Hoping for a more natural birth? Here is How: A sneak peek into my doula-bag-o-tricks and you’ll find my stash of Aromatherapy. Yes, not only does the flowery, fruity, and earthy smell mask the creepy smell of hospitals but pure essential oils (EOs) can actually affect a birthing mama mentally, physically, and emotionally without the use of pharmaceuticals. Woot woot!
Aromatherapy is a method of treatment in which pleasant smells are inhaled thus stimulating the limbic area of the brain, releasing neurochemicals into the bloodstream and promoting relaxation in the body. The right combination of smells can stimulate the body's production of endorphins (the body's own analgesic) and decrease the feeling of pain.
Essential oils are not synthetic but rather are derived from plants and flowers. Essential oils can help you relax. Take a whiff of Lavender oil and notice how your facial muscles melt like wax and your breathing slows into a calm and rhythmic breathing pattern.
Although a variety of essential oils can be used for labor and birth, my personal doula favorite is Lavender essential oil. Lavender can be put directly onto your skin. It can be used alone (neat) or in combination with other oils. Spearmint or Mint EO scent is good if you are feeling nauseous however it cannot be placed neat on the skin without a carrier oil because it can cause irritation.
Essential oils can be mixed with carrier oil such as vegetable or nut oil (try extra virgin olive oil, jojoba, apricot kernel, wheat germ, sunflower, almond, or avocado) and placed in your bathwater or a diffuser to create a relaxing atmosphere. You can burn your favorite scents using a vaporizer to scent the air or put a few drops on your pillow, handkerchief, on your wrist or a hot damp facecloth. Try mixing a drop of each essential oil of Rose, Neroli, and sandalwood in jojoba oil you can rub into your forehead, face and neck.
Ask your partner to mix your favorite essences with a carrier oil so that they can be massaged into your skin. The suggested mixture is about 4-8 drops of essential oil with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil depending on the strength you want. A cotton swab with a few drops of essential oil is perfect and can be tucked easily in mama’s bra strap or shirt for quick and easy inhalation.
Cheat-Sheet of Essential Oils for Labor & Birth
For Relaxation: Lavender, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, and Neroli
To Relieve Nausea: Sniff a cotton swab with 3 drops of Peppermint or Spearmint or Lemon
Energy Booster & Lift Spirits: Sweet Orange, Sandalwood and Jasmine
For More Regular Contractions: Clary sage can stimulate uterine contractions and should be avoided during pregnancy. However, if you are dilating slowly in labor, you may ask your doctor if clary sage would be beneficial to you. Add a few drops of clary sage to a tablespoon of carrier oil and gently rub onto your tummy, shoulders, legs and back.
At Birth: I advise my clients to use essential oils on a cotton swab which can easily be disposed at any time if mama no longer wants the scent. Additionally, mama should not have strong scents on her chest, neck and shoulders at the time the baby is about to be born. You can imagine that a room filled with strong essential oils can be strong and overpowering to a newborn. Massaging a woman’s low back with a massage oil combination is no problem since the smell is away from mama’s breasts and should not affect the baby at birth.
Some women may be allergic to aromatherapy essential oils and experience side effects of nausea, vomiting or headaches. If this occurs discontinue use immediately.
To order essential oils, reach out to my friend Mai Serenity and order here: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/site/maiserenityspace
I have seen mamas sail through birth with just a few cotton swabs of aromatherapy. And the best part is that aromatherapy is au-naturel and easy to use.
[Originally published February 26, 2013]