Why tens?

We explore the benefits of using a maternity tens machine for pain relief in labour.
At a time when medical interventions in childbirth are at their highest ever level a backlash against the 'too posh to push' attitude seems to be emerging with more and more women shunning drugs for a more meaningful birth experience. Many of these women look to tens machines for a natural pain relief option.

A tens machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) works by harnessing the body's own ability to alleviate pain, stimulating the production of endorphins and blocking the neural pathway to discomfort. It works non-invasively so doesn't impair the body's natural response to labour but instead puts mum-to-be in control, enabling her to have the birthing experience she wants.

Most tens machines are handheld and work via adhesive pads that are placed on the mothers lower back as she begins to experience discomfort. Because tens machines exist as portable units they can be used to provide relief in both hospital and home environments and allow mum-to-be to stay mobile throughout the birth if she wishes.

Maternity tens machines are designed differently to regular tens in that they provide a constant level of soothing relief that helps mum relax into labour but can be 'boosted' to provide addition relief during contractions. Many women find this level of control incredibly empowering as it allows them to be completely in tune with their body's needs, enhancing their level of pain relief exactly when they need it; something that isn't always possible with drug based therapies.

Understandably many mums-to-be are hesitant about using analgesics during labour because of reports they can leave both mother and baby feeling drowsy and unable to nurse or bond properly for several hours after the birth. With tens machines there are no such risks; they can be used safely throughout labour with no adverse side effects at all. In fact some research has suggested that the use of a tens machine in place of analgesics actually reduces the risk of neonatal complications, leads to a quicker recovery from the birth and lowers the risk of a new mother developing postnatal depression. What's more a tens machine can safely be used to provide supplementary pain relief in conjunction with gas and air or pethidine treatments and their use is fully supported by nurses, midwives and doctors.

A tens machine can even play a role after the birth as when worn postnatally it can help to ease the after pains experienced as the uterus contracts, soothe back ache and can even help relieve discomfort from episiotomies or tears.

If you are hoping for a more natural birth experience then tens is definitely a pain relief option worth considering. As tens machines can be used effectively with massage, relaxation techniques, active positioning and even in preparation for a water birth, they really do offer the utmost flexibility when it comes to your birthing experience.

While tens machines are becoming an increasingly popular method of pain relief for childbirth they are still not widely available in nhs hospitals. For this reason if you would like to make use of a tens machine during your labour it's often best to hire or purchase your own; this can be done at minimal cost and will definitely be money well spent.

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