in water. I was hesitant to take it all off and back on again so just didn’t worry about showers etc during labour. Hot tip – use duct tape to secure the pads to your back! Have done this both times Because your back can get quite sweaty the pads can move from their spot otherwise.” — Hestia

“Used TENS for my spontaneous forceps delivery with my daughter and my induced boy/girl twin delivery earlier this year. I found them very useful and would use again. I had unmedicated births both times. You can hire them through most hospitals – either the maternity ward or physio department. Do try it before labour though Because some people find them irritating.” — Dollyroux

“I used one and hated it. I am very sensitive to touch and ‘foreign feelings’ in my body though, if that make sense? Which is a very big part of why I had drug free labours too. As much as I don’t enjoy the pain in labour, it is natural and I can cope with it. I tried the TENS in early labour but I found it very electrical and stingy and I couldn’t get into the vibe with it. The birth pool is a million times better in my opinion. Just run the bath and hop in.” — meow

“Love my TENS machine! I used it from the first contractions until the second stage with all three natural births. I bought one before my first son was born and it was a great investment. Others have borrowed it from me for either labour or for back pain. It can be a bit tricky getting the sticky pads on your back in the right place. Do a practise run with your support person before hand and get used to how it works. That will also allow you to get used to the sensation of it. If you are in and out of the shower/bath, it can be a bit of a pain taking it off and putting it back on. But that can’t be helped. I alternated between shower and TENS and found them both useful.” — Bloom

“Yes I used a tens machine and loved it. I ended up having a spontaneous unplanned home birth on the couch at home and the tens was really fab. I used it in conjunction with calm birth breathing and I’d had some panadeine earlier I’m the night. A wonderful experience.” — Frangipani Lou

“I didn’t love it and took it off pretty quickly. I found it stingy and distracting but not in a good way. However I only used it after I was in a lot of pain. Something tells me if I had used it from the start and had the chance to get used to the sensation before my labour got intense it would have been more useful. I would try it again!” — MaybeBaby2012

“Loved mine. Got me through the first 18 hours, and then the boost button started to not work. Unfortunately both my husband and I forgot, in the moment, that we’d been told to change the batteries if that happened. I ended up opting for an epidural because I really needed that boost button working to cope with the pain, and without it I was not coping at all. I wonder what the outcome would have been if we’d remembered to change the batteries…” — Pholi

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Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.

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