Essential Oils: Will They Help During Labor?

We all know labor is no joke! There are few experiences in life that equate to that of giving birth. So, have you ever wondered if something as natural as aromatherapy would be helpful in such times of intense pain? Well, the good new is that studies done on this topic are quite promising! Women who used aromatherapy during labor reported lower levels of pain and anxiety compared to the women who did not use aromatherapy. With no documented cases of harm, this can be a great option for you to incorporate into you birth plan!

What Is Aromatherapy?

So, aromatherapy is the practice of using natural plant extracts, like essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils to heal the body, mind and spirit. It’s both a science and art form for combining beneficial blends that can improve physical, emotional and spiritual health. Essential oils can be used topically, inhaled (like using a diffuser), or taken internally. The use of essential oils dates back thousands of years to ancient Egyptians and Romans who used them for perfume, religious practice, and medicinal purposes. Our modern day term “aromatherapy” comes from a book published by a French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1937.

Aromatherapy and Labor Studies

I am glad to say that a study published in Britain in the 1990’s compared 8,000 mothers who used aromatherapy during labor and 16,000 mothers who did not. 60% of the mothers who used the aromatherapy were first time moms and 1 out of 3 of them were induced. Researchers in this study found that more than 50% of mothers who used the aromatherapy said it was helpful during their labor and only 13% said that it was unhelpful. Only 1% of mothers described undesired effects from the essential oils, although these symptoms like nausea, itchy rash, headaches and fast labor could also have just been a part of normal labor. No ill health outcomes were recorded. Also, look at anxiety…..I looked at 5 studies. Of these 4 of them found that there was a higher reduction in anxiety levels for women in labor using aromatherapy as compared to those who did not.

What I love about these studies is that aromatherapy and essential oils gives us a natural option that we can incorporate into our labor and delivery. With no recorded poor outcomes it is a form of pain and anxiety relief that can be used alongside whichever other form of pain relief you plan to use! Check out below as I chatted with a mama about her personal experience with essential oils during her own labor and delivery.

One Mothers Experience with doTERRA Essential Oils During Labor

I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Ruth Walker, a mama of 3 from California, who has an extensive knowledge of doTERRA Essential Oils and used them for her last 2 labors. We chatted all about how effective essential oils were to her in pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. She gave me so much information I plan to break it up into different articles even, but if you are new to aromatherapy and essential oils like I am, I think this will be incredibly helpful to see how you could incorporate some of what she did into your labor experience.

There are lots of companies that sell essential oils though. I first want to say that I do not endorse one over the other, but I do want you to be aware of some safety guidelines. Always be sure to use a high-quality pure oil from a company that has been tested. Like with anything else you would use in your home, adhere to the recommended dosage amounts and their proper parameters. Read your labels, avoid puting oils on sensitive areas like in your nose, ears, eyes, or broken skin and properly dilute your oil according to the manufacturer recommendations. You should also know which oils are stronger than others and to be careful of sun sensitivity. They shoudl be stored safely, and of course always talk with your healthcare professional before using them.

For Ruth, as soon as her contractions began she started with a 2 drops of Clary Sage on the inside of her ankles. Clary Sage is known for its calming and relaxing effects and there is anecdotal evidence to support that it helps stimulate uterine contractions as well. I found this so interesting. Use of Clary Sage is common among midwives and talk to your healthcare professional to see if it is something that is safe for you to use once labor begins.

During labor, Ruth used a diffusing with a blend of doTERRA’s Serenity (comprised of Lavender Flower, Cedarwood, Ho Wood Leaf, Ylang Ylang Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Roman Chamomile Flower, Vetiver Root, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Hawaiian Sandalwood), Balance (Spruce Leaf, Ho Wood Leaf, Frankincense Resin, Blue Tansy Flower, Blue Chamomile Flower, and Osmanthus Flower essential oils in a base of Fractionated Coconut Oil) and Wild Orange. Lavender and Wild Orange were very common essential oils used in the research studies I found. They were used in varying studies that showed both reduced pain and anxiety levels. These are also easy to find oils that are readily available out their on the market.

As her labor progressed, Ruth added Peppermint into her diffuser to help energize and give her that boost she needed in those later stages of labor. Another great usage of peppermint is to help relieve stomach upset and nausea. Remember those early days of sucking on mints in your first trimester? The same effect can help you through nausea and vomiting during your labor. Awesome…right?

Throughout labor Ruth used a variety of oils topically to help with pain relief. DoTERRA’s Deep Blue blend has Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus to work together to soothe and cool your muscles. Doesn’t that sound nice during labor? She diluted and rubbed this on her abdomen as well as her lower back. She also combined doTERRA’s Balance, Frankincense and Lavender to help relax her muscles. I would suggest having your partner do an aromatherapy massage on your back, hips and legs to help you cope with your labor contractions. The massage and the smell of the oils will help calm you mind and body!

Lastly, after delivery it is very common to experience post-delivery contractions as your uterus begins to contract back. For Ruth, these contractions were extremely painful, but a blend of doTERRA’s Clary Calm (a proprietary blend that was made to soothe and calm during a woman’s menstrual cycle) and Deep Blue made a huge difference for her. She rubbed them from hip to hip and on her lower back. She described them as taking her contractions from something “unbearable” to something she could handle.

Ruth also shared a great tip for you mamas! She recommends taking a spray mist bottle and diluting Frankincense, lavender, and Roman Chammomile and tea tree oil. After using the restroom, spray on your perineum to help promote healing and pain relief. These could also be used in a sitz bath combined with epsom salts for post delivery episiotomy and hemorrhoid relief!

Overall Thoughts?

I am super excited that aromatherapy and essential oils can have such positive effects for laboring women and I would encourage you to plan to incorporate them into your birthing experience. Experiment and find scents that are personally pleasing! This is a big one! We all have different preferences so it’s important to find one that you feel will help reduce your stress and anxiety during labor. As always, use them as directed. Reach out to an experienced aromatherapist to help you find what is right for you!

We at the Mama Coach are here for you! Our goal is to “make motherhood easier”. Reach out to your local Mama Coach for more support during pregnancy and after delivery. You got this mama!

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