How to use essential oils safely during labor and birth


I have such a passion for birth and postpartum. I’ve had the privilege of giving birth to my own children, two via waterbirths where I was able to catch my babies myself, and the last via a home birth, and I have also been able to be the lone person assisting two mothers during their births while working as a paramedic.

As an herbalist, certified doula, Sacred Pregnancy Mini Retreat instructor, and  traditional postpartum care provider, I feel that providing expecting mamas with the information on using herbs and essential oils to assist them from pregnancy through motherhood is extremely valuable. I also believe that it is of the utmost importance that women are instructed on the correct and safe use of herbs and essential oils during these times, especially.

Unfortunately, there is much incorrect information available via the Internet and even printed books, which can cause both harm and a lack of proper effect for the women using these methods. Hence, where I come in! This is the first of what will be a series of educational pieces devoted specifically to pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum to help you know exactly how to safely and effectively use natural plant based tools to assist your well being as you grow little humans, bring them into the world, and then help your own body re-balance itself to a non-pregnant state.

Using essential oils safely during labor and birth

  1. You CAN use essential oils to assist you during labor and birth! Knowing which ones are safe, and how to safely use them is the key here. Having a basic understanding of how they work during pregnancy and birthing is important, so that you don’t get into a situation that you don’t want to be in. Before you begin using essential oils, it’s important to educate yourself on the basics. I offer a free class that is free to the first 100 participants on both Essential Oils AND Herbs– click here to sign up! All information from here on out in this article assumes that you have taken my Essential Oils and Herbs 101 Course or that you have equivalent knowledge. 🙂
  2. Prepare your oils and blends before hand, label them, and have them in your birth bag. My top three essential oil targets are: a labor support blend (overall support for pain, nausea, and emotional stamina), a stalled labor blend (to help things progress if your body is ready), and a bleeding reduction blend (to be used prior to birth, but that can also be applied postpartum).
  3. Work with your care provider. Find someone that is knowledgeable about using natural methods to support labor, and listen to them.
  4. There are various ways to administer essential oils. During labor and birthing, the only ways that I recommend would be topically (diluted appropriately), and on a cloth that the mother can hold near her face to smell (or via personal inhaler).
  5. Do not put oils in the birthing water. Why? Because you don’t want essential oils to directly contact the baby during birth, and you don’t want to risk experiencing a dermal irritation yourself. A great alternative to this, if approved by your care provider, is a sachet of herbs in your bath water.
  6. Do not diffuse oils in the birthing room. Why? Because you don’t want to risk that one of your care providers is sensitive to the oils you are diffusing, and you also don’t want to put yourself in a position that you cannot have the scent removed from you if YOU become irritated by it. When pregnant, it’s common to become nauseous by things that didn’t used to make you ill, and it’s also common to find a particular scent helpful one moment, but not helpful the next. Do not put yourself in a position that you can’t get away from the essential oil if you need to. Using a personal inhaler, or putting the oil on a cloth and holding it near your face so you can breathe it in gives you the benefit of those oils, and also gives you the control to be able to remove the oils from yourself if you need to. Additionally, you don’t want a newborn exposed to essential oils in the air as it can cause respiratory problems.
  7. Do not apply essential oils to neonates or newborns. They do not have the ability to process substances like older humans do yet, and they are at increased risk of dermal irritation and organ sensitivity, as well as respiratory irritation and problems. Essential oils are extremely powerful–that’s why they work so quickly and completely! Imagine your liver not being able to process everything yet, and having those molecules built up in you that you can’t handle! When you apply an essential oil to the skin, it has been shown to penetrate every cell in the body in about 20 minutes, and is detectable in the bloodstream only 22 seconds after application. Wait until your children are older to use essential oils on them. \
  8. You CAN use essential oils on yourself after birth to support you during your third stage of labor (placenta delivery) and in the immediate postpartum stage (to reduce bleeding, assist with pain, help your hormones and emotions balance, etc.). Just be sure to not apply on areas of your body that your newborn’s face would be near.

I hope that these guidelines are helpful as you prepare for the birth of your baby, and that you can walk into your birth room with confidence!

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