TENS Provides Natural Pain Relief during Childbirth

Recently, I got an email from a friend sharing the happy news about the birth of their new first child, a beautiful daughter. Included in the announcement was an interesting note about birthing using a TENS machine:

One thing I want to share about the birth is what got me through… is the TENS machine. It was fabbbbulous!!!! I highly recommend it, but no one seems to know about it – so please look into it, and know that it was amazing for me!!! www.bodyclock.net or www.babycaretens.com

Actually, this is not the first time I’ve heard about the TENS machine, but I didn’t know much about it so I took a look around online to find out more.  If it’s something you want to use for your childbirth (or any other type of pain management) you can buy or rent one online, as most hospitals do not provide a TENS machine.

What is a TENS Machine?

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine is a small box with a clip that attaches to your clothes. There are four pads with electrodes connected by wires to a battery operated pulsar. The pads are smeared wtih gel (to ensure the best connection) and stuck onto your back (2 below your bra line and 2 above the panty line). Using a hand held control, you give yourself weak electric currents which then travel through to the points where you have the electrodes.  You control the frequency and strength of the pulses using dials on the machine. There’s also a “boost button” when you want maximum output from the machine to help you with a difficult contraction.

The pulses of electricity feel sort of like “pins and needles” and help combat pain during childbirth.

mama tens machine electrodes placement

image from www.pregnancytens.co.uk

How does a TENS machine work?

It is unclear exactly how TENS works, although there are a number of theories. The stimulation from a TENS machine is thought to affects the way pain signals are sent to the brain. Pain signals reach the brain via sensory nerves and the spinal cord, which are blocked by electrical pulses. Another theory is that they electric currents stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural pain killers called ‘endorphins’ .

TENS also gives you a feeling of control over your contractions, which helps you feel more relaxed and less anxious, and may provide a distraction from the pain.

When to use the TENS Machine

It takes about an hour for your body to respond to the electrical impulses by releasing endorphins, so it’s best to start using it as soon as regular contractions (or backache) begins.

Start at the lowest setting, and turn it up gradually as your contractions gets stronger. Use the “boost button” at the peak of contractions.

The benefits of using  TENS machines include:

  • It is totally natural, safe, and drug free.
  • You are in control.
  • It is portable, so you remain mobile while using it.
  • It allows you to use other drugs simultaneously.
  • It is every effective if used from the onset of labor.
  • Once the correct strength of the current has been set, the effects can be felt immediately.
  • There are no side effects for you or your baby.
  • It can be used at a home birth with no need for a doctor’s or midwife’s supervision.

There are some minor disadvantages to using a TENS machine:

  • You will need someone to help you put the pads on.
  • It only helps if begun during early stages of labor
  • It may have to be removed if your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically
  • TENS cannot be used in water, so you need to remove it to use a birthing pool or take a bath.
  • It pads get in the way if you want a massage, which can also be an effective form of pain relief.

You can use if AFTER labor too!

You can use your machine for:

• shoulder pain from breast feeding
• menstrual pain
• back pain
• after pains (as your uterus contracts back to its normal size)
• post-operative pain following a caesarian section

feature image from BodyClock

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