Should I consider using TENS when I'm in labour?

Created on
October 6, 2023

Yes! A TENS machine is a safe, drug-free way to manage labour pain that keeps you entirely in control and able to move around.


What is TENS?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

TENS can be most effective in the early stages of labour, especially to help manage back pain. It can be useful while you are at home as you can keep moving around as you use it. You can keep using it on your way into the hospital.

We suggest you hire or buy an obstetric TENS machine (with a ‘boost’ button) at about 36 weeks. You can get these from local pelvic floor physiotherapy practices, hospitals, private midwives or buy them online.


What are the advantages of using a TENS machine during labour?


Are there any disadvantages to using a TENS machine during labour? 


How does a TENS machine work during labour?

TENS is believed to work during labour for a few different reasons:


How does it feel to use a TENS machine?


A TENS machine gives you a slight tingling sensation through the skin. It is not unpleasant and you can control the intensity of the tingling. As a labour contraction comes, you can press the boost button. This increases the intensity by 20%.When the contraction passes you press the button again to turn off the boost.


How do I use the TENS machine?

TENS seems to work best if used early, at home, at the very beginning of labour.

Only use the TENS machine once you are in labour – DO NOT USE IF YOU ARE NOT IN LABOUR. If you’d like to try it out before labour, use it on your arm.

Apply 2 pads under your bra line and 2 pads above your buttocks. There will be a red and a black link on each cord. Use the 2 reds diagonally with one under bra and the other above the butt, and the 2 blacks diagonally(as shown in the image).

If you have questions about whether a TENS machine would work for you in labour, or you want to hire or buy one, talk to your midwife or to a pelvic physiotherapist, or search online for a local provider.


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