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TENS Machine for labor pain- what is a TENS machine? How does it work?

Discomfort and pain during labor vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. It is different for every woman – for some, it is like menstrual cramps, and for others, it feels like severe pressure.

It is essential to reduce or manage pain during labor. Your doctor can prescribe certain medications to help alleviate pain, but they can cause side effects. Some medicines used are pethidine, nitrous oxide, and epidural anesthesia. 

Many pregnant women want to avoid adverse effects and tend to seek a natural pain-relieving approach. TENS therapy is considered a safer and effective method than medication to relieve pain during labor. Read on! 

What is a TENS machine?

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is a small, battery-operated device used for acute and chronic pain management. The Machine has wired connected to electrodes, which deliver low-intensity currents to a woman’s target body parts to reduce the intensity of pain signals to the brain. 

A doctor with good knowledge of TENS machine places the electrodes near the concerned area of the body. The electrical impulses generated from the Machine penetrate the tissues and trigger various cellular mechanisms to reduce or alleviate pain. 

How does a TENS Machine work? 

TENS machine work in several ways. It produces electrical currents or impulses that affect the brain and cause it to reduce the transmission of pain signals. The stimulants also cause the brain to release endorphins, chemicals that produce analgesic effects to alleviate discomfort and relieve pain during labor. 

When you attach the pads to your skin and switch on the Machine, you will receive electrical impulses. These currents cause a tingling sensation and trigger intra-cellular and inter-cellular mechanisms to produce endorphins that block signals from the brain and spinal cord. As a result, you have relaxed muscles and reduced pain. 

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Benefits of a TENS Machine during Labor

A growing body of research evidence has validated that the TENS machine is much more useful than pain-relieving drugs during labor. Because it is a drug-free alternative, many pregnant women use it for pain management and alleviation during labor. 

A recent study shows that the TENS machine can reduce both acute and chronic painful sensations during labor. The Machine also distracts a woman from labor contractions. If you don’t have enough knowledge of using the Machine or control the impulse frequency, you can undergo the TENS therapy under an expert health professional guidance. 

Likewise, pregnant women with lumbar spine pain during the third trimester can undergo TENS therapy to alleviate discomfort and pain. The electrical impulses have tremendous effects on your spinal nerves as they soothe your nerves and tissues by producing analgesic effects. 

Several studies have shown electrical currents penetrate the tissues to increase nutrient and oxygen flow to the muscle cells to alleviate pain. A 2012 study analyzed the effects of the TENS therapy in reducing lower back pain during labor. 

Researchers divided 79 participants into four groups: three treatment and one control group. The groups used different methods to alleviate pain during labor. These methods were acetaminophen, exercise, and TENS machine for pain management. 

The study concluded that 57% of the control group had increased lumbar spine pain, while those who underwent the TENS therapy had reduced lower-back pain. It means the treatment is much more effective and safer than acetaminophen and exercise. 

How to use a TENS Machine?

Although using a TENS machine does not require you to have substantial knowledge, using it the right way is key to alleviating pain. Experts recommend choosing the right product with a good reputation and strong electrical impulse output. 

For instance, the higher the number of electrical impulses the Machine produces, the more helpful it will be to reduce discomfort and pain. When choosing the product, pay attention to the brand and choose the one that is FDA-approved. Health professionals usually recommend a pharmaceutical-grade TENS machine. 

If you want to get the most out of your TENS therapy, make sure you place the electrodes on your lower spine, head, or specific acupuncture points. Regulate the impulse intensity carefully during painful contractions, especially if you are using the Machine yourself. 

We recommend hiring a midwife or doula to streamline the process every time you undergo the TENS therapy. A midwife or doula has good knowledge of operating the unit during labor – they know how to place the electrodes correctly and control the currents’ frequencies to smoothen the entire process. 

Final Words 

Many women experience mild to severe discomfort and pain during labor. Although medication can quickly relieve pain in certain body parts, it is wise to undergo the TENS therapy. It is safe, effective, and drug-free alternative to alleviate pain during labor. 

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