Whilst looking for something else (!) I stumbled across these two indepth articles on Aromatherapy for childbirth written for the choices mailing by our ace Aromatherapist SaRah Deacon. I thought they were well worth dusting off and putting out there. So get our your reading glasses and brew yourself a cuppa and read on!
Aromatherapy in Pregnancy and Labour
By SaRah Deacon member of The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA)
7th century an English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper laid the foundations for modern day aromatherapy, he recorded therapeutic properties of the oils.
How Modern Aromatherapy Began in the West
In July 1910 Rene-Maurice Gattefosse was a French chemist whose father owned a perfume business. While working in the lab he badly burnt his hand and plunged it into a container of Lavender essential oil. He found the burn healed quickly with no blistering or scarring. He went on to use essential oils for treatment on soldiers in military hospitals during the 1st World War. During the 2nd World War Dr Jean Valnet an army surgeon used essential oils with great success as antiseptics in the treatment of war wounds.
Then in the 1950’s Marguerite Maury a French biochemist and beautician who did not want to advise people to ingest the oils but to apply then externally set up an Aromatherapy clinic in London teaching therapists how to use pre-blended oils with massage… She emphasised the importance of essential oils as psychotherapeutic substances capable of bringing about change in one’s mood. Micheline Arcier was an early advocate of holistic well-being – developing exclusive products and signature aromatherapy massage techniques that treated each client as a complex but complete individual, which is still being used today.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, carrier oils and hydrolats, through contact with the skin and inhalation. These oils are extracted from different parts of fruits, flowers, herbs and trees which all have different therapeutic properties.
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that treats the whole person, mind, body and spirit to induce a state of balance and harmony, stimulating the body’s own potential to heal both physically and emotionally.
The oils you use should be selected not only for your physical needs, but also for emotional needs. Also use essential oils that you like the smell of, not just for the properties they have and always purchase essential oils from a reputable company, preferably one that is a member of an aromatherapy trade association as only essential oils of the highest quality and purity should be used.
The way an Aromatherapist may work:
After a detailed consultation is completed you will be asked to undress, while the blend is being mixed for your massage. Some therapists have the mother to be lying on one side on a couch, or straddled on a chair the wrong way round or the best is if you lean over a couch with pillows whilst sat on a stool. The treatments tend to be short and for specific areas.
After a treatment you may feel wonderful, full of energy and a great feeling of wellbeing or you may experience some temporary mild discomfort, such as mild cold symptoms, tiredness, heightened emotions, headache, increased urination, bowel movements or aches and pains over problem areas. All of these are nothing to be concerned about as these reactions are due to the body’s own healing and elimination process and generally pass very quickly.
Benefits of Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Birth
Essential oils should not be used on the skin prior to 14 weeks of pregnancy but some can be inhaled, such as Mandarin to help relieve morning sickness. There are certain oils that should be avoided in pregnancy, yet some of these are very useful in labour, so please check with an aromatherapist to see which oils to use and when. Essential oils are extremely volatile and should always be diluted and blended with a carrier of some kind. Carrier means to carry the essential oil into the skin. The carrier oils also lubricate the skin, making it easier to massage
During pregnancy aromatherapy can help with things such as morning sickness, aching legs, haemorrhoids and nose bleeds. To prevent perineum tears, massage the area with vegetable or seed oil from 4 – 6 weeks before the expected date of delivery. Have a warm bath first to soften the tissue.
Some of the benefits of using essential oils in labour are that they promote relaxation, reduce pain and tension, helps with anxiety, fear and shock, aids the progress of labour,. They can be used to increase uterine contractions (Clary sage) or be used to slow them down (Chamomile) and help with the 3rd stage of labour. New mums have said (at Nottingham City Hospital) that they liked using aromatherapy as it helped them to relax and feel in control of their pain during labour. Also the essential oils will affect everyone in the delivery room, so birth partners may benefit from inhaling Lavender to keep them calm and relaxed
Due to your hormones your sense of smell changes throughout pregnancy, so it is best to wait till around 36 weeks before picking the blend you would like for labour, as you want to like the aroma so you associate the experience with a nice aroma. So you are best to pick the oils for the aroma as well as for the properties that they have. You can use a single oil or up to 3 oils blended together, some oils such as Lavender are good for labour and postnatal as they are analgesic and very good at healing. It is also great to keep after in your kitchen cupboard it can be applied neat in small quantities to burns (once run under cold water) and insect bites and stings
Massage is extremely effective in supporting labour and relieving discomfort in pregnancy and labour as it stimulates the release of endorphins the body’s natural pain killers. It relieves tension and just being touched is reassuring. However, some women do not like to be touched during labour especially during the transition phase of during contractions (So partners do not be offended if you are pushed away!). Whereas other women may want continual massage. These reactions may change through the different stages in labour. The birth partner needs to be aware of these different reactions and respond accordingly.
After the birth essential oils are excellent in helping postnatal recovery, especially when there have been episiotomies, tears or stitches. It is also used to help stem bleeding and for haemorroids. Aromatherapy helps rebalance hormones and is helpful with engorged breasts, relaxation, baby blues and post natal depression. Nice to have a bit of “me time”.
Essential oils should be treated with respect. Just because they are natural does not automatically mean they are safe, especially in pregnancy.
If you would like anymore information please do not hesitate to contact me