Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive method of analgesia (pain relief). Electrodes are placed over the skin of a painful body part and low voltage electrical impulses are emitted to provide pain relief, flooding the brain with pain free stimulus to reduce its processing of current pain, eg labour pain. It’s a bit like hitting your thumb with a hammer: you shake your hand, rub your thumb, hold pressure on it, all to distract the brain from the real pain that’s occurred.
TENS has been used as a method of labour analgesia for over 30 years, it is super easy to use and multiple studies have shown there to be no harmful effects to the mother or neonate (1-3).
A study by Santana et al (2016) published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that use of TENS at the beginning of the active phase of labour significantly reduced pain and delayed the need for pharmacological pain relief interventions. Prior to TENS use 70% of the group classified pain as greater than 7/10, and after 30 minutes of intervention only 34% of the same group classified pain as greater than 7/10. Even better, those who used TENS in early active labour delayed pharmacological interventions by a mean time of 5 hours compared to those who didn’t. Interventions did not significantly impact other maternal or neonatal outcomes, and anyone one who has a pacemaker, or cardiac condition is NOT advised to use a TENS machine.
For further antenatal information, including the use of TENS during labour contact the clinic to discuss with our Physio and Exercise Physiologist Nicole Cullen.
**Don’t forget our Healthy Pregnancy Antenatal Classes are run every Wednesday 5:30-6:30pm at the clinic, call to make a booking.
- Santana LS, Gallo RBS, Ferreira CHJ et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) reduces pain and postpones the need for pharmacological analgesia during labour: a randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy. 2016; 62:29-34.
- Dowswell T, Bedwell C, Lavender T, Neilson JP. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for pain relief in labour. Cochrane Database Systematic Review. 2009;2.
- Bedwell C, Dowswell T, Neilson JP, Lavender T. The use of Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for pain relief in labour: a review of the evidence. Midwifery. 2011;27:141-148.