Author: A Nutt
Safe for a mother and her baby, the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine is a drug free method of relieving labor pain. TENS is a device that sends low frequency electronic pulses through the skin to block pain signals from being sent to the brain. It also stimulates pain killing hormones called endorphins. For a pregnant woman, the pulses inhibit pain messages that come from the cervix and womb, thereby reducing pain.
A TENS machine sends electrical pulses to specific areas on the back using wires and three or four small adhesive pads with electrodes. The electrodes are connected by wires to a battery operated pulsar. Two pads are placed below the bra line and two are placed above the panty line. A pregnant woman uses a hand held control and delivers gentle electric currents which travel to the location of the electrodes. Depending on the intensity of the pain, a woman can control the rate and strength of the electrical pulses.
TENS machines have two currents for the childbirth process. A stronger current is used during contractions and a lighter current is used between contractions. When a TENS machine is set on a high pulse rate it prompts the pain 'doorway' to close. This prevents the pain signal from reaching the brain. When the machine is set on a low pulse rate, the body is stimulated into releasing its own endorphins.
TENS is most effective when used at the onset of labor. This allows for an early build up of pain killing endorphins. When the appropriate current strength has been achieved, the positive effects are immediate. The longer the delay in employing the TENS, the less efficient the stimulator will be. Benefits of TENS machines are numerous and include:
- The user has control over the electronic impulse
- They are portable so one maintains mobility while they use it
- You can add other drugs with no fear of a reaction
- There are no side effects to the mother and baby
- TENS machines have been used successfully to treat a range of other conditions such as headaches, back pain, insomnia and postpartum depression.
Many mothers are uncomfortable with using pain medication during labor because they worry about drowsiness making them unable to nurse or bond properly for several hours after the birth. With TENS machines, there are no such concerns as the machines can be used safely throughout the labor process with no negative side effects. Many women report a pleasant feeling when using a TENS machine. Although it produces a gentle "pins and needles' feeling, many women have said they feel a tingling sensation that is not painful.
A number of issues to be aware of when using the TENS machine include:
- TENS should be used from the 37th week of pregnancy.
- Do not use TENS in the water such as when showering or in a birthing pool.
- Do not use TENS when driving, riding a bike, or operating machinery.
- Having the electrodes attached to your back prevents your back from being massaged. Back massages are traditional forms of pain relief during labor.
- Consult with your doctor before using TENS if you have a pacemaker, heart condition, or epilepsy
- Electrodes should not be placed on the abdomen.
- If you are having your labor induced, start the TENS machine about 45 minutes prior to induction.
A hospital may not have a TENS machine so it is important to check with the hospital to see if they have a machine available. If you plan to use a TENS machine, you can rent one from a reputable company. Check with your doctor or hospital to locate a TENS machine.
Many women are becoming uncomfortable with the increase use of pain medications during labor. Women are now looking for alternative and natural way to alleviate pain associated with childbirth. The TENS machine is fast becoming a popular choice for natural pain relief. If you are looking for a natural birth experience then TENS is a pain relief method worth considering.
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