Pregnancy and childbirth is the most wondrous experience of a woman's life. To describe it, one must use a list of contradictions. What other event can be so universal, yet so personal? At what other time does a woman feel more in tune with her feminine side, while yet tapping into her strongest reserve of raw power? What other rite of passage takes her to the very doors of death, only to open them and find new life? There is no other time when a woman can feel so sick while being in perfectly good health. There is no other event quite like it. After a century of highly medicalized prenatal care and childbirth, the trend in recent decades has swung back toward natural, gentle birthing techniques. Midwives and doulas, once frowned upon by the medical establishment, are now being welcomed into hospitals, oftentimes replacing doctors at the pregnant woman's bedside. Much has been written about the benefits of water, hypnotism, and naturopathy in prenatal care and childbirth. This article will focus on the use of aromatherapy to ease the discomforts, relieve emotional stress, and maintain good health of mother and baby throughout pregnancy. Each pregnancy comes with its own set of discomforts, arising from ordinary fluctuations in hormones and bodily changes. While diet and lifestyle changes are sometimes necessary for best results, many irritations, included those noted below, can be alleviated by the use of essential oils. When selecting oils, purchase only those of high-quality, which have been distilled for therapeutic use, and are free of additives. Due to the heightened sense of smell during pregnancy, limit blends to one or two oils at a time; you needn't purchase every oil on this list. Try a couple and see which ones you like best. You will see that many oils have overlapping qualities. Nausea, headache, and morning sickness, which are often the earliest complaints in pregnancy, can be treated by diffusing essential oils into your breathing space. Not only can doing this counteract diagreeable odors, but using oils with antiseptic properties, such as lavender or tea tree, will cleanse the environment of harmful airborne bacteria-protecting against colds and flu. To diffuse, simply mix 3 drops lavender with 1 drop peppermint and 1 drop eucalyptus in a bowl of water. Or if you prefer, specialized diffusers on the market heat and vaporize the oil molecules, which spreads the scent faster and farther into the room. If you are going out, keep a cotton handkerchief and a vial of lavender or peppermint with you. Place 1 drop of lavender or peppermint on the cloth and hold it over your nose, inhaling deeply, to prevent headache or nausea. Cool or warm compresses can do wonders to restore a feeling of balance and wellness. Fill a bowl with warm or cool water (whichever appeals to you.) Add 3-4 drops of lavender, and drape a flannel across the top of the water to pick up the film of oil. Wring out the flannel and place it on the forehead or front of the ribcage. For warm compresses, cover the flannel with plastic and add a towel. Citrus oils, such as orange, lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot, are safe to use in early pregnancy and have uplifting qualities. They are particularly effective in alleviating vomiting. Add 7 drops of any citrus oil to 1 ounce olive oil (or another carrier oil) and massage over the abdomen for best results. Varicose veins respond well to cypress, geranium, lemon, and lavender oils. Use any mixture of these oils in a warm bath (total 6 drops), with alternating warm and cool compresses(total 4 drops) on the affected areas, or in a massage oil (total 7 drops essential oil per ounce olive oil). When massaging, use gentle strokes from the foot upward, being careful not to apply too strong of pressure where the varicosity begins or ends. Women who complain of hemorrhoids and swollen anal tissue may find relief in taking a cool sitz bath with 6 drops lemon oil. To prepare the bath set a large plastic tub in the bathtub and fill with water. Add the oils and stir to spread. Keeping legs and feet outside the plastic tub, lower yourself into the water and soak for 20 minutes. Follow up with an aromatic massage of 7 drops cypress and 7 drops lemon oil in 2 ounces olive oil. Another ailment common in pregnancy is edema, or water retention. Lavender, geranium and rosemary oils combat this condition by stimulating the lymphatic system to drain excess fluids from the body. Gently massage the feet and ankles, using upward strokes, with a combination of these oils in olive oil; or try a cool footbath with 3 drops geranium or lemon oil and 3 drops lavender. Almost every woman earns at least a couple stretch marks by the end of her pregnancy. These can be prevented or reduced by topically applying a blend of 1 ounce each of wheat germ oil and hazelnut oil with 4 drops neroli, 2 drops carrot seed, and 2 drops geranium. Massaging the blend into thighs, hips, breasts and belly every night and morning will nourish the skin and help maintain elasticity. Please note that there are some essential oils which should not be used during pregnancy as they are known abortifacients. These include basil, fennel, myrrh, parsley, sage, and thyme. Other oils which are emenogogues are listed in some texts as unsafe during pregnancy, while promoted in others. Cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rose, and rosemary should therefore be used with care.
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