TENS – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
A TENS machine produces an electric current that stimulates the nerves to reduce pain. The machine usually has 4 electrodes with sticky patches at the ends, which are applied to the lower back. It is best to start to use the machine in early labour before the pain gets bad.
The jury is out about the efficacy of TENS in providing pain relief. Whilst some women speak positively about their experience with it, other find the machines to be useless and in some cases just irritating.
TENS can provide a good form of distraction for you whilst you are in the early stages of labour. It can help pass the time whilst applying the machine and testing out the different levels and strengths of currents. Many TENS machines come with timers or monitors to help you time contractions, these can also be useful for helping to distract you or your partner during early labour.
TENS is safe for both the mother and the baby and allows full mobility. You can wear it under your clothes and keep the unit in your handbag and try going for a walk or doing something to keep busy. You may also use TENS in conjunction with Gas and Air, perhaps whilst waiting for an epidural.
You can hire machines from some big chemists or other companies online. You can also purchase your own machine from about £30 upwards. It can be a good idea to familiarise yourself or your partner with the machine so when the time comes, you are not fiddling around too much with the instructions and sticky pads!