How to Use Essential Oils for Labor Pain

MARCH 21,2024 by Stephanie McBride

There is nothing like the experience, the intensity, or the transformation of going through active labor. I recall from my own first childbirth that early labor was a state of full awareness bound up with excitement, exhilaration, and anxiousness; you are living right on the edge of the spectacular, while dreading the impending muck of the pain and terror of the unknown. 

From this mixture of adrenaline and fatigue, just when I was forgetting what I was doing and why I was doing it (baby, what?!), full-on active labor kicked in. From then on out, I could do nothing more than breath from one moment to the next. But throughout this ritual of transformation there were calming voices, healing hands, and hot water compresses. I felt safer in the knowledge that my ‘team’ was there, those ever-present sages of wisdom (who used to just be women but were elevated in my mind to Goddess level) and their bag of tools to support them as they coped with my anxiousness and I’ll just say it, PAIN!! of unmedicated childbearing. 

Years later I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield going “Back to School''. If only I could go back all-knowing and with all of the research and technology we have now and hand out bottles of essential oil to my support team and all of the caretakers of women in the generations before me who gave birth without essential oils. I’d whisper in their ears, don't forget the essential oils, Goddesses of Birth!! Why did we set aside this beautiful, ancient, traditional practice of oiling our moms during labor? However, at the crux of it is that we are in a period of “re-oiling now”, with higher-quality essential oils and evermore positive testimonials and evidence-based research. Those in the know get that essential oils belong with birthing. Why? In a nutshell, essential oils are unique from both the natural and allopathic models of support during labor in four main ways:

1. Pure essential oils are truly holistic, offering healing on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels all at once.

2. Their incredibly minute molecular weight and lipid make-up enable them to easily and deeply penetrate tissues, muscles and nerves so that they can soothe, heal, numb, and relax where they are needed most.

3. The required methods of application for use are actually as pleasant (opposed to say, getting an injection in your spine) and healing as they are therapeutic.

4. And they work. It’s proven.

But you really don’t have to understand how or why they work to enjoy their beauty and power. The best way to get started is with personal experience. Use them on yourself when you have pain and bring them to your next birth. Here are three simple formulas and methods of application to choose from to begin.

In the tiniest glass jar that you can find (check for 5/8 dram glass bottles at Fettle Botanical or online) blend one of the formulas below using only therapeutic- quality essential oils (contact me for a free consult if you need help) and keep closed with a tight-fitting lid stored in a dark place.

Blend 1: 10 drops of Clary Cage**, 8 drops of Lavender, 6 drops of Rose

Blend 2: 10 drops of Clary Sage**, 8 drops of Roman Chamomile, 6 drops of Cedarwood

Blend 3: 10 drops of White Fir, 8 drops of Lavender, 6 drops of either Jasmine or Frankincense

** Discontinue the use of Clary Sage once contractions are regular and effective.

During active labor or when you next have a normal bodily ache or pain of your own, pull out your choice blend and experiment with using the oils in one or more of the following ways:

Inhalation- Apply a few drops of your blend to a cloth and inhale deeply between contractions (or if you are supporting a mom-to-be, you may prepare a blend on cloth for her to inhale, always asking her permission first of course!).

Labor bath- Add 4-8 drops to one tablespoon of full fat milk, glycerine, or bath salt and stir into a hot bath after it has filled. *Do not use essential oils in a birthing tub.

Foot bath- Add 3-4 drops of your blend to 1 tsp. of glycerine, bath salt, milk or cream and stir into a hot foot bath. *A foot bath is a good alternative to a labor bath if a bathtub is not available or if a water birth is planned and there is only one tub.

Hot compress- Add 2-4 drops of your essential oil blend to 1 tsp. of glycerine or another emulsifier and stir into a bowl of water. Soak a rag in the hot water blend before applying as a compress. For back labor pain, try adding a few drops of black pepper essential oil to your blend.

Massage- Add 2-3 drops of your labor blend per teaspoon of massage oil used. Apply via massage.

"After 250 hours of research and testing, including interviewing five baby wearing experts and walking over 100 miles in 15 wraps, slings, and meh dais, we think that the Gemlak Baby Carriers is the best"

  • Lily

Essential oils known for their relaxing properties during pregnancy:

  1. Lavender: Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils for relaxation. It has calming and soothing effects, making it ideal for reducing stress, anxiety, and promoting better sleep quality.

  2. Chamomile: Chamomile essential oil is renowned for its gentle sedative properties. It can help calm the mind, ease tension, and promote relaxation, making it beneficial for pregnant individuals seeking relief from stress and insomnia.

  3. Bergamot: Bergamot essential oil has a citrusy, floral scent with uplifting and calming qualities. It can help alleviate anxiety, uplift mood, and induce relaxation, making it a great choice for reducing stress during pregnancy.

  4. Ylang-Ylang: Ylang-ylang essential oil has a sweet, floral aroma that is both calming and euphoric. It can help reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety, while also promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation.

  5. Frankincense: Frankincense essential oil has a woody, earthy aroma that is deeply relaxing and grounding. It can help alleviate feelings of anxiety, promote emotional balance, and create a sense of tranquility during pregnancy.

  6. Neroli: Neroli essential oil, derived from orange blossoms, has a sweet, floral scent that is soothing and uplifting. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia, while also promoting feelings of relaxation and inner peace.

  7. Sandalwood: Sandalwood essential oil has a rich, woody aroma with grounding and calming properties. It can help ease tension, promote relaxation, and support emotional well-being during pregnancy.


Essential Oils for Maternal Wellness

Readers will come away feeling more confident using and recommending Essential Oils during pregnancy, each phase of labor, in postpartum, and in caring for infants and babies.

Why You Should Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy  

    Alleviating Nausea: Many pregnant individuals experience nausea, especially during the first trimester. Certain essential oils like ginger, peppermint, and lemon have been known to help alleviate feelings of nausea and morning sickness when used in moderation and with proper dilution.
      Relieving Stress and Anxiety: Pregnancy can bring about significant emotional changes and stress. Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, and frankincense are renowned for their calming properties and can help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety levels.
        Supporting Sleep: Hormonal changes, discomfort, and anxiety during pregnancy can disrupt sleep patterns. Aromatherapy with oils like lavender, bergamot, and sandalwood can promote better sleep quality and help pregnant individuals get the rest they need.
          Managing Aches and Pains: As the body undergoes physical changes, pregnant individuals may experience discomfort, muscle aches, and tension. Essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and chamomile can provide natural relief when used topically in a properly diluted form.
            Promoting Skin Health: Pregnancy hormones can lead to changes in skin texture and appearance. Certain essential oils, such as rosehip, neroli, and jojoba, are gentle and moisturizing, making them suitable for maintaining healthy skin during pregnancy.
              Boosting Energy: Fatigue is common during pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimesters. Energizing essential oils like citrus oils (such as lemon and orange) and peppermint can provide a natural energy boost without the need for caffeine or stimulants.
                Supporting Overall Well-being: Essential oils can contribute to a sense of overall well-being during pregnancy by creating a pleasant and calming atmosphere at home. Diffusing oils like ylang-ylang, geranium, and clary sage can uplift the mood and enhance feelings of positivity.