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3 {must have} Essential Oils for Labor | Mother Rising

Essential Oils for Labor

I have used essential oils at births since becoming a doula in 2007. At first, the idea of using essential oils overwhelmed me and I didn’t know where to start! I quickly learned that using essential oils for labor can be very basic, easy to implement and has great results.

CAUTION: Do not directly apply essential oils to your skin unless you are working under the care of an aromatherapist. Essential oils are very potent and should be treated as such.

As a rule of thumb, I only use essential oils aromatically with doula clients. I also always obtain consent from the woman who will be inhaling the oils.

Thinking of bringing essential oils to your birth? Here are the three essential oils for labor that should be at every birth.

3 {must have} Essential Oils for Labor

The following three basic oils should be in every hospital bag, homebirth kit or doula bag. They are inexpensive, work great and are a good starting point for someone new to essential oils.


Lavender is my favorite essential oil. It smells fantastic and calms me when I’m feeling stressed. Just the smell of it helps me to remember to breathe deep.

For births, my favorite way to use lavender is in a diffuser. Depending on mom’s needs and the size of the space we are in I might put 2-5 drops of the essential oil in the diffuser.

While I have the lavender out I often notice nurses, midwives and OBGYN’s walk through the hospital room door, breathe deep and comment on how great the room smells. I really think lavender calms the entire birth team!


Lemon is my most used essential oil in my doula bag. If a doula client (ahem… or me) is feeling nauseous or throwing up, I pull out the lemon oil.

An easy way to use lemon is to put a few drops on the cap and have the laboring mom hold it on her own. When she wants to smell it she can, but doesn’t have to worry about spilling the whole bottle. The same thing can be done by placing a few drops on a cotton ball.

One time I thought a dad was going to lose it. There were certain smells wafting in the air. I quickly shoved the bottle in his hand and told him to smell it. Yup, the lemon essential oil saved his rear end. He was able to not puke AND stay by his woman’s side.


Peppermint essential oil is another great oil to have on hand. I don’t use it at every birth like I do with lemon, but it definitely has its place.

Peppermint has a cooling effect, so it can be great when mom is hot, sweaty and tired… during PUSHING!

Also, placing a few drops in the toilet immediately postpartum can help a mom to urinate if she is having trouble using the bathroom. How cool is that?

Where to Buy

Lately, I have been very happy with Plant Therapy’s essential oils. I like the products and I also like that I can buy them from Amazon. Great quality and you can’t beat the prices.

In fact, I buy the majority of my herbs, beeswax and other related supplies from Amazon as well. I love that I can get high quality, organic essential oils at a great price, delivered to my doorstep. Getting a shipment from them is a very happy day indeed.

Other Oils

If you’re looking for more options other than the 3 Essential Birth Oils, this list is for you.

Sweet Orange

Wild orange smells like the most amazing orange that ever existed.

My favorite way to use this is in a diffuser mixed with lavender. I use 2-3 drops of lavender and 4-5 drops of wild orange. Heaven!

Clary Sage

Many find clary sage to be helpful to make contractions stronger. A doula client once used it as part of her induction. All she did was uncap it, sniff and her contractions would get stronger. Any time she felt her labor weakening, she did it again with great results. It was shocking!

During my most recent birth I tried it too, smelling it out of the bottle and in my diffuser with lavender. It didn’t work. The moral of the story is… your mileage may vary.

Other Blends

Plant Therapy has created many wonderful smelling therapeutic blends. Look for blends that are calming, but also look for ones that promise energy.

The needs of birth are often unpredictable so having a stash of both will prepare you for the unknown.

Tips and Tricks

  • Essential oils can be used as soon as a mother notices signs of labor.
  • Get an “OK” from a mom before birth about particular scents. A doula client of mine specifically told me she did not like lavender and peppermint at our prenatal meeting. I was happy to know this information!
  • Don’t put essential oils directly in the tub a mom is laboring in. If she decides she doesn’t like the smell in the water fixing it will be hard! Imagine having to drain the entire tub just to get rid of the smell? What a nightmare. Use a cotton ball instead. If she doesn’t like the smell you can just toss those in the trash or take it completely out of the room.
  • Aromatherapy washcloths can be made by taking a washcloth, wetting it with cold water and placing one drop of an essential oil on it. Fold it in half so the oil doesn’t get on the skin and place it on the forehead, face, neck or back. Peppermint is a great oil to use for this. I bet she’ll love it!
  • Put a drop of any essential oil you love on the collar of your shirt. Sniff it at any moment you feel nauseated because of any “birth smells” wafting in the air.
  • Before being wheeled to the operating room for a cesarean birth, place a cotton ball with a drop or two of mom’s favorite essential oil right by her head. Her head is in the non-sterile field so leaving a cotton ball there is perfectly OK. The OR can have unwelcome smells (antiseptic, cauterized skin, etc.) and the essential oil helps combat these unpleasant sensations while simultaneously providing a therapeutic benefit at birth.


Diffusers are an easy way to distribute essential oils aromatically without using an open flame. Most hospitals and birth centers do not allow candles so this is a fantastic alternative.

The diffuser I bring to births can be found here on Amazon. It is small, lightweight and very portable.

essential oils for labor

Ready to get started?

If you are ready to dig deeper with essential oils head on over to Amazon to buy… you guessed it! Lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oils.


Saturday 24th of August 2019

I work in L&D and generally I don’t mind essential oils. However, sometimes users don’t use moderation. As pointed out, the locality is important. A woman’s choice of essential oils should not be so strong as to leave the patients room. The nurses station should not be smelling your oils-then you are exposing all kinds of others to things that might not be good for them.

Gentle C Section: How to Experience a Gentle Cesarean | Mother Rising

Wednesday 17th of July 2019

[…] in the sterile field so it is ok to do something like this.  Check out my article about essential oils for birth for more […]

Abdaly Jr.’s Birth Story - an Unexpected Cesarean Birth | Mother Rising

Sunday 10th of March 2019

[…] of a birth as possible but in a hospital setting. I wanted the natural whole nine: no drugs, essential oil diffuser in the delivery room, immediate skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping, the list went on (and by “the list” I […]


Thursday 3rd of January 2019

Great info, thanks! Preparing for my 3rd homebirth and would love to incorporate EOs. I find aromatherapy very healing and think your suggestions are great!


Wednesday 14th of November 2018

You should check our New Directions Aromatics for your essential oils! They are a fantastic quality and at wholesale prices. I used to buy on Amazon, but now buy most stuff from them. I understand you’re an affiliate so definitely keep with your links, but in general - NDA is more often than not a way better deal!!!

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