Reducing fear and anxiety in the early labor plays an important role in improving your childbirth experience. Aromatherapy is the use of plant essential oils to benefit physical and emotional well-being and has long been used as a health supportive tool to work on the body and mind. Integrating aromatherapy can contribute to a laboring woman’s comfort and well-being by helping to reduce natural feelings of anxiety.
Keeping as calm, relaxed and comfortable as possible in the early stage of labor is critical. An immediate sense of fear, anxiety and tension triggers the sympathetic nervous system to release catecholamines, specifically adrenaline (epinephrine), the hormone responsible for priming our bodies to react a perceived threat or imminent danger. This response causes the body to tense, increases blood pressure, shunts blood to the extremities and away from the uterus, and quickens breathing. Adrenaline also halts non-essential bodily activities in the face of danger, which includes disruption of uterine contractions. Contractions will become less frequent and effective, and won’t resume a normal pattern until the catecholamine levels fall significantly and the mother feels a sense of safety.
If there is a partner present, or a doula, having them apply counter pressure to your back with an essential oil massage blend for the duration of each contraction will help circumvent the fear-tension-pain cycle. When a mother feels safety, the body to releases its own natural painkillers (endorphins). With the release of endorphins, the laboring mom-to-be can better cope with the intensity of the contractions, and surrender to the process.
Here’s a list of essential oils proven effective for relieving some common symptoms of labor:
Disclaimer: Prior to introducing essential oils during pregnancy please discuss with your health care provider.
Anxiety: Frankincense (Boswellia carteri), Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), or Rose (Rosa damascene) to help alleviate some of the stressful symptoms associated with anxiety.
Fatigue: Childbirth is an incredibly exhausting process, both physically and emotionally. Both Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) and Lemon (Citrus limonum) are known to revitalize and energize the mind.
Depression and Despair: Lemon, Rose and Jasmine are essential oils known to have anti-depressant properties that help lift the mood, promote positive thinking and inhibit anxiety.
Physical Pain: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are great for reducing sensations of physical pain. An ideal distraction from labor pain is to have your labor partner massage your back with one of these oils for the duration of each contraction.
Nausea: Many women suffer nausea during final stages of labor as a result of the hormones. Lemon, Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Roman Chamomile all have anti-nausea properties. Lemon, especially, has been proven beneficial in reducing nausea during pregnancy.
Headache: Headaches are common symptoms during the early stages of labor. Lavender has been proven to reduce migraine pain and its associated symptoms.
To learn more about how to safely use essential oils in childbirth, which essential oils can help with specific needs, and how to empower yourself in preparation for your childbirth experience, check out Essential Oils for Childbirth by Michaela Boldy.
Michaela Boldy is a registered nurse, certified aromatherapy practitioner, certified infant massage instructor, and the mom of four children. She is a member of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy and has taught aromatherapy, anatomy, and physiology in the San Francisco Bay Area.