Aromatherapy can be incorporated into pregnancy, labor & birth, and the postpartum, and offer beneficial, holistic results. Clinical aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils for their therapeutic properties, is considered to be a part of holistic nursing/midwifery. For example, nurses at a hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana have six essential oils that can be used for inhalation in their tool kit. Various oils cater to various needs, and they also help to decrease the gross hospital smell.
There was an eight-year study in Oxford in the early 1990s that found that 50% of women found aromatherapy helpful during labor. The study yielded results that indicated a reduced need for pain relief and enhanced labor contractions with the incorporation of aromatherapy.
Oftentimes, aromatherapy can be used to reduce stress during labor. Oils like lavender, frankincense, and rose have been found to ease anxiety during labor. Lavender has also been found to reduce the perception of labor pain. As for nausea, peppermint, spearmint, lavender, and ginger can be utilized to minimize it.
German chamomile and Immortelle have been found to have anti-inflammatory and healing benefits, and when added to lavender and diluted can be used for perineal healing. Tea tree oil has anti-microbial properties and can help reduce the possibility of infections. Inhaling peppermint can aide women who are unable to void (empty their bladder) as well.
Utilizing aromatherapy during pregnancy and labor can offer a multitude of benefits. It is important for a healthcare provider to know how to use the essential oils clinically in order to advise women what will work best and what they should avoid. It can be potentially very beneficial to have an experienced Doula present (professional birth support person), or a Midwife directing the woman’s Partner, to implement treatments like a peppermint foot soak, back massage with mandarin, rose, or ylang-ylang, or a hand massage with eucalyptus may serve as a means of comfort to the woman and ensure that the oils are being used properly.
Buckle, J., Ryan, K., & Chin, K. B. (2014). Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy, Labor and Postpartum. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 29(4), 21–27. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=awh&AN=99881716&site=eds-live