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The NeuroTrac™ Obstetric TENS Machine is used to help mothers manage the intensity of contractions, particularly in the earlier stages of labour. It provides a mobile, drug-free pain management tool with personal control of pain relief.
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It has been successfully used for many years by pregnant women and professional midwives worldwide to help manage labour pain. The NeuroTrac™ machine is a small, light weight, advanced digital, dual channel, obstetric TENS unit featuring a dedicated labour pain programme (no setup required). The unit can be switched between two modes with the use of a separate hand held ‘boost’ button. One mode is designed for the period between contractions and the other during contractions.
Advantages of using the TENS Machine:
- No effect on the baby, non-invasive, no side-effects
- Allows a woman to stay mobile; move around as needed
- Easy to operate, fully controlled by the woman and can be turned off at any time
- Helps focus the woman’s attention
- Great to use for early labour; safe to use at home or hospital
“I found the TENS machine really helpful. Being my first baby, I had a long period of early labour with lots of backache. It really helped take the edge off this and when things finally stepped up a notch I continued to use it, finding it a great tool and also a point of focus. Thanks Kristin for the smooth and friendly service.” Danielle
How the TENS Machine works:
The TENS works in two ways. The unit consists of a small battery powered stimulator and four electrodes that are placed on the back. The TENS produces tiny electrical impulses that are felt as a tingling or massage sensation. It is through these gentle impulses that the TENS provides two effects:
1. Stimulates the release of endorphins
The electrical stimulation of the nerves also activates and enhances the release of your body’s natural pain-inhibiting chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals and their ability to produce an analgesic effect helps give you a sense of well-being and calmness, and hence less pain.
2. Helps reduce the pain signals from reaching the brain (also known as the Pain Gate Theory)
When we experience pain, messages are sent along the nerves to the brain and then pain is felt. The TENS releases electrical impulses via self-adhesive pads to stimulate the nerves under the skin. This electrical stimulation blocks the labour pain messages from reaching the brain. The brain then registers the more pleasant tingling sensation (produced by TENS machine) rather than the intense pain signals caused by the contraction.
Is it easy to use?
Yes. Easy to follow instructions and diagrams come with the TENS, including where to place the 4 electrode pads. The first two self-adhesive electrodes are placed on either side of your spine at T10 – L1 (just under your bra line). This corresponds to the nerve supply to the uterus, hence reducing the pain felt in your lower abdominal area during a contraction.
The next two electrodes are placed on the lower back at the pelvis level at S2 – S4 (where you feel two dimples). This helps block back pain and the pain from the stretch of the pelvic floor and perineum area, which some women may experience during the first and second stages of labour.
What does it feel like?
Under each electrode, you should feel a mild tingling sensation, which some people say feels like a soothing back massage.
Should I practice using it before labour begins?
Yes, it is good to be familiar with the placement of the electrode pads, the sensations given and the increase/decrease in intensity. This is safe to do after 37 weeks of pregnancy. The electrodes can be taken off and placed back onto the plastic film they come with to be used again for labour. Doing a practice run just one time is usually enough.
When do I use the TENS Machine in labour?
TENS is more effective if used right from when labour begins. Some women also find it beneficial during pre-labour. For optimal pain relief whilst using the TENS, its best coupled with other coping strategies, such as relaxation techniques, breath awareness and active labour positions.
Can I still have a bath, shower or waterbirth?
Yes, but NOT with the electrode pads and/or the TENS Machines still attached to your back. You must remove the whole device first as you run the risk of getting an electric shock. The electrode pads provided are re-useable, so once you have removed them from your back, place them back onto the plastic film that it came in (so remember not to throw that away!) If you want to use it again remember to wipe your skin dry and then reapply it on to your back.
Can I use a normal TENS Machine for my labour pain?
Obstetric TENS Machines have been specifically designed for use during labour. The electrodes are much larger, hence more comfortable to have on for long periods of time. The programs are pre-set so it is easier to use and less adjustments are needed. An Obstetric TENS Machine also has a booster button (right) to increase/decrease the frequency to a higher/lower intensity instantaneously without lagging. This booster button is specifically designed to reduce the intense pain during each contraction.
Will it cause any harm to the baby?
No. TENS Machines are safe to use if applied according to the instructions given, so will not cause any harm to the mother or the baby.
Can I use the TENS Machine along with pharmaceutical pain relief?
Yes. Some women use the TENS Machine whilst also using the nitrous oxide gas at the hospital or after having pethidine.
Will I cope with labour just using the TENS machine alone?
An individual’s experiences and perceptions of pain are very different, and how well we cope with it is also very different. Therefore a TENS Machine can work extremely well for some people, helping them get through all 3 stages of labour using the TENS alone, whilst others may find that they need other forms of pain relieving techniques or drugs to help them towards the end.
Overall, the majority of those who have used a TENS machine were very satisfied with the results. Particularly because the TENS machine gave them a safe and effective pain relieving technique to help with the birth of their child. As a doula, I have seen many women use the TENS Machine for both the early and active stages of labour; often only removing it to get into the birth pool or to have some time in the shower.
Do hospitals have Obstetric TENS machines?
Most hospitals do not supply TENS machines as they prefer that you hire the machine externally.
This way you can have it at home well before labour starts so you can practice and familiarise yourself with the device. Obstetric TENS has been proven to be more effective when introduced at the earlier stages of labour, not when you are already in a stressful situation upon arrival at the hospital.
Can I use the TENS Machine for the afterpains after having my baby?
Yes. Some women also use the TENS for uterus afterpains. These are often more painful in women who have had more than 1 baby and particularly noticeable whilst breastfeeding. This is a normal sensation of the uterus involuting (shrinking) back to its pre-pregnancy size. The TENS can help the release of endorphins to ease this cramping.
What are the precautions and contraindications of the TENS machine?
You should not use the TENS unit under the following circumstances:
- Before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- On the abdomen at any time during pregnancy or labour
- If you have a heart pacemaker
- If you have, or have ever had, a heart rhythm problem
- If you are suffering from acute feverish conditions
- If you are suffering from infectious diseases or tumours
- When driving, cycling or operating machinery
- If you have, or have had, epilepsy you MUST obtain the full approval of your doctor prior to using the TENS Machine.
- Pads should NOT be placed on the carotid sinuses located at the front of the neck, or over the eyes, or cross-cranially, i.e. across both temples at the same time.
- Pads should NOT be placed on broken skin or on areas where normal sensation is absent.
The Obstetric TENS Machine Hire Package:
The typical hire period is 4 weeks, beginning around Week 38 of your pregnancy.
The total cost is $120: $70 for the TENS package plus a $50 refundable deposit.
This $50 deposit is returned via EFT when the TENS is returned. If you require additional weeks these are charged at $10 per week and are deducted from your $50 deposit.
The Hire Package includes:
- The NeuroTrac™ Obstetric TENS Machine – sanitised and ready to use
- 1 set of 4 electrode pads (100mm x 50mm). Additional pads available for $22 per pack of 4 pads.
- 2 x battery (9V) (1 as spare)
- Easy to follow basic instructions, including precautions and contraindications.
- A self-addressed, prepaid Australia Post satchel for return of the unit.
How to Hire:
To hire the NeuroTrac™ Obstetric TENS Machine, please contact Kristin here.
“The service was quick, efficient and professional. The TENS Machine was new, clean and easy to use. Highly recommend BodyWise BirthWise!” Amanda
A short video discussing the use of the TENS Machine for labour: