What is a TENS machine?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS is a device which sends pulses of electrical current through four sticky surface pads or electrodes which are placed on the skin. The electrodes are placed parallel to each other on either side of the spine at specific points. Maternity tens machines are usually a small handheld device for ease of use during labour and birth.

How might TENS help me during my labour and birth?

TENS is thought to stimulate the release of naturally occuring endorphins in the body; our body's own natural pain reliever. TENS is also thought to block pain signals from reaching the brain due to the pain gate control theory. TENS has assisted many women seeking a natural non-invasive form of pain relief to help them cope with contractions during their labour.

I'm planning a waterbirth, can I use a TENS machine?

TENS cannot be used in the birth pool itself, however most birth centres and maternity units will not advise getting into the birth pool until the woman is in active labour. Active labour is classed as once the woman's cervix has dilated to 4cm or more. A TENS machine can be helpful during early labour when contractions may be erratic. TENS can also help the woman to manage contractions until she is able to get into the birth pool.

What are the advantages of using a TENS machine?

  • The woman is in complete control of pain management during contractions. 
  • TENS is a non-invasive form of pain relief which may allow the woman to delay the use of stronger medical pain relief. 
  • TENS helps your body increase levels of endorphins during labour; endorphins are your body's own natural pain reliever. 
  • Allows the woman to remain mobile, upright and active during your labour; the use of upright positions during labour assists the woman's uterus to work most efficiently during contractions to help the baby be born. 
  • No known side effects for you or your baby.

Is TENS safe for every woman to use?

TENS machines are designed for use in labour; they should not be used before the 37th week of pregnancy without medical supervision. They are safe for the majority of women with a few exceptions, if you use a demand type pace maker you should not use a TENS machine. If you suffer with epilepsy, any other existing health condition or have any doubts whatsoever you should consult with a health professional to confirm whether TENS will be safe and appropriate for you to use.

How do I hire a Tens machine?

We do not hire TENS machine directly through our local branch. If you are interested in finding out more or hiring a TENS machine then please click on this link to access the NCT & Babycare Tens homepage where you can find out more and arrange to hire or buy a TENS machine that will suit your needs. Babycare Tens will make a donation to the NCT charity if you order a Babycare Tens which will help us to support more expectant and new parents.

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