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How To Use the MamaTENS to Labour Longer at Home

How To Use the Perfect MamaTENS to Labour Longer at Home

When it comes to pregnancy, there’s something we often think about but don’t talk about nearly enough: Labour pain. As you move through your pregnancy, and get closer to the due date, thinking about labour pain management is going to become increasingly important.  

There are a variety of options for pain relief during labour including medicinal options like epidural, morphine and laughing gas. If you’re looking for natural, drug-free options, a Labour TENS Machine is a very effective way to relieve labour pain naturally.  

How Does a Labour TENS Machine Work? 

Our favourite TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine for labour pain is the Perfect MamaTENS from TensCare because it’s very compact and was specifically designed to help you labour longer in the comfort of your own home. It’s safe for both mother and baby and has been proven to reduce anxiety and pain related to labour contractions.  

The Perfect MamaTENS uses electrode pads, placed on either side of your spine on the mid-back and lower back. When you turn on the device, it sends electrical nerve stimulations that release endorphins and interrupt pain signals to the brain.  

Aside from providing pain relief, the MamaTENS machine can also allow you to remain upright and mobile for longer during labour, which can aid in dilatation and the decent of your baby. The MamaTENS comes with a travel kit so you can easily stash it in your labour bag, ready for when it’s time to go to the hospital!  

MamaTens Labour Tens Machine

How to Use the Perfect MamaTENS  

Another thing that makes the MamaTENS great, is how simple it is to use, which is important when you’re dealing with intense contractions!  

Our friends at Mother’s Choice Products have made a helpful video that explains how to use the device. Watch the video for a step-by-step guide to using the Perfect MamaTENS device: 

Getting Ready for Labour 

Planning for labour and choosing how to manage labour pain is very personal. The most important thing is to choose what works for you, but also allow yourself to be flexible because sometimes labour doesn’t go as planned. You can do this, mama! 

Read a personal experience of using the MamaTENS from one of our Mama Bear Club mamas. 


Perfect Mama TENS – A Labour Lifesaver

Perfect Mama TENS – A Labour Lifesaver

Hey there Mamas! My name is Serena and I just gave birth to my first child, a beautiful little boy, 4 weeks ago, and I wanted to introduce you to the Perfect Mama TENS machine! Maybe you’re all made of stronger stuff than I am but I was straight up terrified of giving birth throughout most of my first and second trimester. By the time the third trimester rolled around, I was merely extremely nervous about labour (thank goodness for prenatal classes and kind sisters  who told me their birth stories). It was at this point that I was told about TENS machines specifically designed for labour, which completely changed my whole labour experience and helped me deliver the sweetest Christmas present ever!

How Does A Labour TENS Machine Work?

If you haven’t heard of a TENS machine, people usually use them for back issues – my mom has had one forever but I had never heard of ones specifically for labour. Essentially a TENS machine takes advantage of Gate Control as a pain management tool during labour. Your prenatal class may talk about Gate Control in terms of pleasure/pain – if you give your body a pleasurable sensation, like a kiss or caress, it will beat the pain of your contraction to your brain and cause the pain to be significantly less. TENS machines send a low-level electrical current through your body which essentially does the same thing by reducing the pain of each contraction. I would strongly recommend getting a labour-specific one like the Perfect Mama as I doubt other TENS machines will be able to deliver the right level of electrical current in the right places to help with labour.

A Guide To The Perfect Mama Labour TENS Machine

The Perfect Mama comes with 4 pads and very specific instructions as far as pad placement goes – they’re meant to be placed essentially where the large nerves feed to your spine from your uterus. The pads are large and easy to apply, although I do recommend testing out the placement and sensation of the TENS machine before you go into labour (but after your are 37 weeks pregnant) so that you feel comfortable with it before labour starts (trust me, your labour partner is going to want to know how to apply the pads quickly and efficiently!).

How It Works

The Perfect Mama Labour TENS Machine has a huge range of settings. You start in ‘A’ mode as soon as your labour starts and then you can ramp up through ‘B’ and ‘C’ modes as your labour progresses. There are 40 levels in each mode so it is super easy to customize exactly what level you need as your labour progresses. The machine is constantly delivering low level current the entire time in a pulsing sensation, and then when you have a contraction, you press the ‘Boost’ button on the side to give you a steady current throughout your contraction. When your contraction is over, you press the ‘Boost’ button again and it returns to a pulsing pattern. In ‘C’ mode the ‘Boost’ button works slightly differently, by ramping up intensity throughout the contraction, but I didn’t end up using that mode in my labour.

Okay, but how does it work in real life?

I am not going to lie (and it was only 4 weeks ago so I have not forgotten how much labour hurts yet!), I held on to my Perfect Mama like my life depended on it. I started using it as soon as my contractions started, and they came hard and fairly close together. My labour started right as I was getting to bed (the first sign that my son planned on stealing all my sleep, likely for the rest of my life) and as soon as I realized I wasn’t going to sleep through any contractions, I got my husband to apply the pads and I started up my Perfect Mama. One of the most important in-the-moment features of the Perfect Mama is something so simple – a cord to hang it around your neck. I changed my clothes at least four times throughout my labour but the Perfect Mama never came off me, hanging around my neck while I clutched the machine.

In early and active labour, I used it on every single contraction and it took the edge off every time. It helped me feel in control of my contractions and the ability to change the intensity as needed, easily and intuitively, made me feel like I could manage my labour so much better. The battery life is also phenomenal – I laboured for 18 hours before I headed to the hospital and never once did I have to change batteries on the Perfect Mama. I’m not going to pretend that my labour was painless, far from it, but the Perfect Mama helped me manage the pain naturally and scaled flawlessly as the pain changed.

Because I wasn’t dialating properly (apparently I have a very strong ‘fight’ reflex when it comes to pain), I was in transition-like pain for well over four hours (generally it is supposed to last about 20 minutes and is often the time women tell their partners they will never have another child – I certainly did). During the entire time I still faithfully used my Perfect Mama TENS machine, because even at that level of pain, it still helped! Eventually the midwife and I decided that I had to have an epidural or this baby wasn’t coming and we headed to the hospital, which I absolutely dreaded because it meant I had to take the Perfect Mama off (the manual said you can’t use it in a moving vehicle, and it was the longest drive of my life). As soon as we were at the hospital, I fired the Perfect Mama back up until I had to take it off for the epidural.

A Couple Improvements

There are two small areas that I would love to see improve in version 2.0 of the Perfect Mama TENS Machine. Number one, the pads could be a bit stickier – maybe I had some leftover lotion on or something but even after wiping myself totally clean before applying the pads, we had to use some additional sticky tape to keep the pads on. Second, I would have loved it if there was the option to only have the current during the contractions as opposed to all the time.I found that I was often reducing the level between contractions as the pulse was too strong, and then having to increase the power level back up during a contraction, which was more work than just pressing the ‘Boost’ button and meant the Boost didn’t happen before the peak of the contraction sometimes. I’m not sure if there is a medical reason the pulse needs to be on all the time but it would be wonderful to see that option in the future. In fact I didn’t make it out of the ‘A’ mode for this reason – the pulse was too strong between contractions but would have been perfect during a contraction.

Final Thoughts

The Perfect Mama Labour TENS Machine was a fantastic, natural way to manage my pain throughout labour, especially in the early and active labour stages. I was super grateful to have it throughout the process and hung onto it for dear life. I will (and already have) absolutely recommend it to other Mamas I know for their labour and it will be a key part of my birth plan for my second (yes, I did eventually tell my husband I was open to having a second, although we will see how sleep training goes with this one first…). Good luck with your labours Mama – as cliche as it is to say, it will all feel worth it when you hold your sweet baby for the first time, and every moment afterward.

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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for Pain Relief During Labour

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for Pain Relief During Labour 

A TENS machine is a way of managing pain without drugs. It uses electrical pulses and the theories of Gate Control and Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control; both of which changes the way the brain perceives pain. TENS machines are easily available and consist of a hand-held device connected to electrodes that work through pads placed on the body. Through the electrodes, electrical pulses are sent through the spinal cord and into the brain. Researchers think that TENS works by changing how a person perceives their pain. 

The machine allows you to control the intensity of the pulses and TENS therapy can be stopped at any time without any residual effects. It can be used anywhere, just not in water. To use TENS machine for childbirth it is best to use a unit specifically designed for labour pain.  

TENS units have been used since the 1970s to relieve pain for a variety of conditions such as menstrual pain, arthritis, and other chronic pain conditions. The FDA has also approved it for use in treating post-surgery and traumatic pain. TENS is used all over the world, but it is important for you to find out if your preferred hospital or midwife has units available for you to use, or if you need to provide your own unit. The Perfect MamaTENS is a great option if you would like to invest in your own unit.

Low-Intensity TENS & Gate Control Theory 

The first theory on how TENS works involves when it is used on the lower settings and involves what is called Gate Control Theory. This theory works on the idea that only a certain amount of stimuli can get through to the brain. The idea of a gateway means that if you flood the brain with sensory information the gateway manages signals so the brain doesn’t register the pain as clearly. 

High-Intensity TENS & Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control 

But scientists believe the mechanism changes when the intensity is increased. The thoughts behind Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control theory is that by stimulating the body with another source of pain, the body is triggered to release its natural defense of pain-relieving hormones called endorphins. It tricks the brain to create its own pain relief. 

Researchers also think that TENS during labour might work by decreasing anxiety, making you feel like you have more control over your labour, and by providing a distraction from contractions. 

How to Choose a TENS Unit  

There are different types of TENS units available and it is best to choose one specifically made to deal with labour pain. Mothers tend to like units with larger pads as labour pain can be spread out, and some (like the Perfect MamaTENS) have a boost button which is useful to push during a contraction. 

A TENS machine can be purchased anywhere and doesn’t require special training. Some studies have shown that when a trained acupuncturist applied the pads to acupuncture points it increased the unit’s performance.  

Research on TENS & Labour pain 

Much of the research on TENS and labour pain management has been done since 2011. Here are summaries of four of the biggest studies: 

Dowswell et al. (2011) Cochrane Review  

This review involved 17 randomized controlled trials with a total of about 1,500 participants. The groups were broken down into three with one using routine care, one using a placebo TENS (where pads were applied but the unit was not turned on or only on a low intensity), and the last compared TENS to other non-drug pain relief methods.  There are some concerns that the subjects became aware that their unit was not turned on and so damaged the results of placebo trials. 

The study found that there was not much difference in pain levels reported between people who used TENS and the control group. But they found that when people applied TENS to acupuncture points, they rated their pain less severely than the control group.  

Interestingly people in both the TENS group and placebo TENS group were more likely to say they’d use the method in the future. It may be that having a TENS unit gave the mothers a distraction and a sense of control. 

Shahoei et al. (2017) 

A study in Iran used a randomized controlled trial where 90 first-time mothers were assigned either a low intensity TENS, a placebo TENS, or routine care. The treatment was started at about four-centimeter dilation and continued until birth. 

After the first hour, there was not much of a difference in pain scores across all three groups, but at two, three, and four hours significant differences in pain levels were reported. During the pushing stage of labour only 20% of the people in the TENS group reported severe pain compared to about 83% – 87% of mothers in the other two groups. 

Four hours after birth only 7% of the mothers in the TENS group recalled severe pain whereas 43% of those in the placebo group and 60% of the standard care group remembered their pain as severe. 

Santana et al. (2016) 

Researchers in Brazil held a randomized trial where 46 first-time mothers were assigned to either TENS or standard care. In the TENS group treatment was started when the patient reached about four centimeters dilation. The treatment consisted of placing the pads on the back area for 30 minutes. Then asking the mother to report her pain levels. 

Before the application of TENS 70% of participants in both groups reported their pain to be a seven or higher on a one to ten pain scale. Of those who received TENS treatment only 34% said their pain was a seven or higher compared to 83% of mothers in the standard care group. 

It was also found that those randomly assigned to receive TENS treatment were found to wait about seven hours before they requested additional pain relief, compared to only two hours in the standard care group.  This study found no differences in reports of maternal satisfaction with TENS or no TENS. 

Shaban et al. (2013) 

In 2013, researchers in Egypt randomly assigned 100 mothers in active labour to receive either low-intensity TENS applied to the back until the participants reached 10 centimeters dilation or an injection of the narcotic Pethidine/Demerol.  

Both groups reported decreases in pain with no significant difference between them. At 48 hours after the birth, 83% of the TENS group participants were satisfied with their experience compared to 10% of the other group. The Demerol group also reported side effects including drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Babies in the Demerol group also had lower Apgar scores. The TENS group reported no side effects. 


Though more research needs to be done, the results seen so far are promising, especially in regards to TENS users listing no side effects. The current evidence points to TENS as a useful option for pain management during labour. 

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Labour Pain Relief: What is a TENS Machine?

Labour Pain Relief: What is a TENS Machine?

The pain experienced during labour is different for every woman and can vary pregnancy to pregnancy. Preferences on how to manage that pain also differ, and each expecting mom will have her own ideal plan. Researching the available options is an important step in preparing for your labour. 

What is TENS for Labour? 

If you would prefer to avoid drugs or delay the use of drugs or other medical interventions and are opting for natural labour pain relief, a TENS machine may be just the thing for you. TENS stands for “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.” The machine itself is a small device with a clip on the back that you can attach to your clothing. It releases little pulses of electrical energy that override the pain signals to your brain. 

How does a TENS machine work? 

women on exercise ball with TENS pads on back

Leading out of the TENS device are two sets of wires connected to four sticky pads. Ideally, your birth partner will place the pads on your back for you. Put one pad on each side of your spine, at about bra-strap level. The remaining two pads should be placed further down your back, near the base of your spine, just above your underwear line. The pads are covered in a gel to help the electrical pulses pass through your skin more easily. 

There are buttons that allow you to adjust and control the frequency and strength of the pulses. There’s also a boost button for you to hold in your hand and press when you want maximum output from the machine to help you with a difficult contraction. You can increase or decrease the intensity at any time. Always follow the instructions that come with your TENS machine. 

How does a TENS machine reduce pain? 

There are several theories on what makes a TENS machine effective. One is that the electrical pulses override the pain signals from reaching your brain. Another is that the pulses stimulate your body to release its own natural, feel-good substances, called endorphins. 

It’s most likely that various factors interact to make TENS work. It may give you a feeling of control over your contractions, it may help you to feel less anxious, and it also may provide a distraction from your contractions. 

When and how should I use TENS? 

TENS seems to work best and give you the most effective pain relief when you start using it at the very beginning of your labour. TENS machines can be used after 37 weeks of pregnancy if you want to practice or use it at home before you transition to the hospital (if you’re having a hospital birth). 

It generally takes about an hour for your body to respond to the electrical impulses by releasing endorphins, so start using it when you’re getting regular contractions or backache. You may find your machine works better at relieving your back pain rather than abdominal pain. 

Start with the controls at their lowest settings and gradually turn them up as your contractions or back pain gets more intense. You can use the boost button at the peak of your contractions for a little extra relief. Some machines are pre-programmed to be used at the different stages of labour.  

What are the advantages? 

  • It’s portable and non-invasive. 
  • It’s under your control. 
  • It’s easy to use. 
  • You can keep moving while using it. 
  • You can use it for as long as you want and then take it off. There are no lasting side-effects. 
  • It’s safe for your baby. 
  • You don’t need an anesthesiologist, doctor or midwife to administer it, so you can start using it as soon as you want to, as soon as your labour begins.  
  • It can be used for a home birth

What are the disadvantages? 

  • You will need someone to help you put the pads on. 
  • It may only help in the early stages of labour
  • It may be difficult to find a TENS machine in your area.  
  • It may have to be removed if your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically. 
  • If you want to use a birthing pool or have a bath, you can use TENS before you get in the water, but not when you are in the water. 
  • It can make it more difficult for your birth partner to massage your back, which can also be an effective form of pain relief. 

Useful tips 

  • Don’t give up right away if you think your TENS isn’t doing anything. It usually takes at least an hour of using it for your body to build up endorphins in response to the stimulation. 
  • Take the pads off every three hours and reapply the gel to ensure good contact with your skin. 
  • Keep mobile. Moving around during labour helps women feel more in control and should, therefore, enhance the effect of TENS. 
  • If you don’t feel like it’s helping you, take it off and don’t feel bad. You’ve lost nothing. All other forms of pain relief, both medical and non-medical, are still open to you. 

Where do I find a TENS machine? 

You may need to call a midwife or Doula clinic to track a TENS machine down. Your doctor or midwife/doula should be able to help you track one down; ask for their help during a prenatal appointment. 

Once you find a TENS machine, the midwife will show you how to use it during your labour. Or check out this video.  

TensCare machines can be purchased online through the link below.  

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