Aromatherapy has garnered attention recently as a way to promote stress relief during labor. More and more women are turning to aromatherapy during their labor to help them cope with the emotional issues facing them. There is no direct or indirect pain relief involved but the laboring mother may find aromatherapy helps reduce stress thereby allowing pain to be better tolerated. Some suggest aromatherapy also reduces stress reduction among helping caregivers and loved ones making the overall environment better.


Essential oils of rose, lavender, neroli, clary sage and others are placed in baths, on face cloths, in massage oil, or directly on the laboring mother's skin. Many recommend picking a few different oils to use for different stages of labor. Suggestions include the use of a calming oil for the first stage of labor before the baby begins to descend. As stage 2 of labor begins with the descent and delivery of the baby, an oil like peppermint has been found by many to promote a sense of strength. Below is a list of some commonly used oils and their suggested properties. 

Chamomile - calming useful for premenstrual pain/tension, indigestion, mildly antiallergenic, rhinitis, acne, excema, and other sensitive skin conditions 

Eucalyptus - antiseptic useful for coughs and colds, bronchitis, viral infections, muscular aches, rheumatic conditions 

Germanium -mildly astringent useful for cuts, sores, fungal infections, as an insect repellent, soothing skin problems, eczema, bruises, mildly diuretic, anti-depressant 

Lavender - mildly analgesic useful for headaches, wounds, bruises, antiseptic, insect bites, oily skin, acne, swelling, calming insomnia, mild depression

Rose - antiseptic useful for sore throat and sinus, congestion, puffiness, mildly sedative, insomnia, premenstrual tension/pain, menopause, and reduced libido 

Rosemary - mild stimulant useful for physical and mental fatigue, forgetfulness, respiratory problems, asthma, rheumatic aches and pains 

Sandalwood - antiseptic useful for dry, cracked, or chapped skin, acne, calming relaxation during meditation, aphrodisiac 

Marjoram - mildly analgesic useful for menstrual pain, headache, sore throat, mildly sedative, insomnia, warming, improving circulation, acne

Jasmine - antidepressant useful for depression, postnatal depression, strengthening contractions during labor, aphrodisiac 

Neroli - mildly sedative useful for insomnia, anxiety, nervous depression, mildly warming, improving circulation, acne, premenstrual tension/pain, backache 




  • There is no direct pain relief seen.

  •  Some women may have allergic reactions to particular oil preparations. 

  • Many laboring women are particularly sensitive to certain smells that may enhance nausea and vomiting associated with labor. 

While there are no good studies demonstrating benefit to the laboring mother, the minimal risks and costs associated with aromatherapy make this a good adjunct in many laboring women. It may be wise for the mother to pick out pleasing oil blends prior to the onset of labor. This can help prevent using scents that enhance nausea and vomiting. 

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