Essential Oils Recommended During Childbirth
Please note, we have put together kits of 2 ml bottles containing the most recommended essential oils to use during childbirth. You may read about and order our Aromatic Birthing Kits on our Pregnancy and Baby Care Products page.
The first list below comes from a labor and birthing doula in British Columbia:
Clary Sage: Relieves tension, brings on labor, helps with expelling afterbirth.
Geranium Rose: Enhances circulation and is good for labor management techniques which focus on breathing.
Jasmine: Dulls uterine pain, strengthens contractions, promotes birth, and increases milk supply. Excellent when mixed with lavender and a carrier oil of Evening Primrose and vitamin E for perineal and cervical massage.
Lavender: Dulls and eases uterine pain but also increases the strength of contractions while calming the mother. Great for reducing stretch marks!
Myrrh: Speeds labor, opens the cervix.
Neroli: Reduces fear, tension, insomnia, apprehension, anxiety
Rose: Cleansing effect on the uterus, antidepressant, softens ligaments (easier to open the pelvis to push for larger babies and smaller mamas)
A research study published in Nursing Times, March 2, 1994, Vol. 90, No. 9, “Using Aromatherapy in Childbirth”
Summary: A study of 500 women in the delivery suite. Essential oils used: Lavender, Clary Sage, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Chamomile, Frankincense, Jasmine, Rose, Lemon, and Mandarine.
Methods of Application: (1) *Spray of 100 ml water with 2 drops essential oil on face sheet, pillow, or bean bag or (2) 4–6 drops oil in bath or 2–3 drops of oil in footbath or (3) Inhalation or (4) Massage with 2 drops of essential oil in 50 ml of almond oil.
Results: Overall satisfaction with the “aroma”—helps get rid of the “hospital smell”, which decreased anxiety.
Lavender: Reduced maternal anxiety, helped with pain relief, lightened mood, calmed contractions if woman needed rest (in early in labor).
Peppermint: Eased nausea and vomiting.
Clary Sage: Increased contractions.
74% of women used no other form of pain relief
A client, Chelsea Mulroney, recently shared:
I have been a customer of yours for a few years now, and my favorite product that you carry is the Bulgarian Lavender.
My husband and I had our second son two weeks ago at the birth center here in Eugene, Oregon. I managed my labor in several different ways…acupressure, a bath, massage, slow breathing AND aromatherapy. I used the Bulgarian Lavender in the bath, massaged it onto my stomach, and I sprayed it in a mist (along with a tiny bit of Jasmine and Sandalwood) on my face in between contractions…it calmed me down, cooled me off, helped me to focus, and helped me deal with the pain. I had been using the Lavender to relax prior to the birth, so whenever I would smell it during labor, I would immediately feel a sense of calm. What a help it was!
My midwife was so impressed with the Lavender that after the birth my husband suggested that I order some for her as a thank-you gift…which I have just done. I also ordered some for the nurse who assisted with the delivery and aftercare (she was also present at the birth of our first son).
Anyway, thank you for carrying such wonderful oils and for helping me create a beautiful birth experience.”
When I wrote asking Chelsea permission to share such a personal message with our other readers, she replied:
I certainly wouldn’t mind you quoting my comments. I am always happy to share how I feel about essential oils with anybody who cares to listen. And as far as my labor being personal…well, it was. BUT I love to share that as well. I really want other women to know that they can (in most cases) give birth naturally…and that doesn’t mean it has to be a horrible experience. There are many natural ways (such as essential oils and visualization) that we can manage our pain and be in charge of our own experience.
From my friend Lori Mitchell, an RN and Clinical Aromatherapist in Montana, responding to an inquiry from a mother who would be helping her daughter through labor and was looking for suggestions.
“Anyway, Joyce…get together with your daughter around the 36th or 37th week, and work with her to find what aromas are meaningful and soothing to her. Get an idea of just how she envisions aromatherapy to help her birthing process. The more the choices are ‘patient’ driven, the better the outcome! Here are some basic starters, but many more possibilities exist.
ROSE (steam distilled): is a uterine relaxant. While it may not sound like this is what one would aim for in delivery, EO’s are very adaptogenic, so Rose will help the uterus to work efficiently, and to return to homeostasis between contractions. It is also said to have a relaxant effect for the pelvic floor, helping to open up the pelvis, much like an opening rosebud. This would best be used in the jacuzzi if there is one (hopefully there is, water is very effective for laboring women… by the way… water birth is a terrific option, but this would contra-indicate the use of EO’s in the water!) The emotional effects of rose are very supportive during labor. It can be very overpowering if overused. So SUBTLE is the keyword here! 1 drop in the bathwater would be plenty. The visualization of the cervix opening as a rosebud is very effective when used with the aroma of rose.
CLARY SAGE: Uterine tonic—again the adaptogenic qualities of EO’s used in the correct dilution (SUBTLE) assists the uterus in effective contractions without artificially strengthening the contractions (as in oxytocin drips often given IV). It can be euphoric and very effective for relieving anxiety, it is calming to the nervous system. Some will not like the aroma of Clary Sage alone, but mixing it with Rose, Lavender, Geranium etc., will *almost* always produce a very pleasing aroma. Mixing to the mother’s taste is important here, [it’s] not a standard recipe! If the mom does not like the aroma, the physical and emotional benefits will likely be negated.
LAVENDER (angustifolia): is calming, soothing, and imparts a gentleness to the atmosphere when used in small amounts. DON’T overdo here. LESS IS MORE. It is also a very nice aromatic greeting for a newborn.
GERANIUM: uplifting and helpful in balancing emotional states. Said to be a circulatory stimulant.
NEROLI: facilitates calm relaxed breathing (especially with small amounts of Frankincense). The Cadillac for nervous anxiety. Can be a good choice during transition. One drop only on the pillow.
These can be used as single notes, or in combination with each other or many other choices. I have found that 3 or less oils, and keeping the aroma very simple, is the best received. The birthing mom has a very heightened sense of perception.
Mandarine, Sweet Orange, Neroli, and a hint of Nutmeg has been an effective diffuser combo. I always suggest diffusing no longer than 5 minutes out of the half-hour. Best case, if the hospitals allow candles, is the candle diffuser, using 2–3 drops at a time, or using the spritzer method. Even barely detectable aroma can be very effective, maybe even preferable!
OK…having said all this, I am going to do a bit of an about-face!! Aromatherapy will be only as effective as the emotional state behind its use. No matter what oils are chosen. If the thought patterns of the birthing mother have been centered around fear, anxiety, and physical discomfort…aromatherapy will at best be able to offer a more pleasant smelling environment!!!! DID I SAY THAT!?? Yep! Preparation for an easier birth starts in the thought process…in the mind. The earlier that positive associations and imagery are started, the more ingrained it will be for the birth.
I have yet to see aromatherapy impart any real benefits to women who enter the delivery room with firmly established fears that this is going to be the most painful thing that will ever happen to her. Regardless of the fact that aromas directly target the limbic area of the brain, the cortex has the power of VETO! Nothing has more influence over our physical functioning than our beliefs and assumptions. Some women have an AWFUL habit of gloriously telling their birth horror stories to expectant mothers. Education about the birth process, exploring birthing options (there are many out there, LeBoyer, water birth, etc.) prenatal yoga, and creative imagery—casting off all preconceived ideas of a difficult or painful birth, hypnosis, etc. are all ways to invite the beauty of birth into the experience. THEN…adding such a WONDERFUL complementary modality such as aromatherapy will be the icing on the cake.
Surrendering to the birthing process is also important. If one is attached to the idea of an easy, pain-free, complications-free delivery, the inevitable possibility that something could change is a set-up for failure. In reality, there is no failure in birth. Realizing this upfront can save a lot of disappointment. A healthy baby is the only true goal. If a woman has painstakingly planned her birth, and chosen oils that appealed to her, then during the process of birth for some reason rejects the aromatherapy, or touch or whatever… this is OK. This happens and needs to be honored. One doula here was quite insistent that the aromatherapy be used “because it would help.” In the end, it only left an unpleasant association for that particular woman!
My final suggestion would be, to find the EO or simple blend that speaks to the pregnant mom, in the last couple of weeks, gentle, subtle use of this blend on occasion, to become acquainted with this new aromatic ‘friend’, and be sure and have a bit packed in the “to-go” bag. Blend enough so that some can be kept as a keepsake; this blend will help to recall the tender moments of the most awesome event in a woman’s life…for many years to come. I did not think this far in advance, but wouldn’t it be neat to carefully store enough away to give to a son or daughter when they too enter this blessed event!!!! I also think that if the birth is a positive experience, this blend can be a very spiritual connection for mom and babe after the birth and during important life events. The key again, especially with newborns, is SUBTLE!!”
When available, hydrosols of the above oils are a lovely alternative, for misters to scent the room or for body/facial sprays. My friend Mari writes of using Neroli Hydrosol to calm her daughter’s anxiety during labor:
When my daughter recently gave birth, we used the Neroli (and Ylang Ylang for her blood pressure) during her labor and she amazed us all. She didn’t moan, groan, yell, or scream once during her labor. The physician and nurses were very interested in the Neroli, as they could hear other mothers screaming while they were giving birth. But not Spring, my daughter. Afterward, she said, she felt very relaxed and there was pain, of course, but she felt she could handle it. And handle it, she did. We both swear it was the Neroli. I would just spray it on her each time she asked.
To read about oils to use after the baby comes, please see our Aromatic Baby Carepage.