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Women's experiences of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for pain control in labour

Shawley, Lucinda (2011) Women's experiences of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for pain control in labour University of Southampton, Faculty of Health Sciences, Doctoral Thesis , 258pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The vision for maternity services focuses on women-centred care with choice, control and promoting normality at its centre, thus emphasising the need to empower women to make choices and decisions regarding their care in labour and birth. Some women will choose the medical model of care, however others prefer to be in control and choose to use non-pharmacological alternatives for pain control in labour such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). TENS has enabled the provision of non-invasive, mobile, self-controlled pain relief for women in labour and is used extensively by women in the UK who, when asked, assess it favourably and say they would use it again. Currently the available literature on TENS fails to consider individual women’s experiences of using TENS for labour and birth, this study therefore seeks to redress this balance.

Set in the south of England, the study uses Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) in order to explore the experiences of twenty purposively selected women, who were interviewed to expose their in-depth experiences of using TENS for pain control in labour and birth. The analysis of the verbatim transcripts revealed comprehensive findings ensuring an idiographic focus along with making claims for the larger group of women. In this study women used TENS as part of a combination of more natural pain control or as a ‘sole’ form of pain control for labour and birth. TENS was recognised as being part of a wider strategy for the maintenance of control in labour and normal birth for women. A super-ordinate theme of ‘control’ emerged from the data particularly relating to ‘internal control of self’, ‘external control of others’ and ‘control of the TENS machine’. Women’s positive experiences were enhanced by remaining mobile, using drug free pain control, being knowledgeable, having partners’ and midwives’ support, being distracted from their pain and trusting in TENS.

By uncovering a group of women’s in-depth experiences of using TENS for pain control in labour and birth this study has filled a “gap” in the knowledge base. In addition, the findings suggest that TENS was identified as an ‘enabling mechanism’ for the women in order to be in control of a normalised birth. Women were able to maintain their independence, make decisions and actively take part in their pain control using TENS.

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Published date: March 2011
Organisations: University of Southampton, Faculty of Health Sciences


Local EPrints ID: 210925
PURE UUID: 78d9b65c-6b32-495d-afa6-2fbc2905a3d9
ORCID for Elizabeth Cluett: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 21 Mar 2012 16:17
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 10:44

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Author: Lucinda Shawley
Thesis advisor: Andree Le May
Thesis advisor: Elizabeth Cluett ORCID iD

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