Aromatherapy Massage Blends for Childbirth: How Does it Work? – The Facts
Aromatherapy Massage Blends for Childbirth
How does it work? – The Facts
When you give an aromatherapy massage during childbirth how long does it take to take effect? How safe is it to use essential oils on the skin during labour?
A massage with essential oils starts its influence immediately. At the first whiff of the aroma of a massage blend, the olfactory area in the nasal cavity, which really close to the brain will pick up the stimulus and trigger nerve signals to the limbic area, immediately supporting a change in the way we feel by influencing biochemical and hormonal production. In labour choosing and using individualised essential oils can help reduce fear, other strong emotions or simply support relaxation and calm, so that the woman in childbirth feels good which helps her physiological birth. The stimulus of aroma can also trigger memory, often unconsciously, with its corresponding emotion. If you have had good experiences using an essential oil or have been around a similar aroma beforehand the smell of it creates that feeling again. So even the beautiful smell of an essential oil massage is useful in childbirth.
It is not only the nervous system creating influence with inhaling essential oils, we now know that due to the tiny molecule size of many of the constituents of essential oil molecules they are one of the few things that can cross the blood brain barrier to physically effect the brain. Research into this is new and we have only just begun to touch on the ramifications of this action of essential oils. ( Agatonovic-Kustin et al 2020)
How long does it take for essential oils to get absorbed by the skin to have an effect on the body? This depends. If the skin is warm, damp and covered from the air it takes a shorter time than if it is cold, dry and in the air. Also some essential oils can be absorbed quicker than others, depending on their size. Mandarin has really small molecules and can be added to a massage blend to help speedy absorption of other essential oils.
Within the sort of conditions of warmth and draping that you get in massage and by using a lavender essential oil massage blend, it was found that two common constituents of lavender, linalool and linalyl acetate were at their highest blood concentration at 20 minutes after application. After which they slowly cleared from the body over several hours dropping from a therapeutic dose over the next hour or so (Jager et al 1992). All essential oil constituents stay in the body hours not days or weeks.
It is important to realize that less is more. Although using higher percentage dilutions can cause more essential oils to enter the body it also increases the potential for dermal disruption and irritation of the skin. The last thing we want during labour. There is also a drying effect of essential oils on skin over 1% dilution. We teach using 1% essential oil dilution in a vegetable oil such as sunflower for massage. As women enjoy many massages between surges in labour this low percentage blend can then be most safely used over a longer period of time, whilst building physiological therapeutic effect and with the advantage of the aroma influencing and balancing the emotions too.
When you add these potential advantages of essential oil blends into the well-documented evidence of positive massage experiences in labour aromatherapy massage is a powerful combination to support birth.
Tutor and Co-founder, Aromatherapy for Childbirth
Jager, W., Buchbauer, G., Jirovetz, L., & Fritzer, M. (1992). Percutaneous absorption of lavender oil from a massage oil. Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 43, 49–54. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3530/6465958d8e35e36e7933fa57ba134fe4f9b3.pdf
Agatonovic-Kustin,M, Chan.C.K.Y, Gegechki.V, Morton.D.V. Models for skin and brain penetration of major components from essential oils used in aromatherapy for dementia patients Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, 38, 2020 – issue https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07391102.2019.1633408?journalCode=tbsd208
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