Scents have always had a way of calming people and bringing them back into a moment. I can always think back to my grandmother and the sweet smell of cinnamon warmed apples baking in her oven or walking through Fernwood in the spring to find myself greeted by lavender on the street corners. I can even remember the smell of eucalyptus being rubbed onto my chest when I was a sick child and needed to clear up my air passages.
If you take the natural oils from these substances—may the oils come from the roots, leaves, bark, stems, you are creating an essential oil. The processing isn’t as simple as just collecting the oils though. They will need to be distilled and cold pressed to extract the oils and this can take a lot of work but in the end, you are left with an essential oil. Most of us will choose to source out companies that have a respectable crop and harvesting system to buy essential oils from. With these oils, you can incorporate Aromatherapy into your daily routine. Aromatherapy is used to enhance physical and mental wellbeing by promoting relaxation, pain relief, emotional support, skin support and many other aspects of life by stimulating brain function or absorbing through the skin into the bloodstream. Many of the oils have antifungal, antiviral, soothing, calming, and nourishing qualities making them a useful alternative for not only our bodies but for cleaning surfaces as well. These qualities also make essential oils and the use of aromatherapy a perfect form of alternative medicine during pregnancy.
From reducing anxiety and tension to enhancing sleep quality, the use of essential oils can be blended into any trimester and labor. With a world of oils available, most women can find at least one or two scents that resonate with them during their pregnancy and can even be useful in their postpartum period. If you find an essential oil or blend that works with you, you may find it increases your quality of sleep, reduces tension and stress, balances the body, clears the skin, minimizes cold and allergy symptoms and increases your overall mood. When diluted, essential oils are safe to use on baby as well and can even help with diaper rash or increasing milk supply.
While there are three main ways to incorporate essential oils into your pregnancy, I am going to focus on two. The third way to use essential oils is by ingesting them and I do not want to promote ingestion as there are many different qualities of essential oils available and one kind may be harmful. The other two ways of using oils is aromatically and topically.
When using Essential oils aromatically, you can inhale the oils directly from the bottle, place a few drops onto your hands or use a diffuser and fill your home with the aroma of your choice. This is great for emotional support, respiratory support and sleep support. Try taking in a deep inhale of the scent while thinking your favorite mantra or qualities and feelings that you would like for you, your baby, and your family. On the exhales, breathe out qualities you don’t need or feelings that are holding you back. This practice is a great addition to your morning and nightly routine as it can set your mind up for a day of positive feelings and relieve any stresses at night that you might have picked up throughout the day. Try stimulation scents like citrus or peppermint in the morning and calming scents like lavender or sandalwood at night.
When using Essential oils topically, you can directly place the oils onto your skin or dilute them in carrier oil. This method is ideal for spot treating pains and skin irritations. It is also wonderful for immune support or allergy relief. It is always best to test the oils on a patch of skin before applying to multiple places on your body. I only apply oils directly to the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands. If I use them anywhere else, I dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil—usually coconut. Some other carrier oils are jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, avocado oil, calendula oil, or arnica oil (you can make a great muscle treatment for sore legs and joints). My favourite skin moisturiser is using a base of coconut oil (1/2 cup), shea butter (1/4 cup), add in two capsules of vitamin E, a pinkie nail sized dollop of rosehip oil, mixed with lavender and rose essential oils until you get a desired scent. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to water with a splash of witch hazel to make a facial toner—I like lavender, tea tree and rose.
Essential oils are a great way to enhance your pregnancy but there are some oils that come with warning. Clary sage is an amazing essential oil to use during labour but it should be left untouched in your pregnancy until you are full term. Its powerful induction properties can help jump start contractions and give baby the strength to move down the birth canal. Applying clary sage to the beautiful baby point (TCM) in my experiences can get baby moving quickly. You can also mix clary sage with coconut oil to smooth over your belly. A combination of clary sage, lavender, bergamot, grapefruit, peppermint and rose can be added into a spritz bottle to help relieve nausea during active labor and provide another wave of power for you to work with contractions. Sage can also decrease milk supply in not only essential oil form but as a culinary herb as well so once baby is here it is best to avoid it in all forms. Peppermint as we know is an amazing digestive aid especially when it comes to nausea. You can apply a few drops of peppermint to a warm facecloth and place over your eyes or around the back of your neck to relieve symptoms of a cold or headache. It should be used with caution in the postpartum period as it may decrease milk supply. That being said, if you are trying to decrease milk supply, you can combine peppermint and clary sage and rub onto your breasts as well as the highest point between your shoulders and neck and see if it will help. Fennel can help with milk production if you apply it with a carrier oil or onto a facecloth compress onto the breasts. This essential oil should only be used for a few days at most as it may increase urination. If you have high blood pressure, it is best to avoid peppermint, rosemary and clove as they will increase your blood pressure.
If you are using essential oils on your breasts and are breastfeeding, it is important to wipe the breasts before a feeding period. Using a hot cloth, you can wipe the remaining essential oils from your skin. The oils will have already released their healing properties into your bloodstream after a few minutes of application so it is okay to wipe off if you need to feed right away.
Although essential oils are used to enhance your pregnancy instead of harm, they should always be used at your own risk. Each body will react to oils differently than the next and some scents may make you feel ill while others will invigorate you. If you are using scents during labor or having someone who is planning to make you a calming labor spray, make sure you are alright with the smell before you fill your birthing room with it. If you are birthing at the hospital, it is best to smell the oil directly from the bottle in respects to the other birthing mothers and sensitivities of staff.
Here are a few of my favorite oils with their healing properties:
Lavender: Good for all stages in pregnancy, calming, reduces stress and tension, aids in postpartum depression, calms skin tenderness(acne, bruises, bumps, rashes), sleep support, seasonal allergy support, grounding, prevents stretch marks, helpful in healing after labor, decrease high blood pressure, mastitis, safe for household cleaning.
Lemon: Good for morning sickness, uplifting, seasonal allergy support, digestive support, aids in postpartum depression, increases lymphatic function, cools the body when applied to the feet, invigorating, great oil to use in the morning.
Bergamot: Uplifting and calming, relieves anxiety and tension, soothes muscles, cooling properties, balances female energies, aids in postpartum depression.
Rose: Promotes skin healing, relaxation, reduces scarring, promotes elasticity.
Peppermint: Aids in morning sickness, reduces headaches and tension, helpful during transition, mental clarity, helps urinate during labor, reduces nausea.
These are only a handful of oils and their descriptions. If there was an oil you are interested in using during your pregnancy, please feel free to e-mail me and I can give you suggestions on blends and application processes.