Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Birth
by Sonia Griffiths
Sonia is a fully qualified aromatherapist and member of the Federation
of Holistic Therapists.
Aromas have a very powerful effect upon us and can influence our
emotional state. Aromatherapy, however is much more than just pleasant
fragrances. So we would like to introduce you to some of the benefits
that aromatherapy can give you, and how it can be used to compliment
your Second Nature Birth Program.
Roughly translated Aromatherapy means “Treatment
with scents”. It is the use of aromatic essential
oils as a complementary therapeutic treatment to heal and uplift
the body, mind & spirit. It can bring great benefit throughout
pregnancy and beyond for both the mother and the birthing companion.
Aromatherapy employs many different methods to introduce essential
oils into the body. The most well known is massage which is helpful
to relieve stress and aching muscles and helps to promotes a feeling
of well being. Other methods are: aromatic baths, vaporisers, inhalations
An important consideration
when using essential oils is that with the exception of lavender
for burns and tea tree for skin eruptions, theymust never be put
onto the skin in a neat format.
They can be diluted in carrier oils, creams and lotions for massage,
into milk to be added to a bath or diluted in water for compresses.
An important point is that in pregnancy the dilutions must be half
of that for a normal adult. So for massage you need 2 drops of essential
oil per 10mls of carrier oil, or 3-4 drops in a bath.
Next is a word of caution about the essential oils, which are unsafe
for use during pregnancy.
Many of the unsafe oils
are said to be emenogogues, which means they promote menstrual bleeding
and may induce miscarriage. Therefore oils not to be used
Basil, clary sage, cedarwood, cypress, fennel, jasmine, juniper,
lemongrass, marjoram, myrrh, origanum, parsley, peppermint, rose,
rosemary and thyme.
Some of these oils however, are beneficial during labour only and
these will be discussed later.
In addition, chamomile
and lavender, although usually very safe oils, must be avoided during
the first trimester, but after that can be very beneficial for certain
Although the recommended essential oils for pregnancy and labour
are fine to use in a vapouriser, we would advise that you consult
a qualified aromatherapist before using any essential oil on your
skin. The benefits of a professional massage are many fold including:
reducing aches and pains, promoting relaxation, reducing water retention,
nourishing the skin and providing a feeling of well-being.
All vegetable based carrier
oils can be very beneficial to the skin but do take care if you
have e.g. a nut allergy. Cold pressed coconut oil can help prevent
or reduce stretch marks, and importantly a blend of sweet almond
oil and jojoba is recommended during your last 8 weeks in order
to prepare the perineal skin for birth.
Blend 40 ml sweet almond oil and 10ml of jojoba oil
into a sealable plastic container and massage in a few drops daily.
another PDF on this site which describes how to perform perineal
Those with a nut allergy should use cold pressed olive oil and
wheat germ oil in a 45ml to 5ml ratio, as an alternative.
Many of the citrus oils like orange, lemon, grapefruit and bergamot
are safe during pregnancy and have uplifting qualities. However
do not use them before exposure to direct sunlight as they can cause
Beneficial oils used to aid relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety
are: bergamot, lavender and neroli. Ylang ylang is also a relaxing
oil but it can be quite heady, so limit the amount of drops to one
Examples of relaxing bath blends are:
- 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop of ylang ylang
- 2 bergamot, 1 neroli
- 2 lavender 1 geranium and 1 frankincense.
Aromatherapy in Labour
Essential oils in the delivery suite can both disinfect the
atmosphere and create a relaxing ambience.
to ensure the aroma is pleasing. A nice relaxing mix to be added
bowl of hot water is: 2 drops of lavender, 2 drops of geranium and
2 drops of lemon or bergamot.
At this stage, Clary sage can be used as it is a sedative, with
analgesic properties. It can be dropped onto a handkerchief for
inhalations, although it is not recommended if you are using gas
There follows a list of other useful oils that can be used in labour:
is great for the circulation and helps breathing
- Jasmine is warm
and fragrant and has anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties.
It is also very beneficial in a compress on the lower
abdomen to help expel the placenta
- Lavender is antiseptic and excellent
for aching backs and limbs. It is recommended in a bath during
the early stages and is wonderful
for the healing of vaginal tears or episiotomy scars
- Neroli helps combat any fear or apprehension
- Rose is a very feminine oil and is a uterine tonic which helps
to regulate labour
- Ylang Ylang is very calming and helps lower the blood pressure
Remember, essential oils can be dangerous if not used appropriately
and they are never to be ingested. Don’t forget your birthing
companion will also benefit from the oils, as they may also appreciate
their claming qualities during your pregnancy and labour. Try giving
each other a relaxing massage or visit a therapist for a full body
treatment. Most of all enjoy your oils safely.