Essential oils can be a wonderful and natural option for mums-to-be through pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond. "Aromatherapy compliments traditional medicine and can help make labour and birth a positive experience for women," says aromatherapist and owner of Tiddley Pom Natural Baby Spa, Emma Nash.
In this guide, Emma explains how to use essential oils safely, the benefits and which you should look at buying.
When planning on using essential oils, as with any aspect of labour and birth, you should always consult your midwife, doula or doctor first.
Can essential oils induce labour?
Essential oils can’t induce labour but they can be used to speed up the process once it has started and make the overall experience better. It is important to let your midwife, doctor or doula know in advance that you want to use aromatherapy during your labour.
"I recommend to my clients who have had a straightforward pregnancy to use aromatherapy during from the early stages of labour right through to the birth," says Emma. "Many of my clients start using aromatherapy in the third trimester to prepare for birth."
Are essential oils safe during labour?
"Certain oils are safe for use during labour but there are some key things to remember," warns Emma. "Firstly always refer to a list of oils not to be used. Make sure your doula and midwife know what you want to use. A diffuser is great for a home birth but if you are in a busy maternity ward this won’t be possible. Never put undiluted essential oils directly onto your skin - always dilute with a carrier oil. Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that you might not like oils that you have previously enjoyed – labour can bring on a dislike of strong smells or tastes so listen to your body."
What are the benefits of essential oils during birth?
Using the therapeutic benefits of essential oils during birth can help:
• Calm and relax the labouring woman
• Help muscles relax
• May help reduce pain
• Ease nausea
• Help heal skin
• Help with stretchmarks
• Encourage contractions
How can I use essential oils during labour?
"My preference is for the mum-to-be to use a rollerball on her pulse points (wrist, behind the ear, on the temples)," explains Emma. "The rollerball is a 2 per cent dilution of pure essential oil in a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil."
Using a few drops of pure essential oil in a diffuser in the labour room is a great way to inhale and exhale the mist which bestows the therapeutic benefits of the oils without having any contact with skin.
"A good quality massage oil that is specially formulated for labour can be used directly on the skin. A good shoulder and back or foot massage is a good way for a partner to get involved and support their partner and help ease the pain and anxiety she may be experiencing."
Which essential oils should I use during birth?
These are the oils that are commonly used in labour. You can mix them together to create a bespoke therapeutic blend just for you.
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The best essential oils
The most popular essential oil used in aromatherapy. Lavender is a calming and soothing oil. It can be used as a disinfectant but for use in labour I recommend that it is used in a roller ball, diffuser or massage oil. The beautifully floral notes of the English Lavender oil in particular can really help ease anxiety and stress during labour.
2. Neroli Tunisian Essential Oil
From the blossom of the orange tree. This super oil is well used in all aspects of wellbeing, skin care, beauty and pregnancy aromatherapy. Neroil is a well-known de-stressing oil and soother. Use a Moroccan or Tunisian oil as these are the best quality. It’s a very expensive oil so expect to pay for a good quality oil but it will be well worth it.
3. Clary Sage
A gentle smelling oil which is used to help with pain relief and muscle relaxation. It can also help with nausea. I would recommend a good Spanish oil or from anywhere in the Mediterranean. Once again Clary Sage is an expensive oil so anything cheap will be adulterated and not as effective. Note that Clary Sage stimulates the uterus so should never be used before 37th week of pregnancy.
This beautiful oil is used with caution during labour and birth. However it should not be used in pregnancy. It is a powerful oil which relieves stress and can help ease pain. It can intensify contractions and help advance labour once it has begun. Indian or Egyptian Jasmine is the best and again is a very expensive oil. Cheap Jasmine will not have any therapeutic benefit.
Commonly used to combat nausea, Peppermint is also a pain reliever so really a great oil to have on hand during labour. English peppermint is the best for therapeutic use.
One of the most common oils used in fragrance, this ultimate healing oil can ease pain and speed up contractions. It helps with anxiety and is a fabulous oil to use on stretchmarks. This oil must never ever be applied undiluted to the skin – it must be used at no more than 1% in a carrier oil. As always, quality matters. Rose from Bulgaria, Morocco or Turkey are the best oils with Bulgaria being considered the best.
This is a love/hate oil but its therapeutic properties are undeniable. Used as a hormone balancing oil, during labour, Geranium can help speed up labour whilst adding pain relief. A rounded floral oil, it can be blended well for those who find the aroma unattractive. Best quality oil is from South Africa and Egypt.
Which oils should be avoided?
There are some oils that should never be used in pregnancy, labour or birth. These include:
• Oak mass