Having a baby is an intense – exhilarating – crazy – exciting – emotional – scary – amazing event; all looped into one. Every feeling on the planet is felt by a mother giving birth. And after having two kids myself, I would honestly go through it all over again due to my immense love for those babies.
During my pregnancies, I wanted to do everything I could to be healthy and natural for myself and my baby. So I tried to eat healthily, stay emotionally strong, and use essential oils. I even chose to go the unmedicated route for each labor and delivery.
As I was already on a path to using essential oils in my everyday life, I knew I wanted to use these amazing plants to help me through my babies’ “birth days.” After tons of research, I learned there were essential oils for everything, including those I could use while having a baby. Some, used as aromatherapy, may reduce anxiety and fear during childbirth or even some pain.1
With two successful “oily births,” I found it important to share the top 10 essential oils for labor that helped me tremendously through every stage of birth. These oils are something to consider packing in your birth bag and have on hand when that extraordinary day arrives. However, some essential oils are unsafe for use during pregnancy, especially through topical application or ingestion, because they can harm an unborn child. It’s vital to first speak with your healthcare provider before using any essential oils during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and while breastfeeding.2,3,4
Peppermint was my favorite essential oil to have throughout my entire pregnancy, by far. Mainly because the minty aroma of peppermint was very soothing to inhale during the first trimester and helped keep my tummy settled while I was in labor. On top of that, the smell of peppermint was invigorating and kept me focused on breathing through each contraction. Some people believe peppermint oil can help a pregnant woman manage headaches, nausea, nasal congestion, and muscle aches.6
A study published in 2018 compared its use as an aromatherapy treatment for nausea and vomiting among pregnant women and found no major difference between women who used it and those who were given a placebo. However, the menthol in peppermint oil can affect a child’s breathing, so it should never be applied to a child’s face or inhaled by them and only be used after breastfeeding to avoid any contact with children. Peppermint oil can also cause a rash or otherwise irritate your skin when applied topically and cause heartburn if you ingest it.2,5,7,11
Clary sage was an excellent oil to help move along my labor process. I was 10 days late with my son, and I diligently applied clary sage to my wrists and ankles toward the end. The aroma was floral yet fresh and brought me a lot of inner peace, knowing my baby would come at the perfect time. Then, once labor did start, I applied it over my belly to keep encouraging this beautiful and natural process. When used safely as a diffuser or aromatherapy, clary sage can cause contractions and induce labor, but a pregnant person should never apply the oil directly to the skin.8
Like clary sage, jasmine was terrific during the starter stages of labor. Once my baby’s due date arrived, jasmine was right by my side, being applied and diffused with the hopes that the baby would come swiftly and safely. Jasmine is also known for its hormone-supporting properties, which can help an expecting mom start naturally experiencing the beginning stages of birth.
Generally, jasmine oil is considered safe, but there is always the risk of allergic reactions. Jasmine oil has been found to decrease depressive symptoms and improve mood when used as an aromatherapy treatment or inhaling it directly from the bottle. The jasmine plant is also often used in foods for flavor, and you can also drink it as a tea, but essential oils should not be ingested.9,11
Lavender was one of my favorite oils to use throughout my pregnancy. Because it is one of the most calming essential oils, I loved to apply it over my belly during the second and third trimesters. Every time I felt a Braxton Hicks contraction, I’d apply lavender, which would help relax my muscles and ease my mind. During labor, I also had lavender going in my diffuser. It helped me sleep through minor contractions and helped keep my mind at ease once labor started to intensify. Lavender’s relaxation effects can help alleviate pain perception and decrease anxiety when used as an aromatherapy.6,10
Using oils like lavender during the later stages of pregnancy is safer than in the first trimester, when essential oils should be avoided since it’s a critical stage. Safety should always be your number one priority, so remember to check with your provider first.11
Frankincense was, by far, my most used essential oil during labor and delivery. While not necessarily used as widely as other oils, frankincense has been around for centuries and prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve various ailments, including pain and inflammation. My midwife diluted it with olive oil and used it on my perineum once the baby started crowning. This allowed my skin to be moisturized and elastic so the baby could come out more easily. Once the baby was born, I also applied frankincense over the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsating.12,13
Citrus Fresh was an amazing essential oil for me to use during labor, especially when feeling exhausted. This oil is a blend of fruits that, when inhaled, can bring about a burst of energy and clarity. So many moms have long labors and struggle to keep their minds and bodies awakened and refreshed during the process. Citrus Fresh was the oil that helped me power through each labor with both of my children. It is also a very uplifting aroma and brings joy to the heart during what can seem like a frustrating or fearful process.
Panaway was by far one of my favorite oils to use during contractions. This is a blend of oils that, when applied, leaves a cooling yet warm sensation on the skin. During each natural contraction, my husband or midwife would apply Panaway over my back and lay a hot compress on top of it while applying pressure. I also loved applying it over my neck and temples to soothe any occasional tensions I might have experienced after hours of labor. The aroma is very minty-fresh, and it helped keep my mind in a state of complete awareness throughout the labor process.
Gentle Baby is a must-have oil for every expecting mom and moms in general. I applied this oil over my tummy throughout my pregnancy, mixed with some coconut oil, to help keep my skin smooth, moisturized, and even-toned as it kept growing throughout the weeks. Then, during labor, I had this essential oil in one of my diffusers. And once the baby was born, I would apply this essential oil on my baby’s feet and tummy to help them sleep, help them remain comfortable, and keep us both in total peace.
Valor is my “birth warrior” oil. This blend gave me the courage to power through my labor and delivery like a boss. Since it is known to be highly supportive of self-confidence and positive emotions, I had people applying this oil all over my spine and chest during labor. I also would inhale this oil directly from the bottle, especially when I was in transition labor. This oil was also one my husband and family members used on themselves, as well, to help them emotionally get through the wild experience of watching me push a 7-pound baby out of my body.
Lastly, Stress Away is a must. This blend is pretty self-explanatory yet necessary for everyone who will be present during labor and delivery. My midwives, doula, family, and I all had their fair share of Stress Away. It allowed the atmosphere to remain peaceful and kept emotions at bay. Because let’s face it – labor is hard, it can be scary, and everyone can sometimes feel helpless. So, an oil like this can be a great asset to the experience.
I cannot imagine what my births would have been like had I not had these oils in my birth bag. Not only for myself – but for my husband, my birth team, my family, for my baby. Nature has a beautiful way of meshing perfectly with the human body, even when your body is going through one of its most natural and primitive experiences through birth. Since plants can benefit our bodies, minds, and hearts, safely using some essential oils during labor and delivery may improve the experience.