In the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of aromatherapy as complementary treatment to traditional medicine. While there is little research on the use of aromatherapy in hospitals, and no information on its use in labor and delivery in the US, it has been employed successfully pre- and postnatally in England and Western Europe.
According to case studies, aromatherapy can be helpful during labor and in preparing the body and mind for pregnancy.
Midwives in Europe endorse aromatherapy, and it is a mandatory course in midwifery training in Germany. Studies have shown that the use of aromatherapy during labor reduced fetal distress and normalized fetal heart variability.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the art of using Essential Oils, (extracted from aromatic plants) to enhance health, ease physical discomfort, and alleviate emotional stress. Essential oils are extracted from flowers, herbs, spices, woods, resins, and fibers and contain natural elements that make them therapeutically valuable.
In aromatherapy, the brain responds to the scents by associating them with past memories. If the scent is unfamiliar, a new memory is created. These memory responses are energizing, calming, stimulating, balancing or relaxing, and as the sense of smell has the greatest recall, the memories associated with them are enduring.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
The use of Essential Oils helps heal the body and relieve aches and pains, as well as reduce stress through relaxation. However, these oils have many other useful properties: muscle relaxants (black pepper and marjoram), circulatory stimulants (rosemary and basil), and digestive tonics (mint and cardamom). Many oils can enhance immunity (tea tree, lavender, and bergamot) and others repair injured cells (lavender) or eliminate metabolic waste (grapefruit and juniper).
Almost all Essential Oils are antibacterial, antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antibiotic, and antiviral. Consequently, they make wonderful disinfectant as the Essential Oil molecules attach themselves to microbes, engulf them, and cut off their supply of oxygen. In essence, the oils suffocate offending microbes.
Moreover, Essential Oils slightly lower blood pH, which creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Essential Oils are “prebiotic;” they kill pathogenic bacteria, but leave the intestinal flora intact.
Another advantage is that bacteria do not build up a resistance as they do with antibiotics. Essential Oils act quickly in the body and are metabolized like other nutrients. They contain oxygen molecules that transport nutrients to cells. In doing so, the needed oxygen provides nourishment, and the Essential Oils stimulate the immune system.
Clinical research shows that some oils contain high immune-stimulating properties. The well-known phenomenon of air purification and refreshment is achieved when the oil molecules bond with impurities in the air, extrapolating or overwhelming them, leaving the air behind more pleasant to the senses. As Essential Oils diffuse, air is purified through the removal of toxins and metallic particles from the air. In addition, oils fill the air with a fresh aromatic scent that helps promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
Essential Oils have been used for thousands of years to heal the body, mind, and emotions. By combining the experiences and observations of the past with modern biochemical properties and techniques, the application of aromatherapy in labor and delivery is a useful tool that increases patient care and satisfaction.
Aromatherapy in Labor
The essential oils suggested for use during labor include lavender, rose, geranium, jasmine, clary sage, neroli, ylang-ylang, and citrus (mandarin or petitgrain).
When using essential oils, less is more. The essential oils are safe when used in recommended dilutions and appropriate applications. Patch tests are suggested before use.
Michele Musella, RN, MSN, is Clinical Division Director of Women’s and Children’s Services, Potomac Hospital, Woodbridge, VA.
Application of Aromatherapy
during Labor & Childbirth
With all the access we have to information about pregnancy labor itself remains a mystery in many ways. What we do know is that labor is likely the hardest work a woman will endure in her lifetime. It also holds all the beauty, wonder and infinite power of life itself. But it is the unknown that causes most expectant mothers to be scared and apprehensive as the due date nears. More and more women are turning to aromatherapy during their labor to help them cope with the emotional issues facing them.
Resources usually divide labor neatly into three phases, but it’s important to recognize that each childbirth experience is unique. Depending on your emotional needs, consider incorporating no more than two or three aromatic blends into your childbirth plan.
Blends for Labor & Delivery
FIRST STAGE: Early Phase
During the early phase of labor, contractions begin. While the intensity varies from woman to woman, you will begin to see a pattern in frequency emerging. You should take it easy, relax, take a bath, or even a nap if possible.
FIRST STAGE: Active Phase
During the active phase, contractions become more intense and frequent. It is at this point that your doctors will likely tell you to go to the hospital. The key is to relax in order to gain enough strength for the delivery. A good birth coach is essential to help you with your breathing and relaxation exercises.
Gudi’s Aromatherapy Blend: Use the Calming & Relaxing Massage Lotion to help you relax during this stage of delivery. Massage your solar plexus, chest, lower back and neck with Calming & Relaxing Oil Blend. Inhale the blend deeply while resting in between contractions.
(Calming & Relaxing Massage Lotion helps to soften ligaments and dull uterine pain, helps to relax between contractions – synergy blend with Lavender, Jasmine, Rose and Manderin Essential Oil)
FIRST STAGE: Transitional Phase
During this phase, contractions will come hard and fast, and symptoms might include shaking, shivering, and nausea. It is important that your birth coach provide you with all the emotional care and attention you need. Once you are done with this phase, you will be fully dilated and ready to begin pushing.
You may be feeling scared and exhausted. Inhale the Calming & Relaxing Massage Lotion deeply between contractions to help you endure this phase and massage the lower back, with emphasis on the sacrum and give you an added boost of strength for the delivery.
Now that your body has prepared itself for childbirth, you’re likely feeling relieved that the end is finally in sight. And yet you still have a big job ahead of you. Pushing is an exhaustive process, and during this stage you will use all your reserved energy and strength. Many women feel the desire to give up, as the labor thus far has left them emotionally drained.
Gudi’s Aromatherapy Blend: Use the Inhaler for Strength & Endurance before you begin pushing to help you to gain the needed courage and emotional strength for this stage of your delivery. (Inhalers are a convenient and easy way to use essential oil blends.) Deeply inhale the vapor of the oil blend to give you energy, focus and will power.
The baby is born, all involved in the birthing process are exhausted, relieved and still taken by the miracle that has just happened.
Gudi’s Aromatherapy “Mommy & Me” diffusing blend will help you relax and bond. Enjoy the quiet moments with your newborn baby and find your needed rest.
Fill the bowl of your aromalamp with water, add 4-5 drops of the “Mommy & Me” diffusing blend to the water and light a tea light. As the water evaporates, it will gently diffuse the Essential Oil blend in the environment, creating a calm and soothing environment. Enjoy this one-of-a-kind moment with your new-born child.
Submitted by by Gudi Rubbo. For more information visit one of her listings in our holistic directory: