pregnant women holding glass tube of oil
Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge

The best essential oils for labour

Essential oils can have a calming and soothing effect during labour. They can be really effective at helping you manage your pain and feel less anxious when you are at home in the early stages.

Some midwifery-led and maternity units offer aromatherapy during labour as a complementary therapy so do speak to your midwife to find out if this is the case in your area. She will also be able to tell you what the hospital or midwife-led unit’s policy is on the use of essential oils brought from home.

In some trusts, staff are only able to administer oils provided by the hospital but labouring women are welcome to use their own. Essential oils are also a popular pain relief tool for home births.

 Which essential oils should I use during labour?

There is a huge range of essential oils and some are more effective during labour than others. The following oils are considered safe to use and have a beneficial effect for labouring women.

  • Lavender  – lavender helps you to feel more relaxed and can release tension in your muscles. It is antibacterial and antimicrobial and has a natural sedating effect.
  • Frankincense – You may have only heard of frankincense from learning about the nativity but this oil can be very good at calming emotions. It can ease feelings of anxiety, panic and distress and help you feel more mentally prepared for the birth.
  • Peppermint – It is quite common to feel nauseous during labour and this can help settle your stomach. Peppermint also encourages contractions and can help combat fatigue, giving you the energy to keep going.
  • Jasmine – This is a great natural mood booster, which can be really useful in keeping your spirits up during labour and birth. It is also known to help stimulate milk production so is a good choice if you are planning to breastfeed.
  • Rose – This oil is good for relaxation and can help soften your ligaments.
  • Clary Sage – Clary Sage can help get labour moving and encourage your body to produce more effective contractions. It is also a natural pain relief method and can help you feel both calm and uplifted.
  • Myrhh – Like frankincense, you probably associate this one with the three wise men but it is a uterine stimulant so it can help intensify your contractions if your labour is slow.
  • Bergamot – This can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety and lift your mood.
  • Black Pepper –  This oil is good at relieving any muscular aches and pains and has a warming effect. It can also help your mind to focus and concentrate.
  • Chamomile – A calming and relaxing oil, this can relieve tension and help you feel less irritable and restless. It is also a powerful natural ant-inflammatory.
  • Grapefruit – As well as having a pleasant and refreshing citrus aroma, grapefruit is effective at relieving feelings of fear and anxiety and can provide some pain relief.
  • Tea Tree – Tea tree is a natural antifungal and antiseptic and can help ease shock.
  • Mandarin – This has a lovely sweet aroma and can help you feel happier and less tense.
  • Neroli – This oil has a calming and reassuring effect and is also a natural anti-depressant.
  • Marjoram – Marjoram helps stimulate contractions, lowers blood pressure and helps with breathing.

How do I use essential oils during labour?

There are a number of ways you can use essential oils during labour. You could add a few drops to a bath, massage the oil into your lower back  - get your birth partner to help with this, or even just inhale the aroma.

If you are at home, you could use an oil burner or vaporiser to carry the scent of the essential oil you want to use on the air. You can combine different oils but it is best to stick to just two or three – don’t make a mixture with every oil you can get your hands on!

If you are using an essential oil for massage, it will need to be added to a carrier oil like olive oil, grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil first. Use 20 drops of oil per 100ml of carrier oil. 

You can also add a few drops of essential oil to a muslin or hanky and breathe it in to help you cope during your contractions.

Make sure you are not allergic to any of the essential oils before you use them – you may want to do a patch test on your skin before you go into labour to be on the safe side.

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