I have three children & for each of their labours I have used a Maternity TENS machine to help support me through the contractions.
My eldest daughter was born in 2009 & as a first-time parent, not really knowing what to expect from labour & birth I was keen to find out what I could about anything that might help me to cope with contractions & have a positive birthing experience. It was whilst taking an Antenatal Yoga course that I first started to find out more about some of my options when it came to labour & “pain-relief”. For various reasons, my pregnancy was considered “high-risk” & I knew I would be giving birth on Labour ward, so I was determined to do everything I could to achieve a drug-free, natural vaginal birth. It was at my yoga class that I first heard about maternity TENS machines & after doing some research, I decided that my best option was to buy my own – it wasn’t much more expensive to purchase than it was to hire & this hopefully wouldn’t be our only child, so it just made sense to invest & buy our own.
I decided to buy a Mama TENS, which we purchased at around 34wks pregnant. We made sure to read the instructions & familiarise ourselves with how to put it on & how to use it. I felt it was important for my husband to know this too, in case I needed him to help me on the big day!
At 39+6 I awoke at 5.30am to my husbands work alarm going off & decided to get up & go for a pee (oh, the joys of those final weeks/days when you need to pee a million times!) As I came back into the bedroom, I felt a tightening & cramping around my bump - this was my first contraction. By 10am contractions had become regular, but about 10/15mins apart & after phoning the hospital for support, I decided to put the maternity TENS on. We then got dressed & started to get ready to head to the hospital. Once there & everyone agreed this was established labour, I had wanted to use the birth pool. Unfortunately, this option was no longer available to me – but I was managing well & felt that the TENS was really working, so wasn’t too bothered. As labour progressed, I steadily ramped up the power, moving through the various channels & programs & the boost button was an absolute dream during a contraction. I did get to the point where I wanted something more, so I began to use Entonox (gas & air) too. I’m so glad my husband knew how to use the TENS, as at that stage he had to take over with helping to control the TENS for me. After just over 13hours of contractions with just the maternity TENS & some Entonox to help, I gave birth to our daughter. I had achieved the spontaneous, natural birth that I had wanted.
I was so pleased with my labour & birthing experience, that I knew I would use the Mama TENS again! It is small & light, easy to use & by simply changing the electro-pads its ready to be used again.
My second birth was an induction due to gestational diabetes, but my trusty Maternity TENS (& some Entonox) saw me through this (much faster) birth too & third time around I laboured even more quickly but with just the maternity TENS & my breath to support me!
During my second & third pregnancies I also suffered with Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) & in the later stages of pregnancy I used the TENS machine for pain relief to ease the pain associated with PGP & help keep me mobile. The pads are super sticky, meaning if you are careful to replace them onto the protective film in between uses, you can make a set of pads last several uses antenatally & as they are relatively cheap & easy to replace, you can then order a fresh set for labour. I even lent it out to close friends to use during their labours too!
I really would recommend the use of a maternity TENS as a simple, drug-free alternative to helping you manage labour. Even if it’s not for you, you simply stop & take it off. There are no problems, lasting or ill effects to worry about.
Nowadays, I’m working as a Birth & Postnatal Doula, & the Maternity TENS is an option I love to discuss with clients & encourage them to give it a go too.
a.k.a – @DoulaSlingSally (Instagram)
Mum of 3
Birth & Postnatal Doula at Solent Parenting