FOR LABOR & DELIVERY
In the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of aromatherapy as complementary treatment to traditional medicine. While there is little research on the use of aromatherapy in hospitals, and no information on its use in labor and delivery in the US, it has been employed successfully pre- and postnatally in England and Western Europe.
According to case studies, aromatherapy can be helpful during labor and in preparing the body and mind for pregnancy.
Midwives in Europe endorse aromatherapy, and it is a mandatory course in midwifery training in Germany. Studies have shown that the use of aromatherapy during labor reduced fetal distress and normalized fetal heart variability.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the art of using Essential Oils, (extracted from aromatic plants) to enhance health, ease physical discomfort, and alleviate emotional stress. Essential oils are extracted from flowers, herbs, spices, woods, resins, and fibers and contain natural elements that make them therapeutically valuable.
In aromatherapy, the brain responds to the scents by associating them with past memories. If the scent is unfamiliar, a new memory is created. These memory responses are energizing, calming, stimulating, balancing or relaxing, and as the sense of smell has the greatest recall, the memories associated with them are enduring.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
The use of Essential Oils helps heal the body and relieve aches and pains, as well as reduce stress through relaxation. However, these oils have many other useful properties: muscle relaxants (black pepper and marjoram), circulatory stimulants (rosemary and basil), and digestive tonics (mint and cardamom). Many oils can enhance immunity (tea tree, lavender, and bergamot) and others repair injured cells (lavender) or eliminate metabolic waste (grapefruit and juniper).
Almost all Essential Oils are antibacterial, antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antibiotic, and antiviral. Consequently, they make wonderful disinfectant as the Essential Oil molecules attach themselves to microbes, engulf them, and cut off their supply of oxygen. In essence, the oils suffocate offending microbes.
Moreover, Essential Oils slightly lower blood pH, which creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Essential Oils are “prebiotic;” they kill pathogenic bacteria, but leave the intestinal flora intact.
Another advantage is that bacteria do not build up a resistance as they do with antibiotics. Essential Oils act quickly in the body and are metabolized like other nutrients. They contain oxygen molecules that transport nutrients to cells. In doing so, the needed oxygen provides nourishment, and the Essential Oils stimulate the immune system.
Clinical research shows that some oils contain high immune-stimulating properties. The well-known phenomenon of air purification and refreshment is achieved when the oil molecules bond with impurities in the air, extrapolating or overwhelming them, leaving the air behind more pleasant to the senses. As Essential Oils diffuse, air is purified through the removal of toxins and metallic particles from the air. In addition, oils fill the air with a fresh aromatic scent that helps promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
Essential Oils have been used for thousands of years to heal the body, mind, and emotions. By combining the experiences and observations of the past with modern biochemical properties and techniques, the application of aromatherapy in labor and delivery is a useful tool that increases patient care and satisfaction.
Aromatherapy in Labor
The essential oils suggested for use during labor include lavender, rose, geranium, jasmine, clary sage, neroli, ylang-ylang, and citrus (mandarin or petitgrain).
When using essential oils, less is more. The essential oils are safe when used in recommended dilutions and appropriate applications. Patch tests are suggested before use.
Application of Aromatherapy
during Labor & Childbirth
With all the access we have to information about pregnancy labor itself remains a mystery in many ways. What we do know is that labor is likely the hardest work a woman will endure in her lifetime. It also holds all the beauty, wonder and infinite power of life itself. But it is the unknown that causes most expectant mothers to be scared and apprehensive as the due date nears. More and more women are turning to aromatherapy during their labor to help them cope with the emotional issues facing them.
Resources usually divide labor neatly into three phases, but it's important to recognize that each childbirth experience is unique. Depending on your emotional needs, consider incorporating no more than two or three aromatic blends into your childbirth plan.