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Using essential oils for labor might not be listed right below “get an epidural” on your birth plan, but some aromatherapy oils have been proven to help — in one way or another — with delivering a baby.

While essential oils can’t induce labor, they may help relieve anxiety, nausea, and pain during the process.

Of course, aromatherapy can’t replace any necessary medication and pain relief, but it may help. Essential oils are powerful mixtures from aromatic plants. Their scents can trigger reactions in your body and brain that may help keep you calmer and more comfortable during labor.

Here’s more on what kinds of essential oils work for labor and how they can help.

It’s safe to use certain essential oils — so long as you use them correctly — when you’re in labor. One review of studies found that using essential oils won’t start contractions or cause your water to break. In other words, you can’t induce labor with essential oils.

However, the researchers found that essential oils can improve your experience during labor. When used as part of aromatherapy, they may be calming, help soothe pain and discomfort, and even help reduce the time you spend laboring.

That said, essential oils can’t treat pregnancy-related issues or affect whether you’ll need a cesarean delivery, which is also known as a C-section.

It doesn’t take a scientist to tell a pregnant person that giving birth can induce anxiety!

If you’re worried about going into labor, you’re not alone. In fact, studies show that almost 80 percent of people in or about to go into labor have severe anxiety. (No kidding — we’re pushing out a little human!)

Higher anxiety levels may be linked to more pain during labor. So, if essential oils can calm your nerves a bit during labor, they might also make you more comfortable. Being more relaxed might lead to less time in labor and a slightly easier birth.

Using essential oils during labor is safe — as long as you use them as directed. The safest way to use essential oils is via an electric aromatherapy diffuser. Simply smelling and inhaling the aromatherapy supplies their benefits.

You can also add essential oils to a massage or carrier oil like almond oil.

When using an essential oil topically, don’t apply it directly onto your skin, as this can cause a skin rash or allergic reaction. Instead, dilute it with a carrier oil and perform a patch test first.

Importantly, don’t swallow or ingest essential oils while you’re pregnant, even if the bottle says you can. Essential oils are not to be ingested.

Furthermore, keep essentials oils out of the reach of children, and consider pets in the area when using aromatherapy, as some essential oils are toxic to pets.

In rare cases, you might experience mild side effects, especially if too much essential oil is used. These include:

  • eye irritation or watering
  • nose or throat irritation
  • headache
  • allergic reaction
  • lung irritation or asthma

Aromatherapy diffusers can get hot. Keep them away from the essential oil bottle and other flammable oils and products. Use aromatherapy in a well-ventilated area only.

1. Citrus blossom oil

Clinical research in Iran tested the use of Citrus aurantium oil (citrus blossom oil) on 126 women who were about to go into labor. The researchers thought that reducing anxiety levels might also help lower pain levels.

Women who used citrus blossom oil reported lower levels of anxiety during labor, compared with those who didn’t use essential oils.

2. Clary sage oil

Clary sage is an essential oil that’s commonly used during labor and birth. It’s also traditionally used to soothe period pain and some symptoms of menopause. Using clary sage during menopause may help ease stress and pain levels.

According to researchers, clary sage oil is known to be safe. Diffuse it into the air around you during labor to help calm you and soothe pain.

3. Lavender oil

Lavender is a well-known essential oil. In Europe, some hospitals and care homes use lavender oil to help improve sleep and ease insomnia. Unlike sleep medications, lavender oil doesn’t cause grogginess and other side effects.

You can use lavender oil to help you relax while you’re pregnant. Add it to your bathwater or diffuse it in your bedroom before you go to bed.

During labor, this essential oil may help relax and calm you. And after delivery, you can still safely use lavender essential oil to help you fall asleep and stay asleep — until your baby wakes you up!

4. Jasmine oil

Jasmine essential oil has a flowery scent, so of course it’ll lift your mood! One study in India found that using jasmine essential oil as a massage oil during labor helped ease pain and discomfort.

In the study, those who got lower back massages with jasmine oil during labor reported less pain and back pressure. Of course, just being given a nice massage may help! The researchers found that reducing pain made labor easier and faster, which is better for both you and baby.

5. Peppermint oil

Who doesn’t like the fresh smell of peppermint? This essential oil is another common pain reliever. You can find it in drugstores as a natural remedy for headache pain, nausea, and dizziness. Studies have shown that having a peppermint scent around you during labor can have the same effect.

A minty smell in the air as you get ready to bring your baby into the world may help calm you and ease pain and nausea. (It might also make you hungry for dessert!)

6. Other essential oils for labor

Other essential oils may also help during labor and delivery, as they can help keep you calm and lower your pain levels. Essential oils for labor also include:

Many essential oils are safe to use during labor and delivery. Aromatherapy can help make you more relaxed and comfortable. You can reap the benefits of most essential oils just by smelling them.

Ask your doctor about using essential oils during labor well before your due date. You may not be able to bring your own essential oils into the delivery room. (If you have a C-section, you can’t bring anything into the sterile operating room.)

Note that essential oils are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any kind of treatment, although many clinical studies have noted the benefits of aromatherapy. More research is needed on essential oils for labor — and many other uses.