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Tens Machines

What Is TENS? TENS is a type of pain relief that can be used for many different aches and pains throughout labour and delivery, but also safely during pregnancy. It stands for Transcutaneous (meaning through the skin) Electrical Nerve Stimulation, this means it works through patches that look like plasters, with leads coming from them - which connect to the main unit.

These patches give a tingling sensation, which stimulate the nerves through the skin which them give relief from the pain.

TENS machines usually have quite a few different intensity settings as well as a boost button setting for when you are having a surge.

During labour it will send a low pulse all the time, and then when you are having a surge, you would press the boost button so it boosts to a higher intensity.

How does it work?

The tingling encourages the body's natural painkillers to start working, these are called endorphins. This also means it helps the brain to ignore the pain messages it is getting.

By having a tingling sensation in the nerves instead of the 'pain' sensation, it changes how it feels about the sensation, and feels the tingle instead! It works a bit like if you bang your arm, your instinct is to rub it so you feel that instead of the pain from the bang.

But can I use other forms of pain relief with it? Yes! You can use it alongside other pain relievers like entonox (gas&air), injections of pain relief (like meptid, or pethidine), and you can even use it while you are getting an epidural inserted.

What are the risks?

I don't think I will ever NOT sing the praises of a TENS machine to be honest.

It is not addictive, it is non-invasive, has absolutely no known side-effects.

If you don't like it you can simply just take it off and carry on.

Does it have limitations?

Well, it is best used in early labour, and to persevere with it.

You cannot use it in water because of it being electrical and you won't be able to feel it if you have an epidural.

When shouldn't I use it? You shouldn't use it if:

  • You have epilepsy,

  • You have a cardiac pacemaker,

  • On broken or numb areas of skin,

  • You're driving,

  • You have cancer.

Take Away

Overall, I really do think that the TENS machine should be on every ones list. It should be something that you try, and if you like it, you pretty much have early labour worked out to a T, and if not, then you have other options. It is definitely one to try, and actually has no known side effects from giving it a go. Whether you're struggling with PGP ( pelvic gurdle pain) or you're in labour!

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