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Holistic Aromatherapy may increase usefulness of essential oils in childbirth

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Holistic Aromatherapy May Increase Usefulness of Essential Oils in Childbirth

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Aromatherapy for Childbirth works with Holistic Aromatherapy. It was an active decision not to use the term or focus upon Clinical Aromatherapy in our study day even though many do within the NHS and general practice.

The term Clinical Aromatherapy been used as to imply a high standard and acceptability, through focus on the pharmacologically potent properties of essential oils. ‘Clinical Aromatherapy’ deftly shifted aromatherapy away from its beauty industry association reducing fear of quackery and it became increasingly perceived as safe. Therapeutic aromatherapy became complementary rather than alternative and aromatherapists gained permission to work safely in sensitive situations such as during childbirth and within Hospice care.

Clinical Aromatherapy works with characteristics of individual chemical constituents of essential oils for specific outcomes that are measurable, and supported by evidence. These effects can occur at a physical or psychological level. In a clinical approach aromatherapy can become two-dimensional attempting to use essential oils like drugs treating specific physical symptoms or clinical conditions. This approach has served developing modern aromatherapy, but it could be time to loosen the constraints and limitations of Clinical Aromatherapy

Clinical: “detached, impersonal, dispassionate, uninvolved, distant, remote, aloof, removed, cold, indifferent, neutral, unsympathetic, unfeeling, unemotional, non-emotional, unsentimental; scientific, analytic, rational, logical, hard-headed, sober, businesslike. Its ANTONYM is emotional. (Oxford Thesaurus of English) (1)

Oxford Thesaurus state emotional is an antonym (the opposite of) clinical. Aromatherapy for Childbirth is training midwives and doulas to use aromatic tools and techniques holistically to positively influence the balance of the emotions, attitudes and outlook, thus making a fertile environment for normal birth. This is a very different approach to unemotional Clinical Aromatherapy.

So how are we harnessing the effects of essential oils on emotions? Essential oils are complex in construction. Chemical constituents in a single essential oil can number in the hundreds; compounds within a single essential oil smelled or absorbed into the body can create a complex human response on biochemical, hormonal and nervous systems that influence physical response.

Holistic philosophy is characterized by the belief that the body and its actions is intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole, taking into account emotional, mental, spiritual, environmental and social factors.

Understandably Midwives, Doulas and other birth workers in our study day tend to embrace this holistic concept easily. They have already observed a holistic mind body link through positive or negative emotions changing the progress of labour. Holistic Aromatherapy as used by our trained birth workers during childbirth is a powerful tool.

Sensitive holistic training enables birth workers to decide whether aromatherapy intervention is necessary. If labour is not progressing easily instead of stimulating change physically with drug intervention they have tools to potentially change a mood into a calm safe space for mothers (and for all present). It can work wonders in a birthing room, triggering or supporting active and effective labour.

We encourage an absolutely unique and individualised response, blending and choosing applications for each individual with awareness of contraindications, mood, and immediate needs.   The beauty of the therapy includes the enjoyment of the scent sometimes the aroma being unfolded subtly, applied strongly or stopped quickly. Holistic Aromatherapy techniques work in parallel with changing physical and emotional times in birth.

The effect of Holistic Aromatherapy during childbirth becomes increasingly fine-tuned when individually blended essential oils work in synergy with each other sometimes influencing not only the mother but with awareness of positively influencing others in the vicinity. The desired outcome is also increased by a sensitively chosen method of application.

Our approach appreciated that studies which examine traditional uses of essential oils. The more studies we discover, the more clarity we enjoy in the parameters of safety within which we work. This knowledge drives aromatherapy further away from fear-based practice into a joyous, creative therapeutic addition to the birth room. Response to essential oils and techniques, observed sometimes for generations by practitioners and home-users also creates beneficial and promising information. Linking studies with historical application and the effect of essential oils on biochemicals and hormones together creates a potent holistic mix.

Studies also can be limited in nature with outcomes dependent on questions asked. For example there are plenty of bland studies on aroma-therapeutic use that question if a blend of several essential oils in a particular method of application may or may not help relaxation. They beg for more information. What triggers relaxation? Which oil works best? Why are particular essential oils chosen? Are individual properties utilised? What part of treatment is active – essential oil or method or both? How does environment influence treatment? Practitioner training. Are there any undesirable effects? These factors need to be critically scrutinized as all change outcomes.

Gladly within these factors overall the gathering evidence is undoubtedly building in favour essential oils safety and use in the birth environment. More and specific evidence is needed and we are hoping to build upon this, as we are lucky enough to have insight through the birth workers we have trained into the effectiveness of Holistic Aromatherapy.

For example clary sage has no evidence of being an agent that promotes the flow of menstrual blood (Emmenagogue), but there is much first hand and practical knowledge of it being holistically useful during many births. We are already collecting evidence from users of this essential oil to increase its potential during.

Here is a link to a survey you can be part of if you have experienced the use of clary sage either as mother, birth companion or professional during childbirth. Doesn’t take long to fill in but could be a real help to women giving birth in the future.

We will analyse the results and share the information. Thank you!

Assessing the use of Clary Sage Essential oil (Salvia scalarea) during childbirth.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary

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Aromatherapy for Childbirth equips midwives, doulas and other birth workers with ready-to-practice confidence and competence to apply aromatherapy for women in labour.

Accredited by Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA). 

IFA awards 7 CPD points for course completion.


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