The TENS machine is another thing I had never heard of before I moved to London. (Maybe because I was more concerned with the pain of a hangover than I was with the pain-relief of labour)??? I’m not sure if TENS machines are common in the rest of the world, but they are quite common here in the UK!
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator. TENS machines deliver small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin. It is used as a drug-free form of pain relief during labour. You’re supposed to strap it on and begin using it when contractions begin. As contractions become stronger, you can increase the strength of the electrical pulses. I kept mine on throughout labour. It’s hard to say if it really worked for me, but I liked the feeling of control — like I was able to do something to ease the pain!
TENS machines are thought to work in two ways: by blocking a pain nerve pathway to the brain, or by stimulating the body to make its own pain-easing chemicals called endorphins.
It is said that the amount of pain-relief the TENS machine offers can differ from person to person. And while the research evidence to support the TENS machine is not strong, it is hugely popular here in the U.K., so it must be affective one way or the other.
You can either buy one (a good idea if you plan on having more babies), or rent one! I rented mine from Babycare TENS, and was really happy with their easy-to-use service.
I’m interested if they’re used in other countries, and what other people’s experience has been with them.
I used a tens machine for both my deliveries and it worked for me! (Until I started to push – I took it of at that moment).
If you get one, make sure it has a cord or something so you can hang it around your neck.
And get spare batteries. Just in case…
I used a TENS machine during my first delivery and to be honest it did absolutely nothing for me. I also have never heard anyone mention that sort of machine in France.
I used the TENS machine as well when I was giving birth to my son and I think it worked mainly as a good distraction from the pain… figuring out what setting would be best now and what strenght… once the pushing started I completely forgot about it though.
I used a TENS machine for both of my births in London and I had th feeling it wasn’t doing that much — til I turned it off! It really worked well, if on a subtle level. I know friends in the US who have had them for other kinds of pain management, but not for births. I thought the UK was very progressive in its birthing philosophies, from the TENS machine, to gas & air (def not an option in the US), to the willingness to let you push aside the furniture and get on all fours on the floor to get that baby out drug-free!