Labour and Aromatherapy is a subject that has been researched, and there are many clinical trials, so the list of essential oils that have an evidence base for use is a lot more than what we can use in pregnancy. There are many opportunities to use Aromatherapy in Labour,
As the process can be as little as 2hours to as much as 5days.
And can be at home, at a birthing centre or hospital.
No matter what birth you are planning, there are still cautions with the essential oils and delivery as they are plant chemicals.
If you want specific advice for your birth plan. Seek out a qualified aromatherapist.
Here is a list of the essential oils with evidence of use in labour:
Bergamot Citrus bergamia
Clary sage Salvia sclarea
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus
Frankincense Boswellia carterii
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens
Jasmine Jasminum grandiflorum or Jasminum sambac
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Lemon Citrus limonum
Mandarin Citrus reticulata
Neroli Citrus aurantium var. amara
Peppermint Mentha piperita
Roman chamomile Anthemis nobilis
Rose Rosa damascena (caution)
Sweet orange Citrus Sinensis
Clary sage: to be avoided with oxytocin infusion, i.e. induction risk of intense contractions, and avoid with epidural as can affect BP. if doing a VBAC and at high risk of rupture please seek advice from a qualified aromatherapist as there is a small risk factor.
Lavender: avoid with epidural as can affect BP and avoid if you have seasonal allergies
Eucalyptus: avoid use with barbiturates
Rose: risk of increased bleeding
Roman chamomile: avoid if you have seasonal allergies.
Frankincense: avoid if the history of psychosis
ALL Aromatherapy should be discontinued if babies or mothers are in distress and a medical emergency.
(Conrads, 2019) and (Tisserand, 2015)
Ratios for use in labour:
Massage oil dose 1%:
10mls carrier oil, cream, a balm to 3 drops essential oil.
Bath /compress 1%:
10 mils in Castille soap or carrier oil to 3 drops essential oil then add to water in a bath or to make a compress
Diffuse / burning
Only diffuse essential oils for a max of 60 min then have a break for 60 min because our bodies become desensitised to the aromatic compounds and will stop being effective.
Most burners also only need 3-5 drops or less.
NB: if having a hospital birth open flames burners are not permitted.
From the bottle, inhale stick, steam bowl.
Only inhale for 10 mins max three times a day.
Here are some examples from the evidence for use in labour:
Anxiety: frankincense, bergamot or Jasmine direct inhalation & diffusion
Coping with contractions: Roman chamomile massage oil, direct inhalation of clary sage
Calming panic: lavender foot bath
Nausea relief: peppermint or direct lemon inhalation
Conrads, P., 2019. Women's Health Aromatherapy: A Clinically Evidence-Based Guide For Nurses, Midwives, Doulas And Therapists. London, UK: singing dragon.
Denise Tiran,(2000), Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth 2nd Edition, London: Churchill Livingstone
R.Tisserand and R.Young, (2015), Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, London: Churchill Livingstone.