Can I Use a TENS Unit While Pregnant?

If you’re wondering what is a TENS unit used for, check out our other articles that go in detail about their use and how they work. We also have an article regarding the question "Does TENS therapy work?" if you’re interested in an in-depth explanation.

Using A TENS Unit during Pregnancy

Is it safe to use a TENS unit while pregnant? That question has a lot of mixed answers. Generally there are few TENS unit risks, and this electric stimulation device has very few side effects under normal circumstances. But, there is very little evidence regarding how a TENS unit effects women during both early pregnancy and late pregnancy.

The use of TENS units for women in their first or second trimester is very limited, but some reviews state that TENS machines can be effective tools to reduce pain all throughout pregnancy.

In general, a TENS machine works by sending electrical pulses through the brain that prevent pain signals from your nerves from setting off your response. In simpler terms, the electrical pulses stop the pain. You apply the TENS pads on your skin on top of where the pain is coming from. The electrical pulses from the TENS unit are strong enough to cause a tingling sensation, but should not be set so high that they lead to pain or muscle twitching.

How Does a TENS Unit Help?

Most mid-wives support the use of TENS machines during pregnancy to help with the pain of carrying the baby. The TENS pads are placed on the back to help with back pain. TENS units don’t directly interfere with your labor and are overall very safe. There are little side effects of using a TENS machine. You can use a TENS machine yourself, making application and use very easy even when pregnant. Remember that it’s safe for you and your baby as long as you don’t experience anything listed below.

When NOT to Use a TENS Unit

If you are less than thirty-seven weeks pregnant, it is commonly not recommended to use a TENS unit. To the best of our knowledge, there is no study validating whether you can use a TENS unit before 37 weeks or not. Most of the manufacturers don't recommend the use of a TENS unit throughout pregnancy. Best thing to do would be asking your physician about when and how you can use this pain relieving option safely during pregnancy.

You should also avoid using a TENS unit if you have a pacemaker or a problem with your heart rhythm. If you have undiagnosed pain or have epilepsy, do not use a TENS unit until you consult your physician or midwife.

TENS units should not be taken in or around water as this can result in technology glitches and over-saturation of the pads (neither good), so if you are in a shower, bath, or plan to use a birth pool, do not attempt to use a TENS unit.

Pros & Cons of TENS Units during Pregnancy

There are many good sides to using a TENS machine during pregnancy, these include:

  • It doesn’t debilitate you in any way. The machine itself is very small and portable, so you’ll be able to move while using it.
  • It’s a very safe method and completely non-invasive, so it will in no way interfere with your pregnancy.
  • TENS unites were designed to be used long-term, so you can leave it on for as long as you need and then easily remove it when you want to.
  • There aren’t any lasting side effects so this is a very safe method for both you and your baby.
  • It’s simple to use and control, you can apply it yourself without the help of a doctor or midwife.
  • If you’re planning on a home birth, you may find a TENS machine very crucial to a pain-free process, see our article on TENS machines for labor for more information.
  • Finally, it’s again very simple and totally adaptable to your needs through two easy controls that you hold the remote to.

There are some things you should consider, though, before using a TENS machine. First off, make sure you are safe to use a TENS unit by asking your doctor and midwife. If you are in the early-stages of pregnancy, consult with your doctor before use, also consider the following:

  • While the machine is easy to use, pads are typically placed on the lower back which may require help from someone.
  • It can help throughout pregnancy, but don’t begin using it early on without first consulting your midwife or doctor.
  • You can hire TENS machines, but they are typically on the expensive side starting at about $50 per month. The cost to purchase one is much higher.
  • If your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically, the TENS machine will be removed.

If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to make a guided decision when it comes time to choose whether or not you should use a TENS machine during your later months of pregnancy. Always consult with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions or are experiencing any side effects. In order to make sure your baby is completely safe and healthy; discontinue use if you are in doubt.

TENS machines can prove to be valuable tools to help relieve pain during pregnancy, so take up the opportunity to use one if you think it may help make your pregnancy better and happier. 




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