Labor is one of those processes and moments in a birthing person’s life that can bring so many different emotions. Many pregnant moms are filled with excitement when labor begins. Later as labor progresses it can bring feelings of fear mixed with anxiety as the contractions get stronger.

On the bright side, you’ve been anticipating and preparing for this amazing day. With a due date in hand, you can attempt to prepare, mitigate, and manage some of the emotions, discomfort, and pain you may experience during birthing.

One way you can work with labor is with essential oils. I know you’re probably wondering, which ones and are there certain ones that work better for one symptom over another? All great questions; let’s talk about it and try to figure it out!

Aromatheraphy in Pregnancy, Labor & Birth

It’s believed that aromatherapy may alter brain waves and behavior to reduce the perception of stress, increase contentment, and even decrease levels of cortisol, which is the “stress hormone.” Aromatherapy may reduce stress and anxiety with the help of plant extracts and essential oils as it influences the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of our bodies.

There are various ways to use aromatherapy: you can essential oils within lotion to rub all over your skin or have your labor support team help you with that. If your support person or partner is available, ask them to add a little massage therapy with essential oil-infused lotion! Another option is to dab a few drops of essential oils on a cotton ball or tissue, and you can inhale the oil as often as you wish.

How to Choose Essential Oil in Pregnancy & Birth

But now the question is which oil should you use? This can be more of a trial-and-error process, so start trying various aromas so that you can blend the perfect formula and have it ready for your big day! Be sure to check with your healthcare provider if your pregnancy is considered high-risk, have any allergies, or you are being monitored closely during pregnancy.

Essential oils are easy to find, reasonably priced, and easy to use. So, think about if this is something you might want to add to your grab bag you’re packing for the big BIRTHday party.

Essential Oils for Labor

Here are just a few popular options:

  • Citrus blossom oil: Researchers have said this oil can reduce anxiety and help to lower pain levels
  • Jasmine oil has been shown in studies to ease labor pain and discomfort. This flowery oil would be great during a back rub or massage of the lower back to reduce pain and back pressure in labor. Word of caution: This oil can also stimulate contractions and for that reason shouldn’t be used in pregnancy
  • Sage oil is commonly used to soothe menstrual cycle pain. Researchers say clary sage oil is known to be safe in labor to help you remain calm and soothe pain. However, Clary sage is NOT to be used during pregnancy as it has been known to induce contractions
  • Peppermint oil can easily be found and has multiple natural remedy usages. Peppermint oil can help with nausea, headache pain, or dizziness. Some laboring moms experience tension headaches and nausea, especially during transition phase (8-10 cms dilated). Finally, you can also use peppermint for a boost of energy that might be needed in labor or during the pushing phase
  • Lavender oil has been shown to reduce crying in infants and promote sleep in infants and adults. This oil may help to improve sleep and even ease insomnia without the sleepiness you may feel after taking some over the counter medications. Try massaging a little lavender on your sore muscle tissue such as on the shoulders and back

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LaShea Haynes MEd, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RNC, C-EFM, is Editor of Healthy Mom&Baby magazine, and a leader in obstetric nursing for more than 26 years. She is also a staff nurse, certified doula and founder & owner of her own nurse mentoring, education and consulting company.

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