6 Essential Oils for Labor and Using Them Safely

Thanks to more and more women standing up for autonomy and desiring a natural birth - including in hospitals - essential oils are becoming more popular in labor and delivery.

I love this because if we can use essential oils as a tool to help us achieve a natural delivery and help us cope with the things that arise during labor (natural or not!), we can feel more empowered, which leads to more confidence in ourselves and our ability to parent these tiny humans.

We do, however, still need to use them safely. Safe use is the most effective because we are using the essentials oil to their fullest abilities and do not have to deal with many of the potential side effects of them.

These 6 essential oils are what I carry in my doula bag (as well as my preferred carrier oil).

1) Geranium

This is very relaxing, feminine essential oil. It can help ease a lot of the tension and anxiety that arises during labor as well as encouraging the uterus to contract without being overly strong.

Used on the legs with massage, it can help with swelling and ensuring good circulation. 

2) Chamomile roman

This is a deeply relaxing essential oil for not only the mind but for pain as well. Not everyone is a fan of the scent initially but many people end up loving it because of how much it works for them.

It can be used in a massage blend (like with Geranium and Lavender) or diffused (see notes below about diffusing in labor).

3) Lavender

Cliche as it might be, Lavender is an all purpose essential oil that deserves a spot in labor. Use it for mental and emotional health, uplifting and relaxing...but also for aches during labor.

Anxious papas will also get the benefits from this essential oil - anxious papas make for anxious mamas and we don't want that!

4) Mandarin

This is a wonderful uplifting essential oil for when mama gets tired. While we encourage mamas to rest if they get tired, sometimes they can't and need a little pick me up.

I like to pair it with....

5) Spearmint

Nausea and vomiting sometimes come with labor and birth, leaving mama even more tired and unable to focus or relax herself through contractions.

I choose Spearmint over Peppermint because of it safely factor for children. While it may seem odd that I am worried about this...that baby will be in the same room you were just using the essential oils in, so I am extremely mindful of that.

Why is it safer? Peppermint contains high amounts of menthol and more 1,8 cineole. Both of these cause respiratory problems in young babies. In Spearmint, the amounts of drastically reduced with menthol not even registering. In the Essential Oils Safety text book (by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young), there are no known contraindications for Spearmint.

6) Clary Sage

This is a really well known and loved essential oil for birth because it helps stimulate contractions (which is why you don't want to use it until you are in labor) but it also helps with the pain from contractions. 

Surprisingly, I don't use it as much as you would think, opting for Geranium instead, but it is a really nice option to have to help keep contractions steady.

Using Essential Oil Safely in Labor

Topically - Always dilute. For labor, we can move to a 3-5% dilution rate which is 3-5 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. Do NOT put it on the chest or upper belly. When baby is born, they will be placed on the chest and we want the smell of mama to be what they are smelling, not an essential oil.

Read about using acupressure during labor and when you are rubbing and pressing those spots, use them essential oils as well. For example - using a 3% geranium oil on the legs will put you in a good position to press on Kidney 1, UB 60, and Spleen 6!

Carrier Oil - My absolutely favorite carrier oil for labor is sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is a light, easily absorbed oil and is perfect for massaging, making it wonderful for use in labor. Its also a great one on its own for infant massage. Many times, its available in the same location as olive oil is in the stores!

Diffusing - I am not a fan of most diffusers and diffusing in labor is kind of hit or miss for me. So lets talk about that some more.

  1. 1) We should only diffuse for about 30 minutes maximum at a time. Our olfactory receptors "fill" up after about 30 minutes. Our nervous system will still register them but scent is part of the process. Find a diffuser that gives you a timing option - trust me, you will not remember to turn it on and off every thirty minutes. I use this one.
  2. 2) Using personal inhalers or tissues rather than a full room diffuser so that when mom decides she no longer likes a scent (which could very easily happen), you can just tuck the tissue or diffuser away and its gone. Using a whole room diffuser will mean there will be about 20 minutes before the scent has dissipated from the room.  Additionally - while mom is definitely the focus - dad might absolutely hate the smell of XYZ and will cause some negative energy, even if he is doing a fairly good job at sucking it up. 

Erin, an herbalist friend who owns Fox Valley Herbs, has a birth set of personal inhalers just for this.

Water birth?

Opt out of using essential oils in the tub...especially if you are planning on delivering in the tub. While the essential oils listed here on relatively safe for babies, lets not start their life in an essential oil bath. The scent of mama along with all the coating they have when they are born, are a crucial part of establishing a bond and a healthy gut.

No, pain blends from the big companies are not recommended for birth. Many of them contain Wintergreen and Clove essential oils which are blood thinning, not something you want during labor/birth. They also contain Peppermint (see about in Spearmint section). 

Did you use essential oils in labor? What were your favorites and how did you use them? 



The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

Essential Oil Safety 2nd Ed by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young

Mama Natural How to Do Acupressure When You're in Labor