Aromatherapy: making labor easier
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Tennis balls, hard candy, acupuncture, belly dancing…across the world and throughout the years, women have been trying all kinds of different ways to deal with the pain of labor and delivery without using pain medications. From the interesting (jiggling the abdomen by shimmying a cloth back and forth) to the tried-and-true (Lamaze breathing), there are tons of recommendations out there to help calm the fear and relax the body—two important factors in achieving a natural birth. One of the more popular methods is the use of aromatherapy. To get the most out of essential oils during labor and delivery, it’s important to understand that your mind and body have specific needs throughout your birthing journey. Different oils can target and affect different areas of the body, so building a “birthing kit” is a good option for optimizing the use of essential oils throughout your labor.
During labor, aromatherapists often use different oils, depending on how far along you are. Labor is usually broken down into three stages, the longest of which is stage 1. During stage 1, contractions come with increasing regularity and strength and the cervix gradually effaces and dilates in preparation for birth. Because stage 1 can last so long, it is sometimes broken down into three phases: early, active, and a transition phase.
In early stage 1 labor, as the cervix dilates to about 3 cm, the most important thing for the body to do is relax. It is important to choose aromatherapy blends that will relax the mind and body, allowing labor to progress while resting and saving strength. Essential oils that are most effective for early labor include lavender and chamomile.
In the active phase of stage 1 labor, as the cervix dilates from 3cm to 7cm, contractions become stronger and closer together. Relaxation is especially important because this stage is when many women begin to struggle with pain management and progression. As fear starts to set in, the pain can become amplified and the body may start to tighten up during each contraction, causing dilation progress to slow down or stall. Aromatherapy should focus on pain relief and keeping the labor going. Essential oils that are most effective for active labor include clary sage, frankincense, and jasmine.
Finally comes the transition phase, when the cervix goes from 8cm to 10cm, at which point the cervix is fully dilated. For most women, transition is the toughest—but shortest—part of the first stage of labor. Contractions come hard and fast, with little rest (usually 30 seconds to 2 minutes) in between. This is the time when encouragement, confidence, and focus are key. Choose essential oils that will allow you to concentrate on the task at hand. Uplifting scents and ones that will help with clarity are the best choices; delivery through an aromatherapy spray is likely to be more effective than an oil. The best essential oils for transition are citrus oils, peppermint, rosemary, and sandalwood.
Sounds like a lot? In all reality, it is. Labor is a beautiful and amazing journey that cannot be approached with a “one size fits all” attitude. Simple use of one or two essential oils may help a bit, but when you carefully craft an aromatherapy plan that is built for each phase of labor you are going to have a much more positive outcome.
Luckily, Anna Naturals has you covered. We’ve done the work for you already and created our Blissful Birth Aromatherapy Kit, which includes five unique, precise essential oil blends to provide support throughout your entire labor. Enter below to win the Natural Mama Must-Haves Kit, which includes out Blissful Birth Aromatherapy Kit, plus our favorite pregnancy and postpartum products (over $150 in products total!) and a $50 Amazon gift card, too!