Essential oils have been used for their therapeutic qualities through the ages. And, whilst there is little medical evidence to their benefits a growing number of midwives are trained to use aromatherapy oils during labour. So, we asked Tara Persson who is a qualified aromatherapist, specialising in pregnancy and postnatal aromatherapy, to give us a more detailed view of how you can use aromatherapy in pregnancy and during labour. We hope you enjoy her guest blog…
It is National Fragrance Day (21st March) and you cannot get more natural than the fragrances extracted from plant materials (flowers, leaves, bark, roots and berries), found in the essential oils used for Aromatherapy. When you peel an orange, smell a rose or squeeze a sprig of rosemary, it is the essential oil you are taking in. These concentrated scents, when extracted or distilled, have therapeutic qualities that can help both physically and psychologically, plus they contain no harmful chemicals or preservatives, they truly are nature’s medicine.
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that uses essential oils in holistic treatments to improve wellbeing. The oils can promote emotional wellbeing by stimulating, balancing or relaxing depending on your needs and can also help alleviate common physical complaints like inflammation, pain, high blood pressure, digestive complaints and skin care problems.
Aromatherapy can be a very effective during pregnancy, labour and postnatally. However, you may be concerned about the use of aromatherapy and essential oils at these times – unsure what is safe to use. There is a lot of misguided information on the internet, often unqualified and unsafe advice about the use of essential oils. This is a great pity as there are many benefits of using essential oils in pregnancy, if under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
- Never take essential oils internally, this is not exclusive to pregnancy!
- Always dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin.
- If you are pregnant, adapt any recipes by cutting down the number of drops to child-sized doses, around half of the suggested adult dosage. This softens the effect and also takes into consideration that when pregnant a woman’s sense of smell is often heightened, so full strength remedies can be overpowering, less is often more in aromatherapy!
- Essential oils should be avoided in the first trimester, but are perfectly safe during the second and third trimesters.
- The choice of oils during pregnancy is very important, some oils should be avoided throughout the nine months and into the early postnatal period, in fact, some should be avoided entirely, not just during pregnancy.
- Always use pure essential oils, not fragrance or perfume oils (these are altered, synthetic versions of essential oils and have no therapeutic benefits) buy from a reliable source, ask your aromatherapist for advice..
Use of essential oils in pregnancy
There are loads of ways you can use essential oils in pregnancy, including:
Application – nasal inhaler, diffuser or simply on a tissue, excellent for blocked nose and sinuses (lemon and lavender) and nausea (citrus oils, spearmint or ginger) but not in high concentrations as it can have the opposite effect!
Applying a few drops of essential oils to a compress (piece of muslin cloth or flannel soaked in cold or warm water) can be extremely soothing, good for headaches and some essential oils are excellent for haemorrhoids helping to reduce pain and swelling.
In the bath
There’s no better tonic than an aromatherapy bath! Oils like frankincense and clary sage* are excellent during early stages of labour to help soothe the mind, and to calm and regulate breathing. Also, a bedtime bath during pregnancy can help reduce insomnia and anxiety, as well as aches and pains (geranium, lavender, mandarin and frankincense). This is for your bath – if you are using a birth pool then check with your midwife that it’s ok to add your own essential oils.
*Clary sage should only be used under the guidance of an aromatherapist. It should only be used in the last two weeks of pregnancy or postnatally as it can induce contractions.
In a lotion/cream/gel
This is a great way to use aromatherapy treatments for localised conditions e.g. stretch marks, dry skin, itchiness, varicose veins. Your aromatherapist can make up a personalised prescription blend to help improve these conditions.
In a spritzer or spray
Excellent for use during labour to help cool you down, whilst also helping you to centre your breathing and reduce anxiety (frankincense and bergamot). A spritzer is particularly good and can be very healing and soothing when applied to perineal tears (lavender and chamomile).
A nurturing massage can help promote relaxation, reduce muscular tension, pain and anxiety. Regular massage during pregnancy can help you relax and connect with your unborn baby. Following a detailed consultation with your Aromatherapist, essential oils are selected to suit your individual needs.
If there is a particular blend that you responded to positively in pregnancy e.g. it helped calm you, or enhanced feelings of empowerment – this will be an ideal blend to also use in labour. Birth partners can use the personalised blend to massage during the early stages of labour. The sense of smell is powerful at conjuring up memories. Upon smelling the personal blend in labour you can revisit those positive feelings experienced during your regular treatments in pregnancy, releasing ‘feel good’ endorphins and assisting an easier passage into labour.
In summary, Aromatherapy can be invaluable in helping you through those precious nine months of pregnancy, during labour and beyond. Professional advice is a good idea for anyone contemplating the use of aromatherapy but especially so in pregnancy. Ensure you seek the advice of a specialist aromatherapist, choose one that has undergone additional training in pregnancy and postnatal aromatherapy. (Don’t be frightened to ask, we love to show off our skills).
Tara is a qualified Aromatherapist and specialist in pregnancy and postnatal aromatherapy. She runs a wellbeing centre, Thea Haven. If you would like to book a session with Tara, she has kindly offered our readers £10 off your first treatment with her. Simply mention New Life Classes when you call up.
Chapel Pill Lane, Pill, Bristol, BS20 0HH
T: 07892 798 938