Even with all the prep your child-birthing class provides, it’s nice to keep a few tricks up your sleeve for when labor day actually arrives. Integrating aromatherapy — the art of using essential plant and flower oils to promote health and well-being in the body — into your birth plan is a great way to prime and support your body during labor.
In labor, oils can be used at different stages in a myriad of ways. As a doula, I’ve found aromatherapy most helpful during the early and active stages of labor. When used correctly, aromatherapy can make a successful shift and center the mother’s energy.
To truly reap the benefits of aromatherapy, the essential oils should be pure and therapeutic grade. Make sure the oils don’t contain any synthetic fragrances, volume extenders, or less expensive oils as substitutes. Oils that are certified organic or ethically wildcrafted tend to be correctly extracted and from a reliable source.
The right oils are excellent during labor. The ones below are all safe to use during pregnancy, except for clary sage (it should be avoided until labor begins, because it’s a uterine stimulant and could cause premature contractions). Neroli, rose and ylang ylang oil blend together beautifully, but are equally effective when used individually. Peppermint is best used on its own in the second stage of labor, when you need a little “pick me up.” If you plan to use the oils directly on your skin, make sure to dilute them with a cold-pressed carrier oil, like almond, grapeseed or apricot kernel oil. However, lavender can be used right on the skin. Be mindful: these oils are potent and should be used sparingly.
Before heading into the L&D, it’s a good idea to build a positive association with your selected oil or chosen blend by incorporating them into any relaxation practices during pregnancy. It’s also a great way to determine your sensitivity and figure out whether you like the scent of the oils on your skin. Aromatherapy is perfect in long bath, while you meditate, or before you go to bed. Make sure to discuss aromatherapy with your care provider before using any essential oils.
Here are the seven oils you’ll want to make room for in your hospital bag.
1. Neroli : Releases stagnant energy and encourages calm breathing
2. Clary Sage ( avoid during pregnancy): promotes smooth contractions & provides pain relief
3. Rose Absolute: Encourages softening in pelvic ligaments & decreases anxiety
4. Geranium: Promotes mental balance and circulatory stimulation
5. Ylang -Ylang: Encourages relaxation and lowers blood pressure
6. Lavender: Eases breathing, provides pain relief and promotes deep relaxation
7. Peppermint: Reduces nausea and revives energy
And here are a few methods your partner or labor support can try:
Massage: Add 12 to 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. Apply to the skin on popular labor massage points like the shoulders, hands and feet.
Compress: Add 8 to 10 drops of essential oil to two cups of hot or cold water. Stir to disperse oils. Soak a small washcloth, wring and place on the forehead. Repeat process every 15 minutes.
Shower or Bath: Add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil to a full bath, or drop the same amount of oil on the floor of the shower for a similar aromatic effect.
Diffuser: Add 15 to 20 drops of essential oil to your selected diffuser. If you’re in the hospital, where open flames are prohibited, consider using a battery or electrical powered flameless diffuser.
Inhalation: Place 1 to 3 drops of essential oil on a cloth or your hands. Agitate the cloth or rub hands to distribute and heat the oil, place hands or cloth over your face, and breath deeply.
You can also make this DIY labor oil at home. Remember: a little goes a long way.
What You’ll Need
Organic Sweet Almond Oil
Neroli Essential Oil
Rose Absolute Essential Oil
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
3 Oz Amber Glass Roll On Bottle *
Sticker or Labels
* Any dark-colored container will do. This amber glass roll-on bottle is great, because it allows for easy, mess-free application.
1. Pour 5 tablespoons sweet almond oil into the roll on bottle.
2. Add in 6 drops of Neroli, 4 drops Rose Absolute and 3 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil.
3. Shake well to mix — and that’s it!
Once you’re done, attach a sticker to the bottle and date it. If you have room, write a positive affirmation that resonates with you and your upcoming birth experience. I chose the words “ground,” “open,” and “breathe,” because during labor, I often ask my clients to ground their energy, open up their heart, and breathe deeply.