Aromatherapy for Childbearing
Of the five senses, the olfactory organ has the most direct link to the brain. Many people find that an aroma can have surprising effects, reaching past our conscious thoughts to trigger emotions and memories, and it is precisely this ability to gently reach past our mental armor that gives aromatherapy its power as a system of healing. (BritishLibrary.net)
The essential oil is what is used for aromatherapy, but first it must be drawn from the botanical substances by a lengthy process of distillation. What is left is a potent essential oil. The essential oil is highly fragrant and concentrated. In some cases when an oil is undiluted it can be a skin irritant, but there are many other ways to use essential oils.
Oils that must be avoided during the first three or four months of pregnancy include those that are described as "emmenagogue," meaning that they induce menstrual flow, those that are recommended for use during labor to strengthen contractions and a few somewhat toxic oils that could harm mother and fetus.
Oils to avoid during pregnancy:
Aniseed, armoise (mugwort), arnica, basil, birch, camphor, cedarwood, clary sage, cypress, fennel, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, origanum, pennyroyal, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, wintergreen, plus any other oil described as toxic.
Chamomile and lavender are also described as emmenagogue but can be used with care in small amounts and well diluted (1%-1.5%) except when the mother has reason to fear a miscarriage.
Later in pregnancy, lavender is good for relieving backache and rose diluted to 1% or 1.5% can be used for emotional needs.
Edema: Mild swelling of the ankles and lower legs may be relieved by massage with oil of geranium using smooth, firm strokes, moving always from the ankles toward the thighs.
Circulatory problems can be treated with massage with oil of lemon diluted to 2%.
Mix the oils to be used at birth ahead of time because once labor starts there may not be time to measure accurately. Also, early preparation can avoid spillage (potentially causing counterproductive heavy aroma) that may happen in the excitement of labor and birth.
Lavender or jasmine can be gently rubbed onto the tummy and/or lower back from the beginning of labor. Jasmine is effective at strengthening contractions, but some women find the scent too cloying in the warm birth environment. Lavender may be more acceptable. A few drops mixed in cool water will make a refreshing mixture with which to sponge the mother's face and body.
Jasmine should be used immediately after the baby's birth to help expel the afterbirth quickly and cleanly. It will also help tone the uterine muscles and help them return faster to their prepregnancy condition. Jasmine is also a very good antidepressant, and it promotes the flow of breastmilk. Oil of fennel has been known for hundreds of years to promote milk flow.
- An A-Z Aromatherapy by Patricia Davis
Early First Stage
For feelings of apprehension: To a 10-mL bottle, add the following essential oils and then add organic vegetable oil to fill:
4 drops Lavender
2 drops Neroli
Massage temples, forehead, chest and solar plexus. Breathe deeply.
Active First Stage
To a 10-mL bottle, add the following essential oils and then add organic vegetable oil to fill:
6 drops Lavender
1 drop Neroli
1 drop Rose
Massage the solar plexus, heart chakra, chest and neck. Inhale the blend deeply while resting.
For shaking, shivering, nausea, fear or exhaustion brought on by hard and fast contractions, inhale the following blend between contractions to help you endure this phase and give you an added boost of strength for delivery. To a 10-mL bottle, add the following essential oils and then add organic vegetable oil to fill:
4 drops Lavender
4 drops Sage
4 drops Peppermint
Massage the lower back, with emphasis on the sacrum.
Inhale the following aromatic blend before you begin pushing to help you gain the needed courage and emotional strength for this stage. To a 10-mL bottle, add the following essential oils and then add organic vegetable oil to fill:
4 drops Peppermint
4 drops Rosemary
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Question of the Week: T-shaped Incision
Q: A primip transported from an attempted homebirth -- breech with legs folded "tailor style." A classical c-section was done because of the advanced status of labor. The baby's butt and body were easily delivered through the incision, but an arm was folded over the head and jammed into the fundus. When they found it difficult to remove the arm, an extension was cut perpendicular to the classical incision. Mom now has a T-shaped cut on the uterine wall. She was told to never attempt a VBAC -- rupture "guaranteed." Any input?
- Linda, CNM
Send your responses to:
Question of the Week Responses: Aromatherapy
Q: Will readers please share any tips/experiences for using aromatherapy during labor?
A: I have a spray hand lotion that is strongly ginger scented. If the laboring woman is experiencing nausea, I spray a little of the lotion on her hand, and she sniffs it when needed. Nausea usually subsides, although sometimes it comes on too strongly to be arrested. This helps about 75% of the time.
- Suzanne Fremon, hypnodoula
A: I primarily use lavender essential oil in a base of pure light olive oil for massage during labor. I also use Gentle Baby essential oil by Young's. I also use it in a carrier base of olive oil. I put 3-5 drops of the esssential oil in 8 oz of base. I have put Gentle Baby essential oil straight into a bath with the mother and it has stopped her contractions within 20 minutes. So I now carry the pure oil for hyperactive uterus too early in pregnancy.
- Renata Hillman,
traditional midwife, certified monitrice, labor assistant, CBE
A: As a doula, I use aromatherapy extensively during labor and my clients love it. The first rule of using aromatherapy is to use a pure essential oil (NOT a fragrance oil) mixed with a base of sweet almond oil. A good starting book is Aromatherapy for Mother and Baby by Allison England.
Essential Oil Properties:
- Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): antiseptic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, aphrodisiac, uterine tonic. Lowers blood pressure; use on a compress for pain and relaxation, or as an antidepressant and euphoric.
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): antiseptic, antidepressant, astringent, diuretic, fortifying, healing, refreshing, toning, uplifting. Balances the body, cheers, relieves depression and fatigue. Stimulates the lymphatic system, relieves fluid retention and helps engorged breasts. Helps heal wounds and sores.
- Jasmine (Jasminum officinale): antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, helpful during labor, increases milk flow, general tonic. Expensive, but strong, so a little goes a long way. Uplifting, calming, boosting effect on emotions. Boosts confidence, relieves pain and helps expel the placenta.
- Lavender (Lavandula officinalis): antiseptic, antibiotic, analgesic, antidepressant, diuretic, antiviral, antifungal, antispasmodic, healing, sedating, toning. So gentle you can use it without dilution on the skin, but can blend it to make it go further. It is physically and mentally relaxing during labor and offsets pain.
- Lemon (Citrus limonum): antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, diuretic, stimulant, tonic. I use a few drops of lemon on a tissue for mom to inhale if she needs to clear her head or if she feels nauseous during transition. Don't use on the skin.
- Mandarin (Citrus nobilis): antiseptic, refreshing, tonic, digestive stimulant, mild relaxant. Helps upset stomach (inhale on a tissue). Good to massage the legs in upward strokes toward the heart if swollen feet and legs are a problem.
- Rose (Rose maroc or Rosa damascena): antiseptic, antibiotic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, menstrual stimulant, tonic. Powerful antidepressant, especially for grief, sadness, shyness and uncertainty. Tonic to the digestive system, especially the liver. I give clients a mix of 40 drops of rose in 15 mL of carrier oil to apply to their perineum twice a day for two weeks before the birth -- helps prevent tears.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): antiseptic, analgesic, general stimulant, menstrual stimulant, astringent, diuretic, tonic. I use a few drops on a tissue if mom needs to become more alert. Stimulating.
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata): antiseptic, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, lowers blood pressure, sedative. Helps anxiety, nervous tension, fear, shock, anger and emotional problems. Normalizes a racing heartbeat and rapid breathing (tissue inhalation).
Methods of Application
6 drops in a bowl of hot water will help scent the room and calm the breathing.
The oil (4 drops to 2 teaspoons of base/carrier oil such as sweet almond) can be rubbed on the tummy (especially the ones that help labor progress), on the shoulders, the arms, massaged into the hands or feet and legs. Any touch therapy helps relax the client by releasing endorphins, and the scent of the oils helps calm breathing. The oils are absorbed through the skin and have actual medicinal properties.
Another method of application is compress. Add 4 drops of essential oil into a bowl of hot water; swish to disperse. Drop a washcloth on top of the hot water and wring out. Apply to the lower abdomen for pain relief (clary sage), to help with placenta delivery (jasmine) or to the perineum to help prevent tears (rose maroc). When the cloth is cold, repeat. After every three repeats, add a few more drops to the water.
- Leigh Hudson, birth doula
A: I have seen wintergreen used for urine retention during labor or postpartum to avoid having to catheterize.
A: I brought aromatherapy candles to my birth. I chose lavender and tangerine because they are calming scents and I liked them both. I bought good-quality candles to ensure I would have a wonderful aroma in the room. I also had music of my choice playing throughout my delivery.
Know a strong woman? Helping empower one? If you haven't already done so, please forward this issue of Midwifery Today E-News to one or two of your friends or business associates. Thanks so much!
International Midwives Day
Valley Birth Support Network in Wisconsin hosted its first brunch reception for homebirth and hospital-based midwives on May 4. Doulas, CBEs and lactation consultants also attended. We pampered the midwives with therapeutic massage, good food, friendship and laughter. Each midwife was given a plant and scroll with a poem on it. This was the first time most of these women have been honored in their careers -- some spanning more than 20 years. What a great way to celebrate International Midwives Day and International Doula Month. No wonder mothers are honored in May!
- KarieAnn Zeinert, doula
What about meconium aspiration and "all-fours position"? Some doctors say that because the baby is face up all the fluids cannot be suctioned out and it raises the risk for aspiration.
I would just like to say how much I appreciate the different comments and stories related to the practice of midwifery from around the world [Issue 4:18]. Most of all I love the passion and loyalty toward women in their childbearing years. I have just begun my journey as a midwife and I am also bursting with passion.
P.S. What or who is a doula?
- Elisabeth, student midwife
[Editor's note: Doulas, please write one paragraph about what you do and why and send it to E-News. If you have favorite doula tricks, send those too. We'll do a doula issue!]
My sister is 31 years old and is expecting her first child. She is an avid horseback rider, and she wonders if riding could have ill effects on her baby. She rides daily, sometimes two different horses.
- Karine L.
I have witnessed the professionalization of lactation consulting as it is being thrust upon midwifery by the nursing profession. Unfortunately, the traditional registered nurse in the United States is trained to rely upon technology instead of her hands, her eyes, her sense of smell and taste, her ears and even her heart and soul (instinct).
Daily I am repulsed by the constant interruption of the natural process of mothers and babies bonding. The medicalization of birth and breastfeeding has stripped away the power of both women as birthing goddesses and as caregivers. We no longer trust our bodies to give birth nor to guide the process.
I am routinely called a "witch doctor" in my own neighborhood in Oregon because I rely upon homeopathy, herbs, essential oils and hands-on techniques. Ironically, I have an outstanding track record for babies that "no one else could help" (I'm the provider of last resort because I don't accept insurance; however, I use a sliding payment scale and take items in trade). When I'm called to the hospital by my long-standing patients, I see the nurses' eyes roll, but I also see them listening and watching with eyes nearly bugging out of their sockets. They've on many occasions commented on how effectively my "unconventional" techniques work (such as using NSP's Homeopathic Distress Remedy, a drop or two of lavender oil in a carrier oil for massaging mom to enhance letdown or for infant massage in a resistant nurser, using true skin-to-skin contact and fortifying the mother's self confidence). I always bring a bouquet of flowers with rosemary and lavender from my own organic garden (and I add a couple of drops of high-quality essential oils to the leaves). The staff thinks I'm just bringing flowers, but I explain to the parents what I'm really doing with the plants.
It's true I may have more liberty because I have a doctorate in Public Health and I'm doubly board certified, but even so I am still faced with the pressure to conform and an uphill battle in terms of educating staff. So many days I feel like throwing my hands up and walking away. Those are the days I'm grateful that I'm in private practice and that I have a network of friends such as those at Midwifery Today.
- Chris Hafner-Eaton, PhD, MPH, CHES, IBCLC
EDITOR'S NOTE: Only letters sent to the E-News official e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, will be considered for inclusion. Letters sent to ANY OTHER e-mail addresses will not be considered.
The International School of Traditional Midwifery in Ashland Oregon is accepting enrollment for Fall 2002 classes. Contact us at 541-488-8254 or visit us at www.globalmidwives.org
DID YOU HAVE AN EPIDURAL?
Midwife wants to hear from women experiencing problems after epidural, please share your story. Anonymity guaranteed. Write: Mo at Epicomps, 8657 Douglas #261, DSM, IA 50322 or e-mail email@example.com
"Returning Birth to the Family" Midwifery Conference in Asheville, NC -- August 23-25th. Grand Midwife Margaret Charles Smith, Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed, Waterbirth Pioneer Marina Alzugaray. Southeast MANA meeting. Contact Cheryl -- 828-628-6345 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.thematrona.com
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