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
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
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.