TENS- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation


What is TENS?

A TENS unit is a hand held, battery operated device that transmits mild, soothing electrical impulses through the skin via stimulating pads to stimulate nerve fibers.  It is a safe, non-pharmacological method of pain control in labor and the unit is controlled by the laboring mother.

Why Does TENS Work?

Pain awareness can be reduced by closing the “gate” to pain.  Pain travels along the neurons to the brain slowly.  Pleasure stimuli travels along the neurons to the brain quickly. Starting the TENS in early labor trains the brain to pay attention to the pleasure sensation it creates.  Once the contractions become more painful the soothing tingling impulses close the “gate” to pain and takes the edge off the painful contractions.  The idea is to increase non-painful or pleasant stimuli and reduce painful stimuli.

Purpose of TENS in Labor

Using the TENS in early labor can provide the laboring mother a reduction of labor pain through active labor and transition.

Benefits of TENS

  • Freedom to walk and move around
  • Reduces back pain
  • Takes the edge off painful contractions
  • The unit is controlled by the laboring mother
  • No loss of other sensations or contraction pain
  • No decrease of mental function
  • Continued active participation by laboring mother
  • Postponement of request for epidural
  • No reported harm to mother or baby
  • Does not interfere with EFM


The TENS unit CAN NOT be used by someone who has seizures or a pacemaker.  It must be removed from laboring mother before she gets into the shower or bath.

I am DONA certified to use the TENS unit on laboring mothers.  I include this in my Doula package.  We will need to get an signed consent form from your OB or midwife saying they OK usage of the TENS unit for you while you are in labor.