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A TENS machine is a natural way to relieve pain during early labour. It is a great distraction from the pain of contractions and can be used alongside other techniques such as hypnobirthing and a birthing ball.
I have used a TENS machine in two very different labours and loved using it. The first was a long and tiring labour in the hospital. My TENS machine really helped to distract me from the pain of my contractions right up until I had to have an assisted delivery. My second labour was shorter but wearing my TENS machine allowed me to manage my pain so I could stay at home for longer.
What is a TENS machine?
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is a machine that sends mild electrical pulses to your body. These pulses are painless and help to distract you from the pain of a contraction.
How does it work during labour?
The machine has wires which are attached to sticky electrode pads. These pads are attached to your back in pairs. I attached the first pair to my lower back either side of my spine and the second set halfway up my back around where my bra would go. The machine then sends the electrical pulses through the electrode pads to your body.
I used the Babycare Elle TENS machine and it worked really well for me during the earlier stages of labour. It has different settings which are all preset on the machine to make it simple and quick to use during labour. When you are in early labour it is worth trying these different settings to find out which one works best for you. It also has a boost button which is a fantastic feature. When you are having a contraction you can press the boost button in and you get stronger more frequent pulses. When your contraction ends you press the boost button again to turn this feature off.
Make sure you get a TENS machine that is lightweight so it is really portable. This allows you to move around which will encourage labour to progress naturally. It is also useful if it has a clip or a wrist strap so you can attach it to you.
Does it really help with pain relief?
The Babycare Elle TENS machine worked really well for me during the earlier stages of labour. It works better if you put it on low during early labour and then move through the settings as labour progresses. I found a longer consistent pulse helped to relieve my pain because the rhythm really helped me to focus on my breathing and keeping calm. As my labour progressed I increased the strength of the pulses which meant the TENS machine continued to relieve the pain. The boost button was helpful as it distracted me from the pain when I was having contractions.
I found it to be less effective in active labour when the contractions became longer and much stronger. I removed it towards the end of my labour as I found the wires were getting in the way and frustrating me.
If you have enjoyed reading this check out the complete guide to childbirth. I share my experience of successfully using hypnobirthing and using a birthing ball during labour.
What does a TENS machine feel like?
The electrical pulses feel like pins and needles or a buzzing feeling. You feel this where the pads are placed on your back. It is painless and not an unpleasant feeling.
Is it safe to use in labour?
They are safe and have no side effects for mum or baby. It can also be used alongside other forms of pain management such as gas and air, hypnobirthing, birthing ball and pethidine. However, you are not able to use the TENS machine if you are planning a water birth.
Tips for using a TENS machine Effectively:
- Place the pads carefully so they are most effective
- Start using it during early labour
- Start the settings on low and progress up
- Try the different settings to find a pattern of pulses that works for you
- Turn on the boost button when you feel a contraction starting
- Have a spare set of pads in case they lose their sticky
- Be in control of it yourself, a birth partner may want to help but they won’t know what feels best for you
- Read the instructions before labour starts
- Get your birth partner to read the instructions before labour starts in case you forget how to work it
A TENS machine is one form of natural pain relief that works well in early labour. You can hire one or buy your own. I found it was a good investment because you can use it to relieve other types of pain such as postnatal pain, back pain and period pain.