Essential Oils for Labor and Birth
The third trimester is one of the most exciting and uncomfortable of a woman’s pregnancy. It includes the final months of a child’s fetal development, and can result in early labor, or an extended due date. Women who have reached their expected delivery date, may choose to induce labor following a discussion with a doctor, if natural labor doesn’t occur. According to the American Family Physician, more than 13% of live births in the United States are induced each year.6
In traditional western medicine, doctors use a drug called Pitocin to induce labor in women who are unable to begin the process naturally. This medication imitates the hormone, oxytocin, to stimulate contractions. Your doctor may also need to manually break the amniotic sac, if your water hasn’t broken yet.6
Some women prefer not to use medicinal remedies to induce, and instead, rely on more natural methods. Using essential oils to induce labor is not a new practice, but is still being studied for its potential, as more evidence is required. Aromatherapy can also be used to manage pain during and after the delivery, due to some oils hosting analgesic properties and promoting relaxation.2
Essential Oils to Induce Labor
The use of oils to induce labor doesn’t work for every woman, and each oil provides different qualities which help speed contractions and move you through the labor process. The top 3 aromatherapy oils to induce labour include clary sage, lavender, and rose essential oil.
Clary sage essential oil has natural chemical components which work to stimulate hormones, and cause menstruation to occur. For a woman who is 9 months pregnant, this same hormonal stimulation progresses labor.1 Lavender essential oil promotes relaxation, which can decrease labor times and promote a fast delivery.2 Using rose essential oil to induce labor works by speeding up contractions and decreasing the length of labor.3
Essential oils for inducing labor are applied topically in the form of massage, or inhaled using a steam diffuser. For topical applications, always dilute the essential oil using a carrier oil, such as jojoba, to avoid skin irritation. Steam diffusers typically instruct 2-3 drops of essential oil per 3 oz. of water.
Aromatherapy to induce labor is used by some doctors, nurses, and midwives, but not all medical professionals recommend it to their patients. Before you use an essential oil to induce labor, speak to your physician about your medical history, and whether it is the right choice for your delivery.
Clary Sage to Induce Labor
The therapeutic aroma of clary sage essential oil has a smooth, sweet smell which is used in massage oils for menstrual cramp relief; it is also one of the few essential oils that induce labor. In a large evaluative study, researchers followed 8058 women from 1990-1998 who used aromatherapy during labor and childbirth. The results showed that 525 of these women used essential oils to speed up the labor process, with 80% of women choosing clary sage essential oil to induce labor. Of these women 70% saw success with the essential oils to start labor, and required no further medicinal induction.1
For those wondering how to use clary sage to induce labor, Essential Oil Experts recommends adding 20 drops of the essential oil to 2 oz. of carrier oil, such as sweet almond. Mix well, and apply topically by massaging into the stomach, soles of the feet, or lower back. This is one of the best essential oils for labor, as it has had the most favorable outcome in inducing.
Lavender to Induce Labor
Two notable benefits of lavender essential oil are its ability to promote relaxation and decrease stress. Both characteristics are helpful in labor inducing essential oils, as relaxation is a known technique to decrease the pain of contractions, and speed up the labor process.
When asked the question, ‘can lavender oil induce labor?’, researchers responded with a 2016 publication in the American Journal of Nursing Sciences; this discussed pain relief and relaxation stimulated by lavender essential oil. The researchers found that the use of lavender essential oil decreased the duration in the first, second, and third stages of labor when tested on 60 pregnant women. The test used 2 drops of lavender essential oil, diluted with 1.7 oz. of almond carrier oil, and was massaged into the skin.2
Does lavender oil bring on labor? More research is required to identify whether it could be used as an induction agent, but statistics show that lavender essential oil speeds contraction times, and promotes comfort levels during labor.
To use lavender oil in your third trimester to promote a speedy delivery, mix 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil with 4 drops of lavender essential oil. This homemade essential oil cream can be applied topically to the back and abdomen following consent from a doctor.
Rose Oil to Induce Labor
Used in perfumes, and toiletries around the world, rose essential oil is ideal for the late stages of the third trimester, and is considered one of the most effective labor inducing oils. Like lavender, there is more research required to determine if this is one of the best essential oils to help induce labor, but research has shown that rose essential oil may speed up contractions and reduce the length of labor for pregnant women.
In 2003, two researchers published their findings in the Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The publication outlined the effects of rose, clary sage, jasmine, and geranium oil diluted with a carrier, and massaged onto backs of pregnant women every two hours. The team sought to prove that these essential oils would reduce labor pain and increase relaxation levels; instead, the oils sped contractions and decreased the length of labor significantly in participants.3
Before using any essential oil that induces labor, talk to your doctor to make sure it is a safe alternative to pharmaceutical stimulation.
Essential Oils for Labor
Labor pain is described as incredibly painful, and sometimes unbearable. Doctors may offer relief in the form of an epidural, or a local narcotic. Some women prefer to use essential oils for giving birth to avoid the introduction of chemicals to the unborn child. The use of essential oils for childbirth should be monitored by a medical professional.
Aromatherapy oils for labor and birth are helpful for inducing and speeding up contractions, and can also promote pain relief during labor due to calming and analgesic qualities. Essential oils childbirth methods include using essential oils via diffusion, massage, candle burning, and bathing products to increase relaxation. If you’re still wondering how to ease labor pain with essential oils, read on below.
Clary Sage and Labor
Clary sage for labor is one of the top aromatherapy childbirth tools for natural pain relief. In a 2000 study, researchers reported results from 8058 women participants over an 8-year period. Results showed evidence that clary sage and chamomile essential oils were effective at alleviating pain through aromatherapy during labor. The study also suggests that the use of essential oils for pregnancy and labor can reduce fear, anxiety and stress during delivery.4
The above study used skin absorption and inhalation to reap the benefits of clary sage during labor. To create your own natural pain relief with clary sage, add 3 drops of essential oil to 3 oz. of water in a steam diffuser. Clary sage, and labor inducing essential oils from other plant families, should always be cleared by a medical professional before use. Ask your physician if clary sage essential oil labor enhancers are a good fit for you.
Lavender Oil for Labor
Floral, sweet, and earthy, lavender oil for labor is known to promote relaxation, and speed the delivery process. A 2016 study collected results from 60 pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 25 and found that applying lavender essential oil in the form of a massage, decreased stress levels and pain.2
For your own lavender infused massage during labor, combine 4 drops of lavender essential oil with 8 drops of sweet almond carrier oil. Mix well, and rub into the lower back, abdomen, and feet, after consulting with a doctor.
Jasmine Oil and Labor
The jasmine flower is native to Eurasia, Oceania, and Australia, and produces a unique sharp and sweet smell used in many perfumes. Jasmine essential oil has been shown to provide natural pain relief during labor and may be one of the most effective essential oils for birth.
In a study which focused on primigravida women, (women who are pregnant for the first time), researchers found that using jasmine essential oils during labor decreased pain levels in the first stages. The test on essential oils for labor and delivery included 40 women between the ages of 18 and 30. The women were split into two groups, with half receiving a back massage using jasmine essential oil. The results concluded that this method of aromatherapy for labor was effective in treating early labor pain.5
To create a labour essential oil blend that combines the power of induction, along with pain relief, combine 2 drops of clary sage essential oil with 2 drops of lavender essential oil, and mix in 8 drops of olive oil. Massage into the skin during the final stages of the third trimester, following the recommendation of a doctor. Essential oils for postpartum pain can also be implemented using massage or steam diffusion. Never apply essential oils directly to a wound, as some oils can cause irritation and discomfort.
Frankincense Essential Oil for Labor
Formed in the sap of Commiphora and Boswellia trees, one benefit of frankincense essential oil is its ability to naturally reduce pain during labor.
In a 2011 study, researchers applied a mixture of frankincense essential oil and a carrier oil, in the form of massage. Pregnant women received the massage for ten minutes, every hour following a cervical dilation of 5 cm. Results showed that the use of a frankincense essential oil massage during labor could potentially decrease pain and anxiety levels in mothers.7
Even the best essential oils for labor should never be applied without being diluted with a carrier oil. Before using any of the above essential oils for labor induction, speak to your doctor to determine whether this treatment will work with your medical history. The application of essential oils for induced labor is not recommended until the end of the third trimester, on or following the due date.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Burns E., Blamey C. & Lloyd A. (2000) Aromatherapy in childbirth: An effective approach to care. Journal of British Midwifery, 8(10). Retrieved on May 14, 2017 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272450347_Aromatherapy_in_childbirth_An_effective_approach_to_care – View reference
- Lamadah S. (2016) The effect of aromatherapy massage using lavender oil on the level of pain and anxiety during labor among primigravida women. American Journal of Nursing Science 5(2), 37-44. DOI: 10.11648/j.ajns.20160502.11
- Hur, M. H. & Park, M. H. (2003). Effects of aromatherapy on labor process, labor pain, labor stress response and neonatal status of primipara: Randomized clinical trial. Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 46(4), 776-783. Retrieved on May 14, 2017 from http://pesquisa.bvsalud.org/oncologiauy/resource/en/wprim-287407
- Burns E., Blamey, C., Ersser S. J., Lloyd, A. J. & Barnetson, L. (2000) The use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice an observational study. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 6(1), 33-34. DOI: 1054/ctnm.1999.0901
- Joseph, R. M. & Fernandes, P. (2013) Effectiveness of jasmine oil massage on reduction of labor pain among primigravida mothers. Nitte University Journal of Health Science 3(4). Retrieved on May 14, 2017 from http://nitte.edu.in/journal/dec%202013/104-107%20Reeja%20Mariam.pdf
- Harman, J. & Kim, A. (1999) Current trends in cervical ripening and labor induction. American Family Physician. 60(2), 477-483. Retrieved on May 14, 2017 from http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0801/p477.html
- Kyoung, L. M. & Haeng, H. M. (2011) Effects of the spouse’s aromatherapy massage on labor pain, anxiety and childbirth satisfaction for laboring women. Korean Journal of Women Health Nursing 17(3), 195-204. Retrieved on May 19, 2017 – View reference