Aromatherapy is a healing modality that is effective at treating many different conditions. It can also be used to help alleviate the discomforts and stresses during pregnancy and labor. Here is a guide of how it works, essential oils and how to use it.
How it Works
Aromatherapy works in two different ways. The first is with the olfactory sense, otherwise known as the sense of smell. The olfactory sense is linked directly to the limbic system by the olfactory bulb, located in the nasal cavity, which controls mood as well as memory and a host of other functions. This is how aromatherapy works to calm anxiety.
Aromatherapy can also be used topically. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and by applying special oils to the skin, they are absorbed into the body where their healing properties go to work. This is how aromatherapy works to relieve the aches and pains associated with pregnancy as well as treat skin issues in pregnancy.
Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Labor
There are a many essential oils that are safe for use during labor and pregnancy. This is not an all-inclusive list; these are just the most commonly used oils.
- Bergamot: pain reliever, antiseptic, and a mood elevator. Bergamot is also helpful in treating cystitis, more commonly known as a urinary tract infection.
- Chamomile: antiseptic, pain relieving and anti-inflammatory. Chamomile is good for easing muscle aches and headaches.
- Eucalyptus: antibiotic, pain relieving, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. Eucalyptus is great for relieving the congestion that can sometimes accompany pregnancy, a condition called pregnancy rhinitis.
- Grapefruit: astringent, antiseptic, and a lymphatic stimulant. Grapefruit is often used to combat cellulite and water retention.
- Lavender: antiseptic, pain relieving, antidepressant and relaxant. Lavender is great for a lot of different applications, but in pregnancy it is used for relieving aches and pains as well as calming anxiety.
- Lemon: antibacterial, antifungal, and stimulating. Lemon is great when inhaled for morning sickness and when used in massage oil for varicose veins.
- Mandarin: antiseptic and mildly relaxing. Mandarin is great for easing fluid retention in the legs when used in massage oil.
- Neroli: antidepressant and relaxing. Neroli is useful for easing anxiety in pregnancy, as well as treating preventing stretch marks because it stimulates healthy skin regeneration.
- Petitgrain: antidepressant and sedative. Petitgrain is effective at treating anxiety and postpartum depression.
- Tangerine: lymphatic stimulant and calming. Tangerine is helpful in treating cellulite and swelling as well as treating stretch marks.
- Tea Tree: antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. Tea tree is useful for treating a whole host of infections during pregnancy, including thrush and yeast infections.
After the first trimester, the following oils are also considered safe:
- Cypress: antiseptic and diuretic. Cypress is helpful in treating varicose veins, hemorrhoids and swelling in the feet and ankles.
- Geranium: refreshing and uplifting. Geranium is great for improving circulation and easing leg pain.
There are many more oils which should not be used during pregnancy. Peppermint is great for nausea as well as aching muscles and swollen feet, but peppermint has long been thought to be off limits to pregnant women because it is a known emmenagogue, meaning that it induces menstrual bleeding, which is definitely bad during pregnancy.
Some experts agree that peppermint is safe when properly diluted and applied to the skin or consumed in tea or candies. Typically, the amount of peppermint oil in these items is not enough to cause bleeding in a normal pregnancy. However, if a woman has been experiencing any sort of complications in the pregnancy, peppermint is still off limits.
How to Use It
There are a number of ways to use aromatherapy in pregnancy. It can be inhaled or applied topically. Depending upon the desired effect it can be used as follows;
- For morning sickness or pregnancy rhinitis, use oils in an oil diffuser or humidifier. There are also diffusers for the car as well as the USB port of a computer so the oils can be used anywhere. A few drops of oils can also be placed on a tissue or hanky and inhaled when out and about.
- Essential oils can be added to unscented carrier oils and used for massage during pregnancy and during labor. In pregnancy, it can be used to alleviate anything from swelling in the feet to backache. During labor massage is a great way to counter labor pains and perineal massage helps in labor to prevent tearing.
- Essential oils can also be added to lotions and baths to relieve a variety of conditions from itchy skin to swelling feet to hemorrhoids.
Safety and Precautions
There are always safety precautions when using any healing modality. Since pregnancy often makes a woman hypersensitive, she needs to be extra careful.
- Be sure to always dilute essential oils well in a carrier oil. The typical dilution for pregnancy women is two percent, or about 10 drops to two tablespoons of carrier oil. Essential oils can be added directly to bath water and lotions because the act to dilute the oil. With aromatherapy, less is often more.
- Use extreme care when using essential oils in massage. There are pressure points in the legs and feet that can trigger labor. Be sure to consult a reflexology chart to know what points to avoid.
- Be sure to watch for any signs of allergic reaction to the oils. Some can cause major skin irritation, especially if not diluted properly.
- Mom should always discuss any sort of treatment with her OB/GYN t ensure that it is safe for her individual situation.
Aromatherapy is a great way to ease some of the discomfort of pregnancy, allowing mom to enjoy this beautiful time in her life and bond with her growing baby. And if used properly, it is completely safe and can be used throughout pregnancy, birth and even for recovery postpartum, for mom and baby. Better health is just a bottle of oil away.