Pain relief for labour – TENs Machine
What the hell is a TENs machine and how does it work?
A TENs machine is a form of pain relief that you can use during labour. The idea is that the pain relief is provided by transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to relieve pain, by helping your body to release natural painkilling hormones called endorphins and by blocking pain signals to the brain.
Basically, it’s a little unit with four sticky pads (like the one in the picture) – you stick the four pads on your back (2 just below the bra line and 2 on the lower back) and turn it on. It’s apparently more effective if you put it on as soon as you feel any sensations, as it has a cumulative effect on the endorphin producing front. You have a boost button which you can press when you experience a surge (aka contraction) to give it a little more oomph, which you then press again when the surge has ended.
What does it feel like?
I used one in early labour and I really thought it took the edge off of those early surges – I wouldn’t say it gave me complete relief from the pain, but it definitely was very helpful.
It kind of felt like the pads were buzzing between surges. When I had a surge, I boosted it and honestly, because I was so focused on my breathing and hypnobirthing techniques, I couldn’t really tell you what it felt like while it was actually boosted! I thought carrying it around was going to be annoying but the one I had came with a lanyard (super glam) so I could wear it around my neck and forget about it until I wanted to use the boost button.
A few tips if you’re going to use a TENs machine…
You obviously can’t use it when you’re in water – I was glad to have had spare sticky pads as there was a point during my labour where I got out of the pool and put the TENs machine back on, the pads got wet and lost their stick. I’d also say it’s worth getting spare batteries as if you’re finding that it’s helping, the last thing you want during labour is a mad panic to find some more batteries!
People use TENs machines for other things like back pain – if you’re going to use one in labour, make sure it’s a maternity one as they are the only ones that tend to have the boost button.
I also asked the women in my ‘CR Pregnancy and Birth Support’ and ‘CR Mums on Maternity Leave‘ Facebook groups how effective they found using a TENs machine, here’s what they said:
“I found it helpful in early labour. Took a while for me to be sure I was using it correctly but there was small yet distinct window of time just before I headed to the hospital where I really felt the benefit. Some might think it’s not worth it for such a small part of the process- but anything that helps is worth it in my book!”
“I managed to get through early labour on the hormone drip with just TENS and breathing. My midwife was very impressed!”
“I loved having the TENS machine with both births. It really took the edge off and my mind off the surges. Although part way through the batteries run out and I’ve never seen my husband panic so much… This was at the same time that I managed to disconnect the gas and air canister from the mouth piece.”
“In my second birth I started using my tens machine once I felt that the yoga wasn’t quite enough. It was really helpful in taking the edge off the pain and pressing the boost button gave me a focus during contractions. It was the only pain relief I used and I kept it on until I got into the pool…”
“Had my baby less than 24 hours ago and that tens machine saved my life… 3 day latent labour with intense surges coming 3 in 10 mins for sometimes hours but no dilation. Without that machine I don’t think I would have made it to day 4 and active labour with mine or husband’s sanity in tact”
“It gave me a good focus in early labour up to the point I got in the pool. When I first got in the pool (6cm dilated) and had to remove it, I even contemplated getting out so I could wear it again as it was doing such a good job! It was easy to hire abd return, and I read all instructions in advance so I was ready to know what to do – I’m very glad I wasn’t having to read instructions when contractions started!”
So what’s the verdict then – worth having one or not?
In my opinion yes, it takes up very little room in your hospital bag, you can rent them reasonably cheaply (there’s a discount code if you want to rent one at the bottom of this page), buy one second hand or buy one new and sell it on, so you’ve got very little to loose and lots to gain if it does help you to feel more comfortable.
Where can you get one?
You can buy brand new TENs machines online from places like amazon, you can click and collect from places like Argos & Boots or you can order directly from TensCare who are a local company, based in Epsom. I often see TENs machines on eBay and Facebook marketplace so if you’re looking for a second hand one, definitely have a look there and of course check out ‘CR Mums Selling Page’ too.
I used a TensCare MamaTENs unit, which you can buy from any of the places I mentioned above, or you can rent one directly from them by clicking here or calling 01372 723434. If you do rent one, here’s a discount code to save £5 on the rental cost with TensCare: JC1042.
I hope that you found this helpful! If you do decide to use a TENs machine, please do let me know what you think!