TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
TENS units are small, battery-operated devices that you can hold in your hand or keep in your pocket, which attach to four adhesive electrode pads that stick to your lower back.
TENS sends a very small electric current through the skin which stimulates your body's own natural defenses against pain. TENS is completely safe, has been used by thousands of expectant mothers and is recommended by midwives.
The sensory nerves which carry touch and temperature signals are stimulated. These nerves go to the same connections in the spine as the nerves carrying the pain signals. A strong sensory signal will block the pain signal traveling up the spine to the brain, this is known as the "Pain Gate".
At low frequency settings, and slightly stronger output, TENS drives the motor nerves to produce a small repetitive muscle contraction. This is seen by the brain as exercise, and this promotes release of Endorphins - your body's own natural pain killer. This builds up Endorphins and normally takes around 40 minutes to reach a maximum level which can last for hours.
When can you use TENS?
You can use TENS at home before your due date for pregnancy backache (from 37 weeks into pregnancy) and as soon as your contraction pain starts. Ensure it is with you when you need it most - if you do not use it before labour, remember to pack it in your hospital bag! You must also remember to take it off if you are using a birthing pool!
After you have had your baby, Maternity TENS can provide relief from cramps and backache. Even if you have had a Caesarean you can use the unit to give you relief from pain afterwards.
The advantages of TENS
The advantages of using TENS during childbirth include: