Do Tens Machines Work To Ease Labor Pain?

When I was preparing for labor I bought a tens machine, which I was told would help ease the labor pains until I was dilated enough to go to the hospital.

What is a tens machine?

Tens stands for “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” and it’s a method of pain relief involving the use of a mild electrical current. In the end my contractions came so fast and furiously that I totally forgot I even had the little contraption. I couldn’t get up from the bathroom floor let alone rummage through my closet for the machine! In the end my husband told me that if I don’t get off the bathroom floor I’d never get the epidural. I made it to the hospital and into a labor and delivery room at 7cm dilated and got the epidural at about 8cm.

So did I miss out? Could I have eased my pain using a tens machine?

I can’t count how many women I personally know who swear it helped them and I connected with many women online in various pregnancy groups who similarly said it helped ease their pain in the early stages of labor, but is there any actual proof besides anecdotal?

In short: no.

“With a tens machine, you place sticky pads on your skin and can induce electrical stimulation to your muscles, but while it’s used to decrease pain there is no evidence that it actually works,” says Dr. Tamika K. Cross, MD, FACOG and pH-D Feminnine Health Advisor. “There’s no recommendation for pregnant women to use it. Many pregnant women use it in labor to lessen the pain associated with labor pains.”

So take the benefits with a grain of salt, but there’s no risk to trying it if you remember that you have the machine! Other options that Dr. Cross recommends are relaxing in water, heat and massage and moving around during labor.

Did you use a tens machine to easy labor pain?

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