Aromatherapy for Labour and Birth

Today mothers are given a choice on how she wants to give birth. Today the same staff who can at a moments notice help perform an emergency C-section by epidural, can also be found scenting a room with Jasmine or Lavender and massaging the mothers back with aromatic oils.

Even if the mother-to-be has decided that she wants the full benefits of modern medicine when giving birth. Essential oils can still be of enormous help, especially if you want a natural birth. During labour some of them will be especially helpful.

For scenting the labour room choose oils that will be helpful and the aromas that will help calm and soothe the mother-to-be.

Feedback say that patients who use essential oils throughout their pregnancy get the best results from Aromatherapy during labour. As the mothers who have used it before, know what to expect and are calmed by the smell as soon as they reach the unit. They don’t need to waste time grasping the concept of them, whereas mothers experiencing oils for the first time still get relief from the pain with the massages, but they don’t understand immediately that the smell of the oils can be calming at a time when they may be in distress. So if they are planning to use essential oils at any stage of the labour, it is best to be familiar with them before hand.

Essential oils helpful during labour

ROSE (Rosa Damescena)
This is the most feminine of oils as it has an affinity with the reproductive system. It is chosen for many uterine disorders as it has a regulating, toning and cleansing effect on the uterus. For this reason ROSE is highly appropriate for labour. It is a tonic to the whole system and can assist the circulation which can encourage deep calm breathing. Rose is known for its anti-depressant effect. It has a lovely uplifting aroma and helps to calm nervous feelings.

CLARY SAGE (Salvia sclarea)
Clary is a great tension reliever. However, some people feel sleepy after using it. It can be euphoric and a bit too heady, and may make everyone in the delivery room a bit spaced out! It is a pain reliever, so it is better to use it as a compress than in a massage oil Do not use it if the mother to be is having gas or a general anesthetic.

NEROLI (Citrus aurantium var, amara)
Neroli helps in labour to reduce fear, anxiety, panic. It helps you to breath properly, allowing you to concentrate on your breathe during labour pains. Just place 1-2 drops on a tissue and inhale or use in a room spray to encourage regular breathing.

JASMINE (Jasminum officinale)
It is analgesic and anti-spasmodic and can help to dull uterine pain, and strengthens contractions, which in turn help to shorten labour. It has a calming yet uplifting effect on the emotions, and so it is an ideal oil to use if feeling anxious or if you need assistance in breathing. Use it as a massage oil or blend it with Lavender as these 2 work well together. On its own it can be used on a compress laid on the lower abdomen immediately after the birth to expel the placenta.

LAVENDER (Lavandula officinalis)
This remarkable useful oil is the one most likely to be used in the hospitals for pain relief. Like Jasmine it is very helpful in labour, dulling and easing uterine pain, or aching and soothing the legs and back. Use it in a warm bath in the 1st Stage of labour, as it has a calming and soothing effect, especially on mood swings. It will sooth away headaches, bought on by nervous tension. Lavender is great to use because of its anti-septic properties. It cleanses the air in the delivery room and will bring protection from any bugs loitering the hospital beds.

GERANIUM (Pelargonium graveolens)It is excellent for circulation which helps in breathing during labour. A very balancing oil on the emotions and a lovely uplifting smell which is a great choice to use to scent the labour room.

YLANG YLANG (Cananga odorata var.genuine)
A very calming oil which is why it is recommended for labour. It is particularly helpful for those with a rapid heartbeat, anxiousness, fearful, as it is so soothing and acts as an anti-depressant. It helps to lower blood pressure and like Geranium it is a good oil to use in the burner in the labour rooms.

Labour Day – 1st Stage

The contractions have started, or there may be a show or the waters have broken. Whatever has occurred, the labour has started. It is recommended (unless for medical reasons) to keep active until the contractions are quite strong, even then to be moderately active as it helps to speed up the birth and relieve pain.

Aromatherapy Help:
Lets say the mother-to-be goes into labour during the early evening, a bath will be very soothing, and will relieve the tension caused by the excitement and apprehension. It also helps the mother get a few hours sleep as there is a lot to do ahead.

*add 2-3 drops of Lavender essential oil in a warm bath and soak for 10 minutes.
*get your partner or midwife to massage at this stage (as shown) with the blend premixed which has 6 drops Lavender and 6 drops Jasmine mixed with 50 ml of sweet almond to help with easing the pain during contractions.
*If the contractions get stronger and the mother-to-be has reached the hospital, it is advisable again to have a bath with 2-3 drops of Lavender as it is a great pain reliever. If the waters have broken it is up to the midwife to decide if it is all right to have a bath. Many hospitals allow the mothers to stay in the bath as long as they feel comfortable.

The advanced first stage

During this stage the mother should be in the caring hands of the midwife. During this stage the uterine muscles are pulling up and opening the cervix. Women experience labour pains differently, some may feel pain in the lower back, others across the lower abdomen or down the thighs. It is now that the contractions are becoming stronger and along with the massage from your partner or midwife, the mother should put into use the breathing techniques learnt over the past few months.

Aromatherapy Help:

• soaking in the bath is a great relieve with 2-3 drops of Lavender, unless of course there are medical reasons why the mother cannot.
• A compress for the lower back and abdomen are good to use at this stage for extra pain relieve. To 300ml of warm water add 2-3 drops Clary Sage, Jasmine or Lavender (choose one oil). Put a small flannel cloth in the warm water to pick up the oils and place it either on abdomen or lower back, leave for as long as you like, or until the compress looses it warmth, and repeat as needed.
• Do not do one thing, combine the bath, followed by massage followed by compress and so forth. The mother should keep moving about as much as possible. It also helps to perfume the delivery room at this stage by taking a bowl of hot water, add 3 drops of the chosen oil or a mix of 2 oils eg. Lavender (relaxing and antiseptic) and Bergamot (a great anti-depressant), Geranium (very uplifting) or Lemon (refreshing) and good if the mother is tired after a long labour)

The Transition Stage

This is the end of the first stage of labour, when the cervix has not yet fully opened and the mother cannot start pushing, although she may want to. During this stage some women find they begin to shake, especially their legs. It can be helpful if the partner or midwife can massage the legs quite firmly with the Massage blend mentioned above.

Aromatherapy help:
Some mothers find a cloth soaked in cool water refreshing, add 2 drops Rose, Neroli or Lavender oil to the cool water, and use that to mop the face. It is very refreshing, (be careful of the eye area)

The second Stage

The cervix is fully dilated. The feel of the pain changes as the intense urge to push takes over. Calm controlled breathing is important at this stage. If the breathing becomes erratic sniff one or two drops Neroli on a tissue, to calm and prevent over breathing.

Aromatherapy help:
*Massage can still be soothing, but the mother may be too busy at this stage of labour.
*Compress method is good at this stage. To a bowl of warm water add 2-3 drops lavender. Dip the flannel cloth into the water and use to mop the face of perspiration.
*Place 1 – 2 drops Mandarin, Petitgrain, Neroli, Ylang Ylang or Geranium oil on a tissue and inhale when needed. This will make the breathing easier and will certainly make you feel more cheerful. If the breathing becomes more erratic, than Neroli oil is most suitable, as it is very calming and will prevent over breathing, which is when graspy breaths release carbon dioxide too quickly, making the mother feel dizzy and panicky.
*Add to a bowl of hot water in the delivery room 2-3 drops of Neroli , Ylang ylang or Geranium. This will give a calming scent. Ensure that the bowl is placed where it will not interfere with the proceedings.

The Birth and Third Stage

All the past hours work and effort seem forgotten when a somewhat slippery baby is placed on the mother’s abdomen. The mother may not be aware of the delivery of the placenta at this stage because of being so overwhelmed with the new born.

Aromatherapy Help:
When the baby has been delivered, a compress can help expel the placenta. To a bowl of warm water add 2-3 drops Jasmine. Mix the water well, place a flannel cloth as a compress over the abdomen, when the compress looses heat replace with another one. Leave in place until the placenta is delivered.

There is so much more that can be done postnatally. For example the perineum may need some healing, again essential oils play a part in this process, and this follows up to baby massage and much more. The areas and limits are boundless with Aromatherapy.

Compiled by Sunita Teckchand
C.I.B.T.A.C. qualified Aromatherapist