After you’ve prepared for pregnancy and waited out the long nine (or ten) months it’s time for baby to come. You’ve made it through the nausea, headaches, swelling, sleeplessness and followed every little rule about what to eat and what not to eat. But there is another hurdle to jump, not just the birth itself but also the postpartum period. A time when breastfeeding may lead to cracked nipples and hormone fluctuations or waking up throughout the night to feed a baby can lead to its own challenges like irritability.
While there are hundreds of books out there on pregnancy and birth, there’s not much to be found on postpartum and with only one six week check up with your healthcare provider, a woman may feel pretty neglected. That’s why I’m really excited to share some natural remedies to help with a smooth labor, delivery and postpartum. This is a fun topic for me as I don’t believe many women know just how helpful it can be to work with essential oils for labor and postpartum health.
I’ll start with sharing some basics on essential oil safety and recommendations on quality. Then we’ll move into how to use essential oils to induce labor if it’s stalled as well as essential oils for water birth and how they can support other labor challenges. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the not so fun sides of postpartum healing and how essential oils can support you getting back on the road to recovery.
The Basics of Essential Oils
I think it’s important to start by saying that not all essential oils are created equally. Some of the plant’s companies use to make essential oils are heavily sprayed with chemicals and pesticides. Some are diluted or mixed with other oils to save money. Some aren’t packaged correctly and are therefore susceptible to oxidation or damage from light and heat (1).
It can be hard to determine the quality of essential oils as a consumer, but I’ll give you an easy trick to remember: good essential oils aren’t cheap. Sorry, but it’s true. The upside to this is that if you’re using a high-grade essential oil you won’t need much and it should last a long time. Here are a few tricks to help you when buying essential oils.
- Make sure the oils are pure. You’ll need to review the company’s website and find out what their standards are for producing their oils.
- The Latin name of the plant should be written on the side of the bottle as an industry standard.
- See if the company has anything regarding the country of origin for each of their oils. This means the oils are being marketed to professional aromatherapists (who need to know this info and are sticklers for purity.)
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you want to know more about how to find the best (most reputable) essential oils companies, scroll down on the page to get our free guide (it’s also featured in the sidebar area). We give you everything you need to know about what to look for in a high quality essential oil company as well as the major red flags to avoid.
As far as safety goes with essential oils for labor and postpartum or breastfeeding, don’t ingest essential oils. Stick to using them for aromatherapy and gentle topical use.
When applying them to the body, always dilute them with a carrier oil, starting with very small amounts, 1-3 drops. A carrier oil is something like coconut oil, almond oil or grapeseed oil and these are necessary to carry the essential oil into the skin and protect it from the high potency of undiluted essential oils. And of course, if you ever feel uncomfortable with a certain oil, discontinue using it!
There is a lot of information out there about what oils are safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. We cover a lot of it here on our website. If you stick with using the essential oils for labor and postpartum that I share here, you should be fine.
Essential Oils for Labor
There are a lot of different ways to work with essential oils for labor and I’m going to share a few different scenarios that can happen during birth and what oils can be helpful with some recipes for you to try!
You’re “Overdue” With No Contraction In Sight.
First, we need to rewire our brains around the term “overdue.” #1 babies don’t read calendars and #2 the idea that there is a “due date” in the first place sets many women up for unnecessary anxiety later in pregnancy if they are still carrying a baby past that particular date. “Normal” gestation periods can vary widely from one mother to another. Some women regularly birth around 37 weeks, some always seem to carry to 41 or 42. All of it can be considered “normal.”
But for the sake of example, let’s say you are approaching 42 weeks and baby is just not ready to come out yet. Your healthcare provider starts talking about an induction and you really want an alternative. This is when it’s time to pull out the clary sage.
Clary sage is not advised for women during pregnancy because it can cause uterine contractions. But if medical intervention (such as induction) is part of the conversation and you want to help your uterus get to work naturally, clary sage may just be your friend (2).
Here’s how to use clary sage to induce labor: make a massage blend with 1 drop of clary sage essential oil and 2 teaspoons of carrier oil. Massage it over the belly and inhale the aroma. You can also apply a drop to your wrists or the inside of your ankles, or place a couple of drops in a diffuser by your bed to inhale.
Jasmine is another oil that can induce contractions and support the hormones that are needed for birth. It also has a sweet-smelling aroma that can soothe and calm the nerves.
Essential Oil Massage Blend to Induce Labor
- 2 drops of clary sage
- 1 drops of jasmine
- 2 tbsp. of carrier oil
Mix these together and apply to the belly and hips to help start labor. You can also skip the carrier oil and place the essential oils in a diffuser for aromatherapy.
You’ve Started Laboring And Want It To Progress Easily.
The more effective your contractions are at pushing the baby down and out of the uterus, the faster your labor will progress. And the faster it goes the more likely you are not to wear yourself out by laboring for over 24 hours.
The good news is that essential oils are amazing to help facilitate labor and they work in a few different ways. Remember from above that clary sage and jasmine can support healthy uterine contractions. You need contractions to be happening regularly to make the baby come, but you also need to feel calm and relaxed so that the endorphins and pain-relieving hormones kick into gear.
This is why lavender and ylang ylang are really helpful for labor. They both sooth the mind and calm any fears or anxiety.
Essential Oils for Labor Mist
- 2 oz glass spray bottle
- Purified water
- 5 drops of lavender
- 5 drops of clary sage
- 5 drops of ylang ylang
Drop your essential oils into the bottle and fill to the top with purified water. Ask your partner or doula to spray these around you or add the mixture to a diffuser. If you aren’t enjoying the smell, just discontinue using it.
You can also use these essential oils for a water birth. In this case put a single drop of clary sage, lavender, and ylang ylang into the tub to support your labor.
You’re Suffering from Back Labor.
This is one of the most challenging kinds of labor and often happens when the baby is turned “sunny-side up” or facing the mother’s belly (3). It can also just be from the way a woman’s hips are formed, and therefore as the baby descends he or she puts pressure on the lower spine.
Getting up onto all fours and tilting the pelvis can be helpful, but so can black pepper essential oil. It will increase circulation to the area and provides a warming sensation. You can create your own icy-hot blend by combining black pepper and peppermint together which can provide some pain relief for back labor and other muscle pains.
Muscle Rub for Back Labor
- 1 oz glass jar
- 1 oz shea butter
- 4 drops of black pepper essential oil
- 4 drops of peppermint essential oil
Melt down the shea butter in a pyrex or double boiler and as it cools add the essential oils. Stir well and store in a cool, dark place. Throw this in your labor bag to have as a salve for any muscle pain you are experiencing during labor. It’s also great on tight shoulders!
Just be sure to discontinue topical use of peppermint once you have the baby if you are planning to nurse. Peppermint Essential Oil can dry up your milk supply.
You’ve Been At It For Hours and Need A Boost.
In some cases, labor just takes a while. And this can be a real challenge for everybody involved. Everyone is most likely feeling tired and there is a danger of morale getting low. If you’re the laboring mama then you’ve been dealing with contractions for a long time. You might feel nauseous and not like eating anything, and a lack of food and water makes you even more tired and frustrated.
This is when some uplifting essential oils are crucial. A combination of peppermint, orange, and geranium essential oils are crisp, mood-boosting botanicals that can really uplift your spirits during a long labor. Geranium provides calming effects, peppermint is refreshing and energizes. It can also soothe any nausea you may be experiencing and orange is mood enhancing and livens up the feeling of any room.
Uplifting Essential Oil Blend for Labor
- 3 drops of orange essential oil
- 3 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops of geranium essential oil
Place these into a diffuser and let the aroma give you the boost you need. Even in a short labor, this blend could be really helpful around transition where labor is most intense and pushing will come soon.
Baby Is Crowning and You Want to Prevent A Tear.
When the baby is crowning there are things you can do to protect your perineum. If you and your healthcare provider are open to it you can ask them (or your doula or significant other) to apply a soothing essential oil blend to the perineum to improve skin elasticity.
This is when essential oils like rose and frankincense (4) come into play. Rose is an excellent essential oil for toning the skin and frankincense improves elasticity and keeps skin well moisturized so applying them with lots of carrier oil to the perineum can be really helpful during delivery. And it’s most definitely a better choice than the petroleum-based mineral oil most hospitals use!
Essential Oil Massage Blend for Delivery
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 2 oz olive oil or other moisturizing carrier oil of your choice
- 4 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 4 drops of rose essential oil
Mix the ingredients together and store in a dark bottle in a cool place to keep the oils from degrading. Use this blend for perineum massage in the weeks prior to labor to prepare the area and soothe the skin. During the pushing stage, ask your health care provider if they will liberally apply this to the perineum and vaginal tissues.
So let’s do a wrap-up of my top 9 essential oils for labor and delivery with a quick reminder of what they do!
- Black Pepper: Warming oil that heats up the skin and improves circulation, a great choice for back labor.
- Clary Sage: Uplifting aroma, helps induce uterine contractions and keep labor progressing.
- Frankincense: Aromatically it improves focus and on the skin, it supports elasticity and hydration.
- Jasmine: Also helps uterine contractions to progress and has a sweet, soothing aroma.
- Lavender: Calms nerves and eases anxiety.
- Orange: Helps with fatigue, brightens mood and supports long labors or transition.
- Peppermint: Eases nausea, uplifts mood and cools the skin when applied topically for discomfort during labor.
- Rose: Toning and calming to the skin.
- Ylang- Ylang: Another anxiety soothing essential oil with a warm, sweet scent.
So that we’ve gone through the essential oils for labor and the delivery of your baby, what about all the stuff you may be experiencing postpartum?
Essential Oils for Postpartum Healing
Again I’ll go through some of the most common postpartum complaints and how you can use essential oils to support them.
These are the contractions you feel when your uterus is going back into place after the baby is born. It has stretched from the size of a pear, to hold an entire tiny human and needs to get back into “shape”. Mothers might notice that afterbirth contractions are more intense after the second or third baby because the uterus loses a little bit of muscle tone after multiple pregnancies (5).
But there are some essential oils for after birth pain that can help. In the same way that clary sage helped facilitate contractions during birth, it can help afterward too. Combine this with roman chamomile to promote a muscle relaxing and pain relieving effect.
Make an easy oil blend by mixing ¼ cup of almond oil with 5 drops each of clary sage and roman chamomile and applying it to the belly for afterbirth pain. Adding a hot water bottle or heating pad may help in the same way it does for menstrual cramps.
Perineum And Vaginal Soreness
This is one thing people don’t talk about enough and even going to the bathroom after birth can be uncomfortable. Using a gentle mist to gently heal the vaginal tissues while keeping them moisturized can be really helpful. Here are a couple of recipes with essential oils for postpartum vaginal healing.
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 3 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 3 drops of helichrysum essential oil
- 1 tbsp of carrier oil (coconut, almond, avocado or olive)
- Purified water
Add the essential oils and carrier oil to the bottle and top with water. Spray as needed onto the vagina and perineum to promote healing and soothe irritated skin.
- Maxi pads
- Witch hazel
- 10-20 drops of lavender essential oil
- 10-20 drops of roman chamomile
This is a great make ahead recipe to keep in your freezer! Apply 10-20 drops of lavender and chamomile to a bottle of witch hazel and then saturate the pads with the mixture. Place them in the freezer and use as needed to cool down any inflammation and discomfort in the perineum. The maxi pads have an added benefit of absorbing postpartum bleeding.
Cracked Nipples and Mastitis
Mastitis is a condition in which milk gets clogged in the ducts and can eventually lead to an infection (6). It can cause swelling of the breasts, fever and extreme tenderness. Luckily there are some essential oils that can help heal it as you proceed with breastfeeding to unblock the duct.
Put a few drops of lavender and tea tree (melaleuca) in a few tablespoons of carrier oil like coconut and massage the affected breast up towards the armpit while avoiding the nipple. Because baby will be nursing, you don’t want to apply tea tree to the nipple itself, however, it should help ease inflammation and infection in the breast tissue.
Cracked nipples are another challenge because you don’t want baby ingesting essential oils. In this case, right after nursing apply just one drop of lavender in coconut oil to the nipple. If you’re using a high-grade organic lavender oil it should be fine, but plan to wait about three hours between feedings.
You can ease the appearance of stretch marks after pregnancy by using essential oils in a soothing cream to massage into your belly, hips or any other areas that have stretch marks.
Essential oils for a postpartum belly and stretch marks are frankincense, helichrysum and lavender: gentle on the skin and encourage regeneration.
Stretch Mark Body Butter
- ½ cup of shea butter
- ¼ cup of coconut oil
- 1 tsp of vitamin E
- 8 drops of frankincense
- 5 drops of helichrysum
- 5 drops of lavender
Melt the shea butter and coconut oil together in a double boiler or pyrex and as it cools stir in the essential oils. Allow this to solidify into a salve or whip with a mixer to create a fluffy body butter. Apply as needed to stretch marks or dry skin on the body, this is an all-star skin healer.
C-Section Incision Care
The incision site around a cesarean can be uncomfortable and itchy while it’s healing and could run the risk of infection if not properly cared for. In order to ease inflammation, kill microbes and promote skin regeneration, try essential oils like tea tree or melaleuca, frankincense and lavender. Helichrysum is also powerful for healing scar tissue.
Because you want to keep the scar fairly dry carriers oils aren’t a good choice, but aloe vera gel is. Make sure you buy some that is organic and one hundred percent pure, none of that blue sunburn stuff from the drug store!
C-Section Incision Gel
- 1 oz aloe vera gel
- 5 drops of melaleuca
- 3 drops of frankincense
- 3 drops of lavender
Apply to the incision area and allow the gel to dry. Once it does, cover with a cotton pad to keep it dry and absorb any oozing that may be happening from the site. If your healthcare provider recommends that you stop dressing the wound, you can apply the gel and leave it uncovered. If your skin reacts negatively to the oils, stop using them.
Postpartum Sadness and Anxiety
Last but certainly not least is the emotional health side of postpartum. Anything that will help you stay calm, grounded and at peace during this time of healing, emotional challenge and sleep deprivation is worth trying! Again, lavender is back to support your mood. Adding some bergamot and ylang ylang makes for an anxiety soothing and mood-elevating aroma to use throughout your home.
Postpartum Anxiety and Mood Boosting Blend
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
- 3 drops of bergamot essential oil
- 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
Place in a diffuser and take deep breaths while resting quietly (no phones or distractions if possible!) These essential oils should help you to relax as well as release any sadness or negative emotions you may holding.
Okay, are you ready for my wrap-up of 8 essential oils for postpartum healing?
You’ll notice that many are the same for pregnancy, birth and postpartum so stocking your cabinet with these will provide so much support during this time. They are all safe for pregnant or breastfeeding mamas to use topically or aromatically.
- Bergamot: A great mood-elevator and anxiety soother.
- Clary Sage: Helps with afterbirth contractions and has a bright, calming aroma.
- Frankincense: Promotes skin healing for the perineum and c-section incision site as well as stretch marks.
- Helichrysum: Anti-microbial and promotes regeneration of skin especially for the perineum and stretch marks.
- Lavender: Good for just about everything. Soothes anxiety, helps heal skin around the perineum, stretch marks, cracked nipples, and mastitis.
- Melaleuca: Anti-microbial and promotes skin regeneration. Good for mastitis and a c-section scar.
- Roman Chamomile: Analgesic for afterbirth contractions and perineum as well as a great skin soother.
- Ylang-Ylang: Sweet-smelling aroma for calming the mood and easing anxiety.
So there are a lot of ways to use essential oils for labor and postpartum and I hope I’ve given you some good ideas and recipes to try. Making some of these to put in your birth bag or have around the house postpartum is a great pregnancy project in those final weeks. Remember to wait until after 37 weeks to make something with clary sage, otherwise, the other oils are safe to handle earlier in pregnancy.
What about you? Have you used essential oils for labor or postpartum healing? Did they help? I’ve love to hear your experience or story, so leave a comment below and share!
- Halcon, Linda (2018). “How do I Determine the Quality of Essential Oils.” Retrieved from: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/how-do-i-determine-quality-essential-oils
- Kassem, Noreen (2018). Use of Clary Sage In Pregnancy.” Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/371438-use-of-clary-sage-oil-in-pregnancy/
- American Pregnancy (2017). “Back Labor.” Retrieved from: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/back-labor/
- Spears, Olivia (2018). “Essential Oils for Labor And Delivery.” Retrieved from: https://www.thebump.com/a/essential-oils-for-labor-and-delivery
- Baby Center (2017). “Postpartum: Cramps (Afterpains).” Retrieved from: https://www.babycenter.com/0_postpartum-cramps-afterpains_11723.bc
- La Leche League (2018). “Mastitis.” Retrieved from: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/mastitis/