By Natalie Lütge (Birth Doula, Maternal Aromatherapist & Herbalist)
READ NEXT: Part 2 covers aromatherapy during pregnancy and labour & birth
Aromatherapy is rapidly growing in popularity in our society today; as more people practice this therapy (especially correctly) the greater the awareness is growing around the profound benefits of it. In case you’re unsure on what aromatherapy is; it is an integrative, therapy that uses botanical extracts and essences in the form of massage, inhalation or topical application to promote health and wellness of the body, mind and emotions; this is caused by a direct chemical effect on the body’s physiological processes and systems.
Aromatherapy can help to support many different aspects of a person’s life, but I personally love witnessing its benefits within the maternal space. The beauty of this therapy is this: although it can be incredibly effective, it can also be equally beneficial. With the guidance and advice of a qualified Aromatherapist, you can use aromatherapy throughout your entire maternal journey: to support and assist in areas such as infertility; conception; miscarriage; pregnancy; labour and birth; postnatal maternal support; and even lactation and newborn support.
This area of a woman’s maternal journey can be very challenging; physically, mentally, hormonally and emotionally. Although many women come to find an excitement and hope through this time, quite often, this journey can be rather invasive regarding some of the treatments and it can often create a sense of pain, heartache and even feelings of loneliness and helplessness. While there are essential oils that can support the changing hormonal cycles from infertility drugs, there are also other oils that can help to provide more emotional care and comfort through this journey by soothing the nervous system and restoring balance to the body.
Oils such as cypress, coriander, Roman chamomile, clary sage, fennel, geranium, lavender, lemonbalm, rose, thyme and ylang ylang (depending on their dosage, mode of administration, and the type of fertility treatment) can help ease the physiological symptoms of infertility treatments while bringing a sense of comfort and optimism through the emotional and psychological discomforts of the process too.
The process of trying to conceive is an area of a woman’s maternal journey that can be quite bittersweet. While there is the excitement and optimistic hope of falling pregnant, there are some conception journeys that extend beyond months which can cause discouragement, heartache, and even fear. The importance of aromatherapy support through this time is focused mostly on hormonal, emotional and sexual support.
Through consistent “trying”, many couples may begin to feel like their sexual relationship is losing its passion and may even feel like sex is becoming a chore – and in some cases – a disappointing chore; this can make conception exceedingly more difficult: physically, psychologically and emotionally. The use of aphrodisiac, stimulant and comfort oils can be extremely beneficial in helping to keep the atmosphere of passion and romance alive between the couple, as well as in the bedroom. Since a couple’s sexual relationship is the foundation of conception, it is important to nurture and support this area of a couple’s life through which they may be struggling.
Oils such as frankincense, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, clary sage, geranium, ylang ylang, neroli, lavender, Romanchamomile, jasmine, grapefruit, gardenia, vetiver, violet andmandarin (depending on their dosage, blend and mode of administration) can help to support the woman’s physiological and hormonal reproductive cycle; stimulate each partner’s sexual desire; create a euphoric and relaxed atmosphere for sexual activity; and bring a sense of comfort and healing to the heart when disappointment or discouragement arises.
This is an area in a woman’s life that can be deeply discouraging and painful to go through, especially when there have been multiple miscarriages in a relationship. The depth of the emotional and psychological struggle is greatly magnified when miscarriage has occurred through infertility or through extended conception journeys. While there are oils that work to support and strengthen the female reproductive system, the main focus of aromatherapy within the field of miscarriage is to soothe and comfort the heart, emotions, and nervous system; and to encourage a sense of comfort and peace through the grief process.
Oils such as Roman chamomile, frankincense, geranium, petitgrain, grapefruit, lavender, neroli, palmarosa, rose, violet, vetiver androsewood (depending on their dosage, blend, and mode of administration) can help to ground and calm intense emotions; balance the adrenal responses of the body and mind; soothe the heart; and create a sense of security, peace and comfort, to support a couple through their grief and encourage emotional healing in order to proceed with conception again with a gentle and relaxed approach.Oils such as chamomile, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, neroli, palmarosa, rose and rosewood (depending on their dosage and mode of administration), can help to ground and calm intense emotions; balance the adrenal responses of the body and mind; soothe the heart; and create a sense of security, peace and comfort, to support a couple through their grief and encourage emotional healing in order to proceed with conception again in a gentle and relaxed approach.
In cases where the grief of miscarriage is too difficult that it begins to create emotional distance between the couple and difficulty with resuming physical intimacy in the relationship, then the use of aphrodisiac, stimulating and comfort oils such as frankincense, benzoin, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, clary sage, geranium, rose geranium, ylang ylang, neroli, lavender, patchouli, Roman chamomile, jasmine, vetiver, violet, gardenia andmandarin (depending on their dosage, blend, and mode of administration) can help to promote emotional stability and sexual desire by creating a euphoric, relaxed and safe atmosphere for sexual activity and emotional intimacy to resume.
Safety Consideration within Aromatherapy
Now that you have run through how aromatherapy can benefit the maternal journey, it is also incredibly important to note that this therapy can be intensely effective and can cause profound physiological, hormonal, psychological and emotional responses from the body due to the individual chemical composition of the oils and how these chemicals affect each individual. Therefore, it is imperative that you practice responsible use of essential oils during the maternal period, preferably with the advice and guidance of a qualified Aromatherapist who specialises in maternal care; even more so if:
Your pregnancy is classed as high risk
You’ve had fertility or hormone treatments
You’re attempting a vaginal birth for the first time after a cesarean
You’re on any medication or herbal supplements
You have any serious medical, neurological, hormonal or psychological conditions
You’re attempting a home birth
You’ve never used essential oils before
The practice of aromatherapy is a complementary/supportive/integrative therapy that works alongside standard, allopathic healthcare – it does not replace it – it is important to be sure to practice open communication with all your care providers regarding which therapies/treatments you are currently undergoing, to ensure that all treatments, when combined, serve your maternal journey in a safe, effective and balanced way.