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3 Basic, Must Have 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 with 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 before labor 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.

The Three Essential Oils for Labor

Lavender, lemon, and peppermint are the three basic essential oils for labor that should be in every hospital bag, homebirth supplies, and doula bag. These three oils are inexpensive, work great, and are a good starting point for someone new to essential oils.

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender is my favorite essential oil to bring to a birth. 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 essential is in a diffuser. Depending on mom’s needs and the size of the birthing room, I put around 2-5 drops of lavender essential oil in the diffuser.

When lavender is diffusing 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 Essential Oil

Lemon is my most used essential oil for labor that’s in my doula bag. If a doula client (ahem… or me) is feeling nauseous or throwing up, I pull out the lemon essential 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 up to her nose. 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 at a birth I thought a dad was going to lose it. There were “certain smells” (aka poop) 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

Peppermint essential oil is another great oil to have on hand for labor. 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! Wet a washcloth with cold water, wring it out, put two drops of peppermint essential oil on the cloth, fold it in thirds to hide the essential oil, and place on the back of the neck or forehead.

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

NOTE: I would NOT diffuse peppermint essential oil during labor. This particular essential oil is a “hot oil” and can sting the eyes, especially those with sensitive eyes. Use peppermint essential oil sparingly and carefully during labor.

Where to Buy Essential Oils for Labor

Lately, I have been very happy with Aura Casia’s and Plant Therapy’s essential oils. I like the products and I also like that I can buy them from Amazon/Whole Foods. 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 Essential Oils for Labor

If you’re looking for more options other than the 3 basic essential oils for birth, consider sweet orange, clary sage, and other essential oil blends.

Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Sweet orange essential oil smells like the most amazing orange that ever existed. My favorite way to use this essential oil for labor is in a diffuser mixed with lavender. Use 2-3 drops of lavender and 4-5 drops of wild orange. Heaven!

Clary Sage Essential Oil

Many laboring women 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 using clary sage essential oil too. My water had broke the night before, but labor wasn’t gettin going. I uncapped the clary sage essential oil and smelled it straight out of the bottle, and also in my diffuser with lavender. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The moral of the story is… your mileage may vary.

Other Essential Oil Blends for Labor

Plant Therapy has created many wonderful smelling therapeutic blends. When buying essential oil blends for labor, look for blends that are calming, but also look for ones that promise energy – both will be helpful. The needs of birth are often unpredictable so having a stash of different blends will prepare you for the unknown.

Essential Oils for Labor: Tips and Tricks

  • Essential oils can be used as soon as a mother notices signs of labor.
  • Doulas – get an “OK” from a mom prior to 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 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.

Using a Diffuser 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.

ZAQ Allay Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser LiteMist Ultrasonic Aromatherapy With Ionizer, Blue, 1 Count
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03/12/2024 03:46 pm GMT

Ready to get started?

If you are ready to dig deeper with essential oils head on over to Amazon to buy… you guessed it – the basic essential oils for labor – lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oils. Happy birthing!


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.


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!!!


Wednesday 25th of July 2018

NO peppermint!!!! Totally reduces milk supply!!!


Friday 27th of July 2018

IMO using peppermint aromatically here and there during labor won't reduce milk supply postpartum.


Monday 9th of July 2018

As a pregnant woman, I’d suggest buying the scents that calm you embodied in a bar of soap. Never too strong for others, doesn’t dissipate, easy to hold, color-coded! I’m having fun picking out a few of my favorites - piñon, lemon, maybe almond milk, and some type of mint blend - to have on hand during my hospital labor. Having labored at home last time, I’m keenly aware that being in a healthcare environment may bring smells outside my control, and I want to be ready. I’d welcome any other scent suggestions, intrigued to hear that the conifer might help strengthen contractions!