In our modern, busy lives it is sometimes hard to find time to relax, or even know how to. When expecting a baby, pregnancy relaxation is really important. It can benefit the mental and physical health of mum, as well as baby. An effective way to relax in pregnancy is with the use of aromatherapy. It also works really well with hypnobirthing techniques.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy, although a relatively new word, has been around for thousands of years. The Chinese are one of the first cultures to use aromatherapy to bring harmony to their lives. The Ancient Egyptians are also very well known for using aromatherapy for spiritual reasons as well as embalming the dead. This ancient practice has developed over time and is still very relevant to modern day.
Aromatherapy is the use of plant oils that have been distilled to create essential oils. The essential oils can be inhaled, massaged into the skin or added to a bath to create a positive effect emotionally and physically. It is believed that the oil aromas interact with hormones to create a relaxing or stimulating effect. Many believe that the oils can also cause the body to create it’s own natural pain relief.
Essential oils that are safe to use in pregnancy and labour
During hypnobirthing the aim is for Mum to remain calm, stress-free and relaxed. For this reason I will concentrate on relaxing essential oils, rather than the stimulating ones. Essential oils that are safe to use in labour and pregnancy are:
- citrus oils, such as tangerine and neroli
- German camomile
- black pepper
- ylang ylang
During labour you can also use clary sage or jasmine, but these should be avoided during pregnancy as they promote uterine contractions. (You should also be mindful of using these if you have a pregnant birth partner or midwife present).
Aromatherapy and hypnobirthing practice
The sense of smell is the sense most closely linked with memory. This makes the use of aromatherapy work really well if you have been practicing your hypnobirthing techniques during pregnancy. Use your sense of smell as another trigger for deepening your pregnancy relaxation. You do not need to use essential oils every time, but use them as much as possible. I used aromatherapy when I practiced hypnobirthing at the weekends. Every Saturday I would take a long bath, with a few drops of lavender oil added, and listen to my scripts or music. This was great for practicing my relaxation and breathing, but also meant that in labour I had three triggers working together. These were my scripts, being in water and the scent of lavender. Combined with closing my eyes it made a powerful use of all of my senses (apart from taste).
We are all individuals, so not all scents will appeal to everyone the same. During your pregnancy experiment with different oils to see what works best for you. I used lavender oil for my pregnancy relaxation. This was a natural choice for me as it was used in my pregnancy yoga class, so I already associated it with relaxation. Lavender is a relaxing and calming oil, it is also antiseptic so very beneficial for post birth. For at least one week after the birth of my baby I added a few drops of lavender oil to my bath every day to help heal my small tear. If you don’t tear during childbirth, lavender can also be used in the bath to relax your muscles – as birth can be very physical!
Aromatherapy and hypnobirthing during labour
Often uou can not add essential oils to birth pools at a birthing center or hospital, but you can still use them in labour. A few drops of oil on a tissue or cloth to smell will still have the same effect. Alternatively, why not pack a massage lotion with the same smell into your hospital bag. If you are birthing at home it is completely your choice how to use essential oils.
Each type of essential oil will have a different effect on your labour. For example clary sage can be used to speed up a labour that has slowed down, peppermint can revitalise especially if you are feeling nauseous and citrus oils are refreshing. Some people prefer to stick to what they have been practicing with, whilst others find it useful to have a second scent for when labour is further progressed. Essential oils are relatively cheap so having a back up option is an affordable for most.
If you have more questions speak to a professional aromatherapist. This article is not intended as medical advice, if you are not sure whether aromatherapy is for you speak to your GP or midwife.