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T: What Is A TENS Machine?

03/12/2009 15:04 | Updated 22 May 2015

A TENS machine gives small electric pulses to the body as a form of pain relief.

These machines are widely used by women to provide some relief, especially during the earlier stages of labour. However, they may not be effective for everyone.

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The machine consists of a small box attached to electrodes inside pads, which are to be placed onto the skin of your back.

When switched on, you will feel a strong pins and needles sensation.

The idea is that over time the shocks provoke your body into releasing natural painkilling endorphins. Another theory of why TENS works is that the pain signals are prevented from getting to your brain by the electrical current.

It is a drug-free form of pain relief that can appeal to women wanting a natural labour, it is mobile, plus it is entirely safe for mothers and babies.

Another benefit is that you can manage the level and frequency of pulses used yourself. This gives you some control, and a helpful distraction, at what can be an anxious time.

TENS machines can't be used in water, so you can't combine TENS with a birth pool, although it can be used alongside gas and air or pethidine.

Few hospitals supply TENS machines so you will probably have to buy or hire your own if you are keen to try this form of pain relief.

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