TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
TENS has a rapidly growing reputation as one of the safest, most effective forms of modern pain control available to women during childbirth. The treatment is widely approved and recommended by medical professionals and it allows you to experience a mobile, drug-free labour, with personal control over your pain relief.
How does TENS work?
TENS units supply gentle, electrical impulses through your skin via four self-adhesive electrode pads positioned on your back.
These gentle impulses attack pain in two ways:
1. by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s own pain-relieving hormones
2. by stimulating the nerves to block the slower-moving pain messages coming from your cervix and womb before they reach your brain.
Benefits of Labour TENS
- No harm to baby
- Drug free pain control
- No side effects or drowsiness
- Used at home when contractions start
- Can be used with other methods /drugs
- Proven up to 80% effective for reducing labour pain
- Non invasive giving freedom to move and walk about
The Pain Gate Theory
Melzak and Wall proposed the ‘Gate Theory’ in 1965, and it remains the most respected theory of pain perception. They showed that pain impulses could be overridden and the perception of pain could be altered. Basically the brain can only cope with a certain amount of information at once. For unknown reasons, probably linked to survival, sensation impulses from the nerves have priority over pain signals. When TENS is used you feel this stimulation strongly and the sense of pain gets put to the ‘back of your mind’. You perceive the pain as less intense. Also endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers – TENS stimulates endorphin release helping reduce pain.
What does TENS feel like?
TENS feels like a pleasant tingling sensation on the skin where the electrode pads are placed.
How is labour TENS used?
Self adhesive electrodes are placed on the lower and mid back. You switch on the TENS and turn it up until you feel the tingling. The user can increase the intensity to ride out each contraction. The unit can be worn as needed for as long as desired but a minimum of 30minutes is recommended for labour pains. Labour TENS is best used at home when the contractions begin and continued for up to several hours after birth. Labour TENS will help with uterine contractions after birth and whilst breast feeding.
How long should Labour TENS be used for? When do I start using the Labour TENS?
Labour TENS is used in the first stage of labour when the contractions begin and start to become painful. The earlier the TENS is used, the better. This gives your body time to build up natural endorphins.
The unit can be worn as needed for as long as desired.
Is TENS safe?
Yes, very safe. Labour TENS units are specifically designed for labour. However there are a few precautions.
Do not use over broken or desensitised skin. Do not use before 36 weeks unless approved by your doctor. Seek advice from doctor if you have unstable epilepsy or a pacemaker.
I would like a water birth – can I use a Labour TENS?
Yes, although NOT whilst in the water. You need to REMOVE the TENS BEFORE you enter the water. While you are in the water your Birthing Partner can be responsible for preparing the TENS unit so it can go straight back on when you come out of the water.
Can I take the TENS into hospital with me?
Yes. The midwives and doctors are usually very happy for women to use TENS. Check with your midwife or doctor if you are unsure. You may need to turn the TENS off temporarily if using electronic monitoring equipment.
What type of TENS unit should I use?
Make sure you use a TENS unit specifically designed for labour. Also make sure the unit is modern and comes with brand new electrodes which you can put on and take off again. The unit should also come with batteries and instructions. NeuroTrac and BabyCare Elle Labour TENS units hired from NatalCare Naturally offer modern, reliable TENS units with all these important features. Features and benefits include:
- Easy to use push button control
Our units have a hand held push button control to change the stimulation mode from LOW frequency bursts to HIGH frequency stimulation. The low frequency is used during rest periods (between contractions). As soon as a labour contraction is felt strongly you can change the mode to high frequency stimulation. Once the contraction has subsided you can change the mode back to low frequency.
- Easy to follow instructions
Enclosed with your TENS unit you will find a small booklet with instructions on how to use your TENS unit. The diagrams are clear and simple to follow. It is recommended however that you make an appointment to see the physiotherapist at your local hospital for further instructions.
- Small and light-weight
Our units are small and light-weight. You can move around easily without feeling restricted in any way
Where can I hire a TENS unit?
You can hire a TENS unit on-line from NatalCare Naturally and we deliver anywhere in New Zealand. The hire fee includes FREE door-to-door courier service and FREE return postage. The unit arrives at least 3 weeks prior to your due date (unless you require it earlier) and the unit is due back 3 weeks after your due date.
When should I book a TENS?
Anytime during the 2nd trimester is a good time to book your TENS (or earlier if you wish). If you have left it to the 3rd trimester or even a couple of days before your due date, then go ahead and book on-line and a unit should still be available for immediate dispatch.