TENS and hypnobirthing - can they work together?

Hypnobirthing courses are an amazing, evidence-based way to prepare for your birth, but does use of TENS help or hinder a hypnobirth? We asked expert Hypnobirthing Practitioner Kerry Sutcliffe 

Many hypnobirthing clients seek a drug-free birth. Women and their partners who do a hypnobirthing course with me learn about the process of birth, the hormones assisting a labouring mother and how we are designed to give birth.

A positive birth doesn’t have to be an unmedicated one.

It should be about making informed decisions and choices and heading towards birth in a positive and excited manner. There are many advantages of a normal, physiological birth though - I highly recommend you researching the work of Dr Sarah Buckley on this topic.

But one of the things I encourage pregnant mums to look into to support their desire for a drug-free birth is a TENS machine. I personally used one in each of my three hypno-births and found it AMAZING!!!

A TENS machine complements a hypnobirthing approach to birth wonderfully…

The TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine is a hand-held device, controlled by the birthing mother, which works by sending electrical pulses to the lower part of the back. These electronic impulses send messages to the birthing mothers’ brain which then provides pain relief in one of two ways:

Gate control theory

When the TENS machine is set at a low level it is believed that the buzzing/numbing/tingling sort of sensations that you feel, floods the brain with lots of pleasurable stimuli and that only a certain amount of information can get through the gateway to the brain at any one time. Therefore, the brain starts to focus on the nice sensations from the TENS machine and less so on any labour contractions.

Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Theory

The mother can increase the electrical impulses on the TENS machine throughout labour, and once they reach a high level this causes the mum’s body to release endorphins. Endorphins are a natural pain-relieving hormone, some argue they are 20-40 times as powerful as morphine! So now the birthing mother has her own natural form of pain relief flowing through her body assisting her during the labouring and birthing process.

 

The Hypnobirthing Australia™ program that I teach focuses on the following areas:

  • Creating and maintaining a positive mindset in the lead up to and during birth
  • Tools and techniques to manage labour and birth
  • Making informed choices and decisions
  • The birthing process and how hypnobirthing can help at each stage

 

In turn, a TENS machine can complement a hypnobirthing approach to birth by:

  • Helping to lower anxiety levels and improve maternal satisfaction
  • Helping you to work with your body’s own hormones during birth
  • Avoiding or delaying the use of drugs as a form of pain relief
  • Gives you a sense of control over your labour
  • Potentially lowering pain scores
  • Providing pain-relief at home in the early stages of labour helping you to avoid going to the hospital too soon

If you’d like to read more about the research and evidence on TENS machines go to - Evidence Based Birth - TENS

I highly recommend you head to Bliss Birth to look at hiring/buying a TENS machine for your labour. You can also read birth stories of women who have used a TENS machine and how they found it!

If you don’t have one in your bag ready for when you go into labour then you can’t include this in your ‘toolkit’ of how to manage labour and birth when your baby decides its time to meet you!

Myself and many of my clients have used a TENS machine alongside hypnobirthing and found them to be a winning combination!

I think you may do too!!

Kerry x

Kerry Sutcliffe is an award-winning hypnobirthing practitioner based in Sydney. She provides group and private hypnobirthing and childbirth education courses to pregnant women and their birth partner, and can also offer online programs. She has a background in counselling and psychology and currently works as a researcher in the school of medicine at a Sydney based university researching how antenatal education impacts birthing outcomes for mothers and babies.You can find out more about Kerry and the courses she offers at:

Who is The Hypnobirthing Mum?
Hypnobirthing and childbirth education courses