Spring Bellies doula Services 

Providing doula services to urban & Rural Edmonton, Sherwood Park, LEduc & beaumont   


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Essential oils in labour

Posted by Katherine Kowalski on September 11, 2018 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I often get asked by my doula clients which essential oils are most effective for use in labour. I thought I would do a blog post about this since it is such a common question and I love sharing natural pain management suggestions for labour! As a doula, I always carry essential oils in my doula bag for use on my labouring clients (with their consent of course) and for use on myself. Nurturing myself with healthy snacks, fresh water and keeping myself relaxed or energized with the use of essential oils helps me to stay at my personal best while serving my labouring clients.

I am very cautious about where I source my oils from. I try to be as educated as I can... from a consumer's perspective, as 'sustainability' can be hard to define and very misleading I have learned. (A whole other blog post one day!) Companies that support environmentally focused farming and sustainable harvesting are very important in considering who to purchase oils from. I personally use and prefer: Saje (Canadian Company), Mountain Rose Herbs (American Company founded by renowned Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar) and Scents of Wonder (Local company founded by Robert Rogers, local herbalist). "If we’re not careful, essential oil use could potentially become one of the largest modern sources of environmental damage and plant extinction. Producing just one 15-milliliter bottle of lavender essential oil takes approximately 3 pounds of lavender flowers; and producing a single 15-milliliter bottle of lemon essential oil takes nearly 50 lemons. Clearly, essential oils are an extremely concentrated product that require a massive amount of plant material to produce." Dawn Combs Mother Earth Living. Please choose your oils responsibly and use them with respect for the planet and caution for your own health. No essential oils should be consumed and always follow Rosemary Gladstar's advice when working with a new herb... Look it up in 2-4 books/sources by reputable herbalists before using it on yourself. Always dilute essential oils: 3-5 drops in 1 tbsp of carrier oil. Sweet almond oil, fractionated coconut oil and sunflower oil are all personal favorites of mine.

My favourite oils for labour:

1) Lavender - Perhaps one of the most loved essential oils! Lavender is so gentle, healing and nurturing to the whole person. Very calming, soothing, relaxing, helps to reduce muscle tension and cramping. Lavender reduces pain and anxiety so it is very beneficial in labour when a woman (or her partner) feels anxious or scared.

Best use:

-Diluted in a carrier oil to create a lovely massage oil that can help ease front and back labour pain

-Inhaled through a diffuser, cotton ball or tissue

2) Clary Sage - Historically recommended by midwives to encourage labour or for those experiencing a long, stalled or challenging labour. Use at term only (from 37 weeks to 42 weeks) Clary sage has estrogenic properties. Estrogen stimulates the synthesis of enzymes involved in prostaglandin production, thus clary sage is recommended to help stimulate cervical effacement (or ripening)

Best use:

-3 drops, diluted in a carrier oil in a warm, relaxing bath. I have also had clients use it in the shower... a few drops on a wash cloth works well

-Diluted in a carrier oil to create a lovely belly massage oil that can help encourage labour

3) Peppermint - Peppermint is a personal favorite of mine for headaches, and a favorite of my massage clients experiencing muscular pain. Peppermint is so many wonderful things at once. It's a natural analgesic, anti-nauseant, it's stimulating, energizing, uplifting and helps increase focus. It encourages more oxygen to the brain so it can reduce dizziness which is common in labour.

Best use:

-Diluted in a carrier oil to create a lovely back massage oil (wonderful for back labour)

-Inhaled through a diffuser, cotton ball or tissue or dabbed (diluted) on the temples

3) Frankincense - Frankincense is very grounding and calming which makes it especially effective when a labouring woman feels ungrounded and at loss for control in labour. It boosts immune system function and is excellent at reducing stress, anxiety and depression. It is also highly regarded for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation in the body.

Best use:

-Diluted in a carrier oil to create a lovely massage oil applied to the back, neck and shoulders

-Inhaled through a diffuser, cotton ball or tissue

4) Lemon oil - Anti-nauseant, anti-microbial, focusing, uplifting, wonderful for creating a barrier if hospital scents are unpleasant to you. Lemon oil is wonderful for long labours... providing a fresh burst of energy, especially for the labour support team.

Best use:

-Inhaled through a diffuser, cotton ball or tissue

5) Rose oil - My favorite scent of all time, but definitely a luxury in a birth bag, as rose oil is very expensive! It requires about 242,000 rose petals to distill approximately 5 mL of rose oil! Rose is a natural antidepressant, it boosts joy, self esteem and confidence (which can be so helpful in labour when you begin to doubt your ability to carry on), relieves anxiety, reduces stress and helps your mind relax. Rose, being the flower of love has such a gentle, compassionate energy and helps to 'open the heart’. Rose oil is also said soften ligaments and encourage your body to 'open and soften"

Best use:

-Diluted in a carrier oil to create a lovely massage oil that is wonderful for back, neck and shoulders

-Inhaled through a diffuser, cotton ball or tissue


Essential oils are highly concentrated. Their potency must be respected and they can be toxic if used incorrectly. Always consult your pregnancy care provider (midwife or doctor) or a herbalist before using essential oils while pregnant or during birth. This post is for information purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat for any health condition. This information is shared with you based on the understanding that you accept complete responsibility for your health and well-being.

9 questions to ask a potential maternity caregiver

Posted by Katherine Kowalski on January 2, 2018 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

January 2, 2018, 

Happy new year!  I'd like to kick off the new year with a topic that is very close to my heart, something that I consider so important yet easily overlooked in the prenatal stage. It is the importance of interviewing your potential prenatal caregiver. 'Sometimes the only thing that makes your pregnancy high risk is your choice of care provider.'

So you find out you're pregnant!  What next?  Most likely you start your search for a midwife, obstetrician or maybe a practice of maternity care GPs.  Perhaps you get a great referral from a friend or your family doctor.  You wait a few weeks and you compile a list of burning pregnancy related questions.  This is all great but there is one thing I cannot stress enough to women and it is the importance of interviewing your potential caregiver There often seems to be a disconnect when people don't pay their health care providers directly, such as the case with provincially funded health care in Alberta.  I think it's easy to forget that we are hiring someone to provide maternity health care services to us even if they are paid for on our behalf.  This is no less of a hire and it should not be a situation that disempowers us but a choice that leaves the woman in charge of selecting the best possible caregiver for herself and her baby.  Read reviews, ask around and do some research about any potential caregivers you are interested in meeting with.  It is an excellent idea to spend some time reflecting on what your ideal birth experience and what is most important to you and then seeking out someone who shares similar philosophies and beliefs.  You can choose not to go with the caregiver if you don't feel right after the visit.  You can find a new caregiver at any point, even at 39 weeks, although this is truly a challenge the closer you get to the end of your pregnancy.  This is your birth experience and who you choose to be a part of one of the most sacred times in your life should be selected with extreme care.  "People in our society spend more time and effort researching to buy a stereo system, car, probably a camera then they do checking out what their choices are for birth." ~ The Business of Being Born.  Take the time.  Don't rush.  Find a warm, empathetic caregiver that listens, resonates with you, shares your philosophies about birth and empowers you as a woman.  Here are some questions I have put together and strongly recommend asking at your first prenatal appointment: 

1.) What is your philosophy on birth?  

Does this care provider see birth as a natural process in which they are guiding you through or do they see it as a medical condition/event that requires management? 

2.) Will I see you (or another caregiver) at each prenatal appointment and how much time is allotted for our appointment?  Does a nurse sometimes conduct our prenatal visits? 

3.) What are the chances that you will attend my birth?  Do the other care providers in your group/practice share a similar philosophy of care? 

4.) What are your thoughts about induction and augmentation and under what circumstances would you consider inducing or augmenting my labour?

5.) Do you support natural, unmedicated childbirth?  If yes, how do you support this approach? 

6.) How often do you use interventions such as artificial rupture of membranes, episiotomy, forceps, and vacuum extraction?

7.) How often do you find it necessary to perform an unplanned cesarean birth with a first-time mother with a low risk pregnancy?  What is your cesarean section rate? 

8.) Question for a midwife or GP: If I develop complications during pregnancy or labor, will you manage my care or will you refer me to another caregiver?  What complications would require a transfer of care?  Who do you commonly refer your clients to? 

9.) Do you support vaginal breech births?  FYI: Most breech friendly caregivers will only support a vaginal birth in the case of a frank breech presentation.  

There are so many more questions that you can ask.  If a potential caregiver seems irritated by your questions, that is a red flag.  Understand there are limits of time per visit however, during the initial meeting it should be expected that you would naturally have more questions.  Any caregiver that would prefer their patients not ask questions or not question how they practice is not a care provider I would ever choose for myself.  Many, many wonderful care providers exist.  A great idea is to ask a local doula for some of her personal recommendations.  I am happy to share a list of names of exceptional midwives, obstetricians and GP's in the Edmonton area that I have worked alongside over the years. 

Remember: This is is your pregnancy and you deserve the most supportive and compassionate caregiver there is.  Intutition is heightened during pregnancy and this is one of the first opportunites to tune in and listen to it.  

Best of luck to you in your search for a wonderful caregiver, 

Katherine ♥