I have had many people recently ask me the question was asked: “how does one use a TENS pain relief machine for labor?” That is a good question! There are many variations in using TENS. Some of you might also be scratching your head asking “what is a TENS?” TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The point of the tens during labor is to use electrodes to stimulate the afferent nerves to bring about pain relief. Endorphins are released with the use of stimulation, much like I might use an acupuncture needle. This discharge of endorphins aids in labor as they are attracted to pain receptors in the body, increasing pain tolerance, therefore, resulting in pain relief.
There are two types of TENS machines — the traditional & the V-TENS. They differ slightly. The usual tens use higher frequencies. The V-TENS is biphasic. Most women will hire a conventional machine.
There must be caution taken in using TENS. It must not be used by anybody with a pacemaker and never placed over the carotid artery, over the ears, near the heart or over cuts. They must also not be used before 36-weeks gestation.
The frequency of the TENS machine ranges from 0 – 200Hz and can be used anytime during labor. However, it will work best in the earlier stages. It is essential for the birthing women to be able to adjust the frequency of the TENS herself so that she can increase it where required.
TENS is just one way we can help our bodies in the birthing process. Using water, especially in a bath can be an incredible form of relief. The buoyancy and weightless of the water allows the mother to be more relaxed. In the first stages of labor, it is especially crucial as it reduces the strength of uterine contractions and aids the cervix is dilating. A lot of women will widen very quickly once in the water! As an additional bonus, water can also help in lowering blood pressure.
If I were to use a TENS machine in labor I would also add specific ear points which are not suitable for the unskilled person to do themselves – however, anyone can apply the pads over the back, and the relief will be significant. The following is a step by step guide.
- Be sure to clean and dry the skin before applying the pads.
- Take away the electrodes from their baking sheet and use them with care, pressing firmly to ensure they have enough and complete contact with the skin.
- You will apply the top pair of electrodes each side of the spine between Thoracic Vertebra 10 & 12 & the lower two each side at Sacral Foramen 2 – 4.
- Turn the TENS frequency right down before switching it on
- Once the device is on, the woman can adjust the frequency herself, turning it up as needed.
I hope that you find this article useful. The TENS pain relief machine is not something we frequently use however for many they find it gives great relief and allows them to move through the stages of labor well.