TENS machine and using gas and air

You can also use a TENS machine or gas and air during labour.

TENS machine

The word 'TENS' stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This involves passing a gentle electrical current through flat pads on your back. It works better if started early in labour.

You, your birth partner or midwife tape the electrodes to your back. These are connected to a small battery-operated stimulator. You can hold this and give yourself small doses of electric current.

The small electric current stimulates the body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers. Check if your maternity unit supplies TENS machines. If not, they can be rented.

Using gas and air (Entonox)

You can be given gas and air (Entonox) to help with labour pain. Entonox is half nitrous oxide and half oxygen.

You breathe in or inhale the Entonox through a mouthpiece, which you hold yourself. You should start breathing it as soon as the contraction begins. Entonox can be used at any time during labour.

Using Entonox will not take the pain away completely but will reduce it. It also helps to focus your breathing. It takes 15 to 20 seconds to work. It works best if you use it at the start of a contraction and take long, slow, deep breaths.

There are no harmful side-effects to you or your baby. It can make you feel dizzy, light-headed or a little nauseous. If you find these symptoms are bothering you, stop using it and the effects wear off very quickly.

Page last reviewed: 4 December 2018
Next review due: 4 December 2021