Labour & Pain Relief – The TENS Machine

At 37 weeks the birth of baby number two is drawing ever closer, leaving me considering all the possible pain relief options. My birth with Quentin was relatively straight forward, never needed any intervention, I accepted Gas and Air along with my TENS machine working hard on my natural endorphins and apart from the fact I was 39 weeks, it was a quick but positive birth.

This article will focus on both my pre-labour use of the TENS machine as well as my experiences during my Second labour.

Getting access to TENS

BabyCare Tens have a rental service which I subscribed to in order to have access to to a TENS Machine for the birth of baby number 2. There are a number of high street and internet based outlets which will also rent out TENS machines. I decided to go direct with the Manufacturer.

The Rental service provides everything you need from the Elle TENS unit itself, to spare batteries and Electrode Pads and there are different levels of service you can subscribe to which can also include a further set of electrodes for practicing with and free return postage.

Please make sure that if you are considering investing in TENS that you hire or purchase a unit suitable for use in labour. Make sure you read any advice offered regarding the unit and make a suitable selection as not all TENS machines are suitable for use in labour.

What does TENS stand for?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, and has successfully been used for many years by pregnant women and professional midwives worldwide to treat labour pain.

TENS is a non-invasive, low-risk nerve stimulation intended to reduce pain. The user needs to apply an adequate intensity of stimulation is necessary to achieve pain relief with TENS. Using a TENS machine delivers “a strong but comfortable sensation” across the spine of the user encouraging the production of the bodies natural endorphins making pain more bearable.

TENS can be used in conjunction with Gas & Air and Pethidine, however it cannot but used in water, however there is nothing stopping you from using a TENS machine to get you established enough in labour to enter the pool.

The Elle TENS Unit

The Elle TENS was the TENS machine I opted to se for both labours. It’s a small unit with the option of using with a neck cord or a belt clip.

The unit has two channels that supply the electrode pads, an upper and lower set, these can be controlled separately. There are also two power increasing options, opti-max and boost. Boost can be easily accessed at the side of the unit for use during a contraction. Opti-max is used to multiply the strength of the pulsating to your own taste.

How did I use TENS during my Labour

This account of using a TENS Machine is purely on my own experiences. Feel free to do your own research as to whether TENS will work for you.

I had a number of sweeps leading up to my labour with Megan. Each time it set off a fair number of niggly periods that lasted a number of hours. I found the Elle  TENS machine was invaluable during these spells, it enabled me to sleep soundly through the contractions that the sweeps triggered.

It was periods like this were having a second set of electrode pads was useful. As I couldn’t be sure that true labour would start but I knew I had a second set if needed.

I spent several nights using the same set of electrodes and batteries. It is good to practice using the unit, knowing the controls and how to boost, opti-max (on the Elle Tens unit) and increase the strength of the pulsating is key to making effective use of the TENS machine.

In the actual labour of Megan I used the Elle TENS exclusively for over 16 hours. It often seemed that it didn’t make much difference but I removed the unit for a short period of time for a bath and contracted without the assistance of the TENS or water and the intensity of the contraction was certainly different.

The TENS machine made the contractions much more bearable and allowed me to stay at home for longer in the early stages of labour.

I found keeping the unit operating throughout the labour and utilising the boost feature during contractions and the opti-max feature was gradually increased as the intensity of the contractions progressed. It was only removed when an epidural was administered by which time I’d had the TENS machine active for a total of 27 hours.

 Benefits of Using TENS

  • Easy to use (but will advise practice to ensure proper use)
  • Can be used from 37 weeks pregnant
  • Labour at home longer
  • No-side effects from use
  • Can be used with other types of pain relief or on it’s own
  • Can be used post-natally for after pains or back pains

My Reflection On Elle TENS

Elle TENS is an easy to use, easily accessible pain relief option that I felt I benefitted from immensely during both of my labours. I felt that on both occasions the use of Elle TENS allowed me to take a more relaxed approach to labour and handling the associated pain. The boost feature allows extra control on dealing with the pain which is a bonus.

If we were to have another baby, I would definitely use the Elle TENS machine again. The unit is very simple and I found it hugely effective and would recommend it to anyone whose pregnant, especially those wanting a home birth or want to use as little pain relief as possible

As with any kind of blog, this represents my own personal findings and is not a scientific study of any sort. I hope that you will find this account of using a TENS machine for pain relief useful.


I am Mummy to a little boy called Quentin, currently on maternity leave until July 2010 and Nuts about Cloth Nappies.

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1 Response

  1. Hi Nicola
    You’re the second mum who has reported no weight loss in baby so we’ve added this question to our feedback forms for our research.
    Thanks again for such an excellent blog and I hope all is still going well. Cx

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