Aromatherapy has historically been very beneficial for a woman during pregnancy, and essential oils have been used to ease her discomforts, nurture her, and help reduce her stress. It can also giver her more control over the birth, and according to Battaglia, aromatherapy can make her labor quicker and easier, and reduce the need for drugs and other interventions.
How can aromatherapy be helpful in childbirth?
According to Battagla, some essential oils have traditionally been used to strengthen and deepen contractions, while they also have analgesic, pain relieving effect. He writes that vaporized essential oils may be used to create an anxiety free atmosphere. Lavender, grapefruit, bergamot, neroli, rose, and tangerine have proven to be the most useful.
Jasmine compresses or massages have historically been used in the sacral area when suffering from pain. Battaglia states that compresses of rose water have traditionally been used for general relief.
In Battaglia's book, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, we learn about a study conducted by Caroline Blamey and Ethel Burns evaluated the effects of essential oils in a labor ward. They used the essential oils eucalyptus, frankincense, rose, lemon, peppermint, clary sage, mandarin, and lavender.
The results were:
- Lavender was the most popular oil. It was used for pain relief, to lighten mood and to reduce maternal anxiety.
- Clary sage was the oil used the most to increase contractions. Once in the labor the women felt more anxious and lavender was the preferred oil to relax them.
- Peppermint was the oil mostly used for nausea and vomiting during the later stages of labor.
During the first stage of labor, the dilation of the cervix, which can take anywhere from 2 - 24 hours, Battaglia recommends to massage with the essential oils of jasmine, rose, neroli, or clary sage to help the mother relax between the contractions.
Battaglia put together a list of essential oils for the delivery room in his book, 'The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy':
Oils for the delivery room
- uterine stimulant
- natural antiseptic
- slight analgesic
- facilitates easy breathing
- circulatory stimulant
- slight analgesic effect
- antiseptic, anti-inflammatory
- promotes healing of wounds
- headaches and fainting
- uterine tonic
- analgesic and antispasmodic
- uterine tonic
Geranium, according to Worwood:
- circulation stimulation. One of the best circulatory oils according to Worwood, and if circulation is good, then breathing will be easier.
- good for uterus and enometrium
- contractive effect - pulls together dilated tissues, so excellent after birth.
- good for the whole female reproductive system
- antidepressant, known for its uplifting effects.
Worwood also recommends to soften the perineum with a blend of 5 drops of rose Maroc to each teaspoon of almond oil one week before the due date. Rub a little bit of the blend along the perineum, according to Worwood it will encourage elasticity in the area and prevent tearing during childbirth
Make sure you talk to the staff at the place of delivery about your wish to use essential oils. Some hospitals in Europe provide essential oils upon request, but I am not sure if any hospitals in USA do. Don't forget to consult with your health care practitioner before you use essential oils when you are pregnant.
As always, this information is for educational purposes only, and is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffer from a medical condition, consult with your health care practitioner prior to using essential oils.
Before you leave:
I recommend that you always perform a skin patch test when you try a new oil.
Check out my safety page to make sure you are aware of any contrindications before you use essential oils. Some oils are not suitable when suffering from certain conditions. Also, Read this Before You Start Using Essential oils. Some oils should not be applied prior to sun exposure so make sure you check this list before spending time in the sun.
Not sure how to apply the oils? Visit these pages to learn how to apply the oils:
- Topical Application
- Inhaling Essential Oils
- Are You Diffusing the Oils Correctly?
- How to Dilute Essential Oils
- Vita Flex Technique
If you're new to essential oils you might want to check out my Getting Started Guide.
Valeri Ann Worwood, (1991). The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy. New World Library, San Rafael, CA
Salvatore Battaglia (1995). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. The Perfect Potion Pty Ltd