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How does a TENS machine work?

A TENS machine can be a great drug-free form of pain relief during the early stages of labour. It can help you relax, distract you from your contractions, and up the endorphins flowing round your body. So how does it work?⁠

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS machine is a small device with wires leading to sticky pads that are attached to your lower back during labour. The four pads are covered in a firm gel so that they stick, and then the machine sends small electrical pulses to reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain. ⁠

How to use a TENS machine (don't worry, they come with very clear instructions. It's just a good idea to familiarise yourself before the big day arrives):

  1. Check the machine is off before you attach the pads⁠.

  2. Place each pair of pads either side of your spine, with two at about bra-strap level and two just above your bottom⁠ (some may only have two pads, in which case, stick above the bottom).

  3. Start with the machine on the lowest setting, and turn them up gradually as your contractions get stronger⁠.

  4. Use the boost button at the peak of each contraction, but make sure to turn it off in between contractions so you get the full impact next time⁠.

A TENS machine can be an amazing form of pain relief that is non-invasive, easy to use, and allows you to stay active.