Essential oils for labour: benefits, safety and which to buy

woman using oils

by Emily Gilbert |

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 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 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 two 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 even mix them together to create a bespoke therapeutic blend just for you.

Which oils should be avoided?

There are some oils that should never be used in pregnancy, labour or birth. These include:

• Aniseed

• Sage

• Basil

• Wormwood

• Oak mass

• Tarragon

• Birch

• Hyssop

• Camphor

• Parsley

• Pennyroyal

• Tansy

• Thuja

• Wintergreen

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