Q: Dr. Power, What kinds of oils are good to use with a laboring mother, to ease her pain and help her to relax through contractions? What is the best delivery system to use, to deliver the aromatherapy in a hospital setting? What would you recommend for massage oils for laboring mothers?
A: Dear Denise, Essential oils are great to use with laboring moms and a lot has been written in this area. Check out Shirley and Len Price's book, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals - it has a great chapter on this subject. In order to use essential oils effectively in the labor room you need a good understanding of the properties of the oils you are working with and this is more than I can give you in an e-mail response.
In general, the person using essential oils in the labor room needs to understand the stages of labor as well. Some essential oils are uterotonic and can be used in the final stages of labor to help support contractions, but you need to do some reading on this.
In general, it should be safe and helpful in any normal delivery to use a little Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) to help ease pain and manage stress. Make a massage oil using two drops of lavender in a teaspoon of a gentle carrier oil (such as Sweet Almond Oil) - you can apply this amount about once every two hours. It is imperative to ensure before using this - or any other essential oil blend - that your patient is not allergic to any of the ingredients. Some people are allergic to nut oils so be careful. Also, be aware that lavender and other relaxing oils can make other people in the labor room feel drowsy, so don't overdo it.
For delivery systems, it is usually desirable to deliver a specifically chosen essential oil or blend to each individual patient and so most of the time I like to use a small fan-type diffuser that can be set close to the patient's bed and charged with only one or two drops of essenital oil. If you use a larger diffuser - such as a nebulizer - everyone in the vicinity will be getting the essential oils, and this isn't always desirable.
If you do want to use essential oils in a large diffuser in such a way that everyone on a ward or in a room will be getting the same mix, stick with oils like Grapefruit and Lemon essential oils, which are very gently uplifting but not stimulating and which will not make anyone drowsy. Don't overdo it - the nose gets used to the aromas very quickly and after a few minutes, no one in the room will be able to smell it - but it is still there and still having an effect.
Before using any essential oils in any method, make sure that you know the properties and any potential side effects of the oils. I hope that you will be able to get the Prices' book and check all this out further. You can do so much to make labor a better experience for women using essential oils. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or just want to chat about this. Best Regards, Joie Power, Ph.D.