Welcome to the first part of the birth boss series on essential oils in childbirth! In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be profiling different essential oils that every birthing person should stock in their labour toolkit.
Why am I such a big believer in the magic of aromatherapy?
Essential oils are a great complementary therapy for pain management & increasing comfort during your labour. It’s non-invasive and can be used in lieu of or in conjunction with other interventions, like an epidural, c-section, or Pitocin drip. And it’s not all multi-level marketing hocus pocus - essential oils use the energy from plants to chemically reprogram your physiological fear & pain responses. Pretty cool, right?
When life gives you lemons, start diffusing!
When stocking your essential oil kit for labour, lemon is the #1 oil I always include because it can be used in so many ways. Lemons are available in all seasons, which makes it popular and inexpensive, compared to other more rare oils. Plus, it smells so damn fresh! Often described as stimulating & uplifting, its energetic properties can revitalize fatigued birthing people during a long labour. Lemon is also helpful for combatting nausea and improving moods.
Cleanse ‘birthy’ smells
Lemon oil’s clean & energetic properties can also cancel out any unpleasant smells in your birthing space. Sorry to say but vomiting and bowel movements can happen unexpectedly during childbirth, and lemon oil can cleanse the scent of such bodily functions in the room. Similarly, during a cesarean section, the scent of lemon oil can counter the scent of cauterized flesh. For easy inhalation, your partner or doula can bring lemon oil on a cotton ball in a Ziploc bag into the operating theatre if hospital staff allow.
Is this just witch-doctor stuff?
While studies regarding essential oils during pregnancy are limited, there is some peer-reviewed research on the benefits of using lemon oil to alleviate many pregnancy-related discomforts. Mainly, these studies found that aromatic inhalation of lemon oil during pregnancy has been shown to alleviate pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting (Safajou, F., Shahnazi, M., & Nazemiyeh, H, 2014). In another study, midwives in the United Kingdom were effective in using lemon oil to improve the mood of their labouring patients, which contributed to the use of aromatherapy in midwifery units in the UK today (Burns, E. E., Blamey, C., & Lloyd, A. J., 2000).
Due to its evidence-based success in pregnancy and birth settings, lemon oil, alongside other essential oils, are becoming more visible and accepted by the medical community.
Along with any oil, lemon has been known to cause some reactions while applying topically, and as such, aromatic inhalation is recommended during birth so it can be taken away immediately. (Lawless, 120). Always test essential oils early in your pregnancy, as having an allergic reaction is the last thing you want to be thinking about while you’re having a contraction.
Interested in using essential oils in your birth?
The birth boss doula package includes aromatherapy-trained doula support for your labour.
Safajou, F., Shahnazi, M., & Nazemiyeh, H. (2014). The effect of lemon inhalation aromatherapy on nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a double-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 16(3).
Burns, E. E., Blamey, C., & Lloyd, A. J. (2000). Aromatherapy in childbirth: An effective approach to care. British Journal of Midwifery, 8(10), 639-643.
Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 120.