Essential oils are one of my most used tools in my doula bag when I am supporting doula families at births. There are so many ways to use essential oils in a labor and delivery room, birth center, or home birth setting. In this blog, I will share with you my most common uses for essential oils.
Typically, I introduce my doula families to my most commonly used essential oils at our prenatal meetings to make sure that I don’t use one at their birth that they may be allergic to or that could trigger negative emotions. Smell is an incredibly powerful sense!
As a birth worker, it is important to use consent when using essential oils for labor and delivery and remember that consent can be revoked as much as it can be given. Someone may give consent at a prenatal meeting that using an essential oils is okay, but then change their mind at their birth. Be sure to check in and ask before using an oil.
A labor and delivery room can feel sterile and unwelcoming at first for families. When we make big changes like going from laboring at home to laboring at the hospital, it is not uncommon for labor to slow for 30 min or longer while the parent or parents adjusts to the new space of a labor and delivery room. This is why at prenatal meetings, I talk with my doula families about how to make this transition a less jarring experience by bringing comforting items from home as well as using different tools to help the different senses acclimate. With essential oils, I am helping a doula family adjust by utilizing their sense of smell.
One of my go-to oils for creating a relaxing space for a family is Clary Sage because it reduces the stress hormone Cortisol and encourages labor. I also use Lavender and as a calming and relaxing oil for families.
Bodily fluids are SUPER normal in the labor and birth process. As a doula and midwifery assistant, I fully anticipate for people to get nausous and vomit during their labor journey. This can actually be a positive sign to the birth team that labor is progressing because the fluctuation of hormones that makes labor possible causes the nausea. While it is a positive sign, it is not a positive feeling and I do my best to help my doula client relieve the feeling of nausea with essential oils or an alcohol swab.
I almost always use peppermint oil in a emesis bag so that my doula client can slowly breathe into/near the bag and vomit easily into it if they need to. If they do not like peppermint for whatever reason, I will use grapefruit oil or an alcohol swab to help.
I personally carried a bottle of grapefruit oil with me during my first trimester so that if I started to feel queasy, I could take a quick sniff and be on my way.
Like I mentioned above, essential oils for labor and delivery are a fantastic tool for creating a relaxing space. Part of that process is reducing stress. The essenital oil clary sage reduces the stress hormone cortisol which helps labor progress. If a person feels fearful or stressed out, their labor can stall or slow down. Clary sage can also be used along with acupressure to encourage contractions or help induce labor if your body is prepared and ready for it.
As a reminder, our bodies go into labor when important hormones send signals to our brains that our babies are developed and ready for the labor process. All the holistic induction methods (eating spicy foods, acupressure, labor tea, dates, intimacy, miles circuit, etc) in the world will not start your labor if your body is not ready yet. This just means your body is effectively protecting your baby so that it can finish developing and preparing for their big journey ahead.
Labor is a marathon. Sometimes one that marathon, we can hit a mental block from things like exhaustion from working through a long active labor or transition stage. When I notice one of my doula clients is beginning to enter a mental spiral, we utilize the shower with eucalyptus essential oil. Something about a hot shower acts like a human reset button and helps people reset their mindset! Having that invigorating and refreshing smell of eucalyptus can help clear the mind and get it back on track to finish the marathon of labor and birth.
I hope this blog gave you more insight into how birth workers like doulas use essential oils for labor and delivery! You can read about my favorite essential oils to use a birth by clicking here. Remember to use consent and caution when using oils. Just because they are ‘natural’ does not mean that they are not incredibly powerful.
Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Bereavement, Birth, & Postpartum Doula and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma community. She is also a midwifery assistant with Holistic Birthing Services and began her journey as a student midwife with the Midwives College of Utah in 2022.
To learn more about Jenni, please click here.