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Essential oils in labour

Posted by Katherine Kowalski on September 11, 2018 at 3:40 PM


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


DISCLAIMER:

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.

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