Guide to Essential Oils for Birth

Aromatherapy has been used by healers and priests for hundreds of years to promote relaxation and create a sacred space. In birth, aromatherapy can promote physiologic birth by creating a calm, peaceful environment.

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When a calm and peaceful environment is created, it allows the pregnant person to let go of their “thinking” brain and go into a more primal space. It allows the nervous system to do it’s job and the hormones to work in harmony with each other.

Aromatherapy uses during labor:

Essential oils that promote labor contractions:

1) Lavender. The most common and basic blend for labor is to diffuse lavender and clary sage together, to promote relaxation and contractions. Lavender is safe during labor and can be added to a carrier oil for massage. Alternatively, you can find lavender room sprays to pack in your hospital bag. Some local hospitals, such as Mercy Anderson and Mercy West, carry lavender essential oil.

2) Clary sage is powerful, causing uterine contractions, and should be used with caution. It should NOT be rubbed directly onto the skin. Some local hospitals, such as Mercy Anderson and Mercy West, carry diffusers and clary sage essential oil. Additionally, many doulas and midwives carry this essential oil.

3) Ylang ylang is a feminine, floral scent. It’s known to help reduce stress, muscle tension, and pain. Ylang ylang contains a component called linalool, which reduces anxiety. During labor it may be diffused, or placed in a carrier oil for massage. Because it is a delicate flower oil, it is more costly than citrus oils or wood oils.


Aromatherapy which can be used to create a more physically comfortable space during labor:

These include essential oils for nausea, to help with urination after the baby is born, to help with energy, and to prevent tearing.

1) Citrus oils are best for energy, reducing nausea, and are very safe. Lemon is nice because it’s affordable and reduces pathogens. You could purchase lemon essential oil or even just slice up a lemon to smell. Many doulas and midwives carry a citrus oil in their bag.

2) Peppermint essential oil drops can be placed in the toilet to help make it easier to urinate after the baby is born. Peppermint is NOT safe for infants, so should not be used in the room after the baby is born. Peppermint can also be used as a stimulant to help prevent fatigue and fainting. Your doula or midwife likely carry this in their bag.

3) Frankincense essential oil promotes skin integrity. It can be used in a salve or oils at the end of pregnancy and during birth to help prevent tearing.

Aromatherapy to create a sacred space:

In the Catholic tradition and many others, heaven, or the spiritual realm, is considered to be all around us, whether or not we are aware of it. When we do things to create a sacred space, it brings heaven down to earth and brings awareness to this reality. Depending upon your spiritual tradition, for your birth this may look like setting up crystals, placing a cross, rosary, or an icon in your space, lighting a candle, or a having a photo of a loved one who has passed.

Aromatherapy helps to create this sacred space because it sets apart, by engaging our senses and unlocking different parts of our brain. Here are some suggestions which have been used to create this atmosphere:

1) Frankincense has been used in Ethiopia, Israel, and in churches around the world for hundreds of years for this purpose. It can be diffused or placed on a piece of cloth in the room. In Ethiopia, they burn the sap as incense.

2) Sage. Smudging has been done for centuries to cleanse the air. It’s thought to remove negativity, but also has been shown scientifically to remove germs. This can be done in your home to prepare the space prior to birth. If you are planning a hospital birth, a substitute would be diffusing clary sage essential oil.

3) Vetiver essential oil or sweet grass smudging. Vetiver is the “oil of tranquility.”

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Roses help to move energy

4) Rose petals. Rose is a gentle, balancing female herb. It can help to move energy. I like to sprinkle rose petals in a bath, or drink tea with rose petals (another benefit is roses are rich in vitamin C).

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Think about the last time you took a walk in a forest…

5) Wood oils. Trees and tree oils are very grounding and sacred. Cypress, pine, sandalwood, and cedar are grounding scents. For people who are on a budget, oils such as cypress, cedar, and pine, are more affordable than frankincense and sandalwood. You could diffuse these oils in your labor space during birth. Alternatively, you could find some pine cones, a cedar chest, or another item of wood to place in your space to ground you.