There are many techniques a doula can use to help you with the pain and discomfort of labor; like massage, counter pressure, heat and cold therapy, position changes, etc. However, recently I was introduced and trained in yet another great comfort measure for labor. The TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) has been used for years to help control pain and labor is a great place to see it in action.
So what exactly is a TENS?
- It is a handheld, battery-operated device, which transmits mild electrical impulses through the skin to stimulate nerve fibers in the back that is controlled by the laboring client.
- It reduces pain in labor while allowing the laboring woman freedom to move and walk.
- It is especially useful for back labor.
Is there research about the TENS in labor?
- Research findings on TENS (Carroll et al, 1997) have shown that laboring women using the device use less pain medication than women using a “sham” TENS device.
- The majority of women surveyed (Chamberlain et al, 1993) rated it as moderately or very helpful in relieving pain, and would use it again in a future labor.
- A study that investigated the use of TENS for back pain in labor found that “TENS has a specific beneficial effect on pain localized in the back.”
Why does is work?
- Gate Control Theory of Pain: basically non-painful or pleasurable sensations travel to the brain faster than painful sensations, therefore reducing the amount of pain sensations felt.
- The TENS actually stimulates your body to make its own natural pain relieving hormones called endorphins.
- The laboring mother controls the TENS so she is able to take control, in a sense, of what is happening with her body.
Who should use it?
- Any laboring mother who has received consent from their care provider who doesn't suffer from epilepsy or have a cardiac pacemaker.
The TENS is a safe and effective way to reduce the sensation of pain during labor. If you are interested in using a TENS during your labor be sure to check with your care provider and discuss your choices with your birth team and doula.
*Information modified from Penny Bussell