One of the most important things you can do in labor is stay relaxed and calm to encourage your body to produce the hormones you need to deliver your baby. Staying relaxed and positive during your entire pregnancy is important as well. During the postpartum time, rest and relaxation helps your body to heal and reduces your chances of developing postpartum depression (PPD).
One way many women have found to aid in relaxation is through aromatherapy. The popularity of essential oils (EOs) in the last few years has dramatically increased the use of aromatherapy in the US.
What is Aromatherapy?
AromaWeb defines aromatherapy as “the practice of using volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.”
Aromatherapy is a way of creating a comforting environment or bringing to mind good memories. When a woman is relaxed in labor and thinking on good memories or ideas, her muscles relax and allow the baby to move in a more optimum position for labor. Relaxation also encourages the production of oxytocin (makes contractions more effective) and endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever).
I recently met with a potential client that told me how she loves the smell of lavender. She said that every time she smells it she remembers as a child picking flowers for her mother for Mother’s Day. She also told me of how her mother was very much into essential oils and her home always smelled of patchouli. As she told me these stories, she started smiling and visibly relaxed into her soft chair. I encouraged her to consider using aromatherapy with these specific scents during her labor. Having a sense of being home and safe encourages you to relax and destress.
If a mother choses to give birth in a hospital or delivers via c-section, sometimes the sterile, chemical scented environment causes stress in some women. Using aromatherapy often helps these women to feel more relaxed and a gives the room a more “homey” feel.
How is aromatherapy used?
There are several methods of using aromatherapy. Probably one of the most popular is via a diffuser. A diffuser uses a small amount of water and a couple of drops of essential oils that creates a scented mist similar to how a humidifier works. These range in prices from less than $20 to several hundred. This is the one I use in my own home. You can also create this yourself by simmering a pot of water on the stove or in a crockpot with EOs, herbs, spices, extracts, and/or fruit.
A diffuser is great for the home before, during, and after labor. However, be sure to check with the hospital or birth center if you decided to birth outside of the home. Many hospitals will not allow diffusers to be used.
Aromatherapy can also be used by adding a drop or two of an EO to massage oil and having your doula, husband, or other support person give you a massage. This is a great way to used two or more comfort measures at once.
Some people will add a drop of their favorite oils to a cotton ball and keep it in a ziplock back to just take a sniff when she needs it. Adding a drop to a cold wash cloth placed on the back of a mother’s neck is also very pleasant and again utilizes cold therapy which is very popular in labor. These two ways may also be the most accepted use in the operating room should a mom be delivering via c-section. You will need inquire if this is allowed, however.
Other methods include creating a spray, bath bombs, diffuser necklaces, “perfume” sticks, roll on, coffee or tea, bath scrubs, etc. Below is a widget to my Pinterest board with ideas for how to use aromatherapy.
Essential oils can be very useful for creating a relaxing environment but caution must be taken in using them. There are some oils pregnant women should avoid all together and some oils can cause sever allergic reactions when inhaled or applied to the skin. Always do your own research and experiment with oils prior to going into labor.
You must always check with your place of births policy regarding aromatherapy and the use of essential oils prior to labor. It is also a good idea to check once again (if allowed to use EOs) with the staff who will be taking care of you when you arrive at your place of birth. The hospital or birth center may allow the use of EOs but the nurse or other support staff may be allergic to one of your oils and you would not want to put him/her in a potentially dangerous situation.
There are many brands of EOs and each claim to be the most pure and best. I also know that EOs can be very expensive. My advice is if you are interested, do your homework. Check out as many brands as you can, contact their customer service and ask lots of questions.
Aromatherapy can be a great way of creating a relaxing environment. It can improve your mood, help you feel less stressed, and promote relaxation so your body can do what it was designed to do. However, essential oils can be dangerous and expensive so I highly recommend doing lots of research and checking the policies of wherever you plan on giving birth.
I do not sale or provide essential oils for clients, however, I am happy to use a mother’s oils to help her create the comforting space she desires. If a mother wishes to use EOs during her labor, at our last prenatal appointment, I will add a few drops of her oils that she wants to use to some sample bottles I have. That ensures that when I am called, I will have the oils with me in case she forgets hers. If we do not use all of her oils during her labor, I will return to her the excess.
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you are interested in learning about more comfort measures in labor, check out my Comfort Measures page.