Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a non-pharmacological method of pain relief during labour. Adhesive electrical pads are placed to the lower back and the frequency and intensity is controlled by the individual. Studies have reported that there are no harmful side effects to either mother or baby.

A study conducted by Santana,L. et al 2016 researched if TENS reduces pain and postpones the need for pharmacological analgesia during labour. The study looked at 2 groups where one group had a TENS + routine obstetric care and the other received just routine obstetric care. Here is what they found;

Application of TENS

  • Tens pads placed at the lower back (level T10-L1 & S2-S4)
  • Used once 4cm dilated.
  • Settings
    • Continuous, asymmetric pulse width
    • 100us 100 Hz
    • Intensity set by individual.


  • TENS at the beginning of active labour significantly decreased pain.
  • Those who used TENS had a delayed need for neuraxial pain relief compared to those who didn’t use a TENS.
  • Women who used TENS reported a higher satisfaction with their labour pain then those who didn’t use TENS.
  • No research at the time reported any harmful effects to the baby or mother.

This is just one article that has been used to demonstrate the benefit of TENS. The articles sited research from Bedwell et al, Carroll et al had found that there was no difference in pain scores for those who did or did not use TENS. However, it was found that the women who used TENS for their labour were more likely to use it in a future labour.

Therefore, as you can see from this research TENS is a non-pharmacological pain relief tool you can use during labour that has no reported harmful effects to mother or infant.


  1. Cochrane Complementary Medicine. The Effect of TENS for Pain Relief in Labour
  2. Licia Santos Santana, Rubneide Barreto Silva Gallo, Cristine Homsi Jorge Ferreira, Geraldo Duarte, Silvana Maria Quintana, Alessandra Cristina Marcolin. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) reduces pain and postpones the need for pharmacological analgesia during labour: a randomised trial,Journal of Physiotherapy,Volume 62, Issue 1,2016,Pages 29-34,ISSN 1836-9553,