Monday, June 16, 2014

TENS in Labor

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, contact your doula or feel free to email me and I can give you more information.

*Information modified from Penny Bussell