The whole process of labor and birth of a new baby are pretty incredible. It is also a very intense time, where women are challenged physically and emotionally. There are many ways to support the mama during the process: I am a huge fan of doulas to support both parents, birthing classes such as Bradley method and Hypnobirthing/ Hypnobabies, meditation techniques, water therapies such as birthing tubs, etc. Essential oils are another modality that I believe can make so much difference to the birthing experience. Here are five essential oils to have on hand during labor:-
- Lavender – one of the best-known essential oils, lavender can help to calm and soothe emotions, ease anxious feelings, and promote relaxation. In early stages of labor it can help a mama be able to get some sleep, which is important to conserve energy for the task ahead. It is also good put in a bath for a laboring mama.
- Clary sage – this is a uterine tonic, so it should not be used before the 40th week of pregnancy. Clary sage can help with the strength and regularity of contractions. It can be applied to certain acupuncture/ reflex points, or on the soles of the feet. Some mamas will put a drop or two in a bath along with a drop or two of lavender and soak in that during labor.
- Peppermint – this is a more awakening oil, so it is good to use for alertness and energy during labor. It can also help back labor when combined with a carrier oil. Our nanny was a doula, and she told me that one of her favorite uses for peppermint was to have on hand should mama poop when she’s pushing (let’s just call a spade a spade shall we?), just to subtly cover the smell.
- Geranium – this is a good oil used in combination with clary sage, both diluted with coconut oil, for perineal massage. It can be used hourly during active labor to help prevent or minimize tearing (if tearing occurs, can use helichrysum on a warm compress to help the healing process, then use frozen pads with lavender and frankincense).
- Wild Orange – I love wild orange as it strikes a nice balance of being somewhat energizing, while at the same time being able to balance feelings of anxiousness. Wild orange is also the oil of abundance and breaking limitations, which I think are great emotions to carry during labor.
There are many more oils that are helpful during labor, as well as during the post-partum period. This is just a small sampling. (If it were me I’d also have a few blends, such as Grounding Blend for calming; Soothing Blend for relaxing muscles and easing pain; and Uplifting Blend to keep everyone in a good mood!).
In terms of how to use oils during labor, they can be applied topically, or put in a bath, or used in massage. One point to consider though, is that a laboring mama might change her mind, her tastes and her tolerances quickly. If too much/ too many oils are rubbed on her, and suddenly something doesn’t smell good to her, it can be hard to get off. Even diffusing oils could raise this concern. I think a good way to give mama the oils she needs (and daddy if he needs some calming too!) is to put a drop or two on a cotton ball – that way they can be used aromatically, but also removed or changed quickly as needs and desires dictate.
Another thing to consider if you have a hospital/ birthing center birth is to have a few bottles of essential oils for gifts for nurses, doctors, midwives and doulas. We were advised to bring pizza and brownies/ cookies for the nurses; but in hindsight (and if I do get to have the chance again), I’d give them a bottle of lavender or something else that they could enjoy for themselves at home! It’s inexpensive, but a more unique gift and nice token of appreciation for all they do.
Valentina’s first nanny (and still our dear friend), is due to have a baby in a few weeks, and I know she’s getting her essential oil kit prepared for her birthing experience. It’s such a magical time, and I’m sharing in her excitement. My good friend Katrina put a spray together for me when I was due with Valentina – it contained lavender, peppermint, clary sage and ylang ylang, which I think that is a perfect combination! Sadly it didn’t make it out of the hospital bag since she was born in the triage room 20 minutes after we got there! But oh well, we certainly enjoyed have enjoyed it a lot since then as a beautiful scent for our any of our rooms.
I love the idea of having doulas on the team who are familiar with essential oils, so that they can help fascilitate the different oils and different uses of oils that can be helpful during labor. If there’s one thing Dave and I found out, it is that it’s not easy to coordinate everything yourself during that time – so having another person who knows the various applications is so wonderful.