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Essential Oils for Labor

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

One of my favorite tools in my doula bag, that I use for almost EVERY birth, is my essential oils! There are so many great uses for essential oils, but when it comes to my doula bag, I like to keep things simple. I only carry three single oils! If my clients have their own blends or oils, that's great! But I've found these three to be the most versatile and useful in my practice.


I love the smell of lemon. It is so refreshing and uplifting! I keep this one in my bag for when the room needs a little "pick me up". Birth can be exhausting, for both the person giving birth, and the support team! Smelling some lemon oil can be a great "pick me up" for anyone who needs it! It is also a great mood booster! Sometimes parents get some not so great news, are offered an intervention they didn't want, or are just down right discouraged. After working through everything, I like to use lemon to help get us back on track! sometimes just leaving the container open on the counter is enough for us go get the faintest whiff, and be ready to tackle the rest of the birth!


Lavender is known for its relaxing effects, and I use it for just that! It's so important for moms to be able to try and rest between contractions, and relax her body during them! I also like to use this after moms get their epidural, and are ready for a nap. There is no tired like labor tired, and this can be so helpful for getting that well deserved rest. This one is also great for anxiety! We know that stress hormones can actually slow and even stall labor, so anything that reduces that stress and anxiety can be helpful in the birth space. Lemon and lavender mixed together can really help with an anxious mom. The lavender will ease anxiety, and lemon supports an overall good mood! I like to think of them as the perfect team!


This is the "duct tape" of birth support. You can use it for anything! Peppermint is a very invigorating, and grounding smell. This can help bring the mom "down to earth" so to say. It's easy to get lost in your thoughts, and let yourself get swept away. If these thoughts are helpful, then thats great! Drift away. However, it can be easy to get lost in intrusive thoughts like "how am I going to push?" "am I doing this right?" "how long is this going to take??". Peppermint can pull someone back to the present, and help to reset, and get back on track. The next thing I like to use it for is nausea. Nausea during labor can be caused by a multitude of things. Hormones, anxiety, medications, and overall labor progress are all things that can cause nausea and vomiting. Peppermint is my first line of defense for this, especially if mom is trying to avoid medications like Zofran (a common anti nausea med). Bonus tip - if the peppermint isn't strong enough, taking a quick whiff of an alcohol prep pad is a great way to stop nausea in it's tracks! The third use I have for peppermint, is in the postpartum period! Whether you've had a vaginal or cesarean delivery, using the bathroom for the first few days can be quite the feat! A few drops of peppermint in the toilet bowl is a great way to support your pelvic floor in relaxing, so you can use the restroom just a little bit easier. This is one I recommend parents keep in their bathroom at home as well, so they can use it even if I'm not around!

Tips and Tricks

There are some important things to keep in mind when using essential oils during labor:

  • Birthing people are extremely sensitive to smells! Their brains are primed to be ultra aware, so it's important to remember that less is more! Anything too overpowering can be off putting, instead of having the intended impact.

  • Keeping the sensitivity in mind, it's important that there's an "easy out" when it comes to using oils. Preferences can change in a moments notice, so it's important to use methods of delivery that are low commitment. For example, consider using an inhaling device, instead of diffusing the oils. Or, rather than applying them topically, put them on a rag or cotton ball that can be easily put in a bag or container when it's no longer desired.

  • The sense of smell is extremely important for bonding. It's extremely important that no oils are in use during the pushing phase (unless it's prolonged pushing, and the oils can be removed immediately), and in the immediate postpartum. Baby is smelling mom, and mom is smelling baby. Important connections are being formed in the brain during this time, so it's important that no oils are being diffused or used during this period.

  • Oils are not safe for newborns! And there are many oils that aren't safe for young children as well! It's important to consult with an experienced herbalist or other professional to ensure safe usage of oils for both parents and children!

  • Other Oil Favorites! Some favorites I've seen families use are: any motivating or focus type blend, other citrus or citrus blends, clary sage is a great grounding oil.

Share this with your birth team, and add the use of essential oils to your birth plan! They're a great tool to add to your experience!

Do you plan to use them at your birth, or did you use them at a past birth? Do you have a favorite not listed here? Comment below, or send me a message! I'd love to hear from you!

*Disclaimer - I am not an Essential Oil Professional or practitioner. I do not claim to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness with the use of oils or other products. This information simply knowledge I've learned, and love to share with others!

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