The gentlebirth.org website is provided courtesy of
Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA
by Mayim Bialik, Ph.D.
This short essay is humorous, honest, insightful and inspiring.
The best clinical book I've found on the subject is Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth by Denise Tiran, a book with extensive references into peer-reviewed journal articles. In a discussion of the various routes of administration, the author writes, "Essential oils may also be given orally to be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, but should be prescribed only by very experienced or medically qualified aromatherapists; this route of administration is not considered here."
Everyone who works with pregnant/birthing/lactating women and babies
needs to use their good judgment to be responsible and work only within
their scope of practice and the limits of their training and knowledge.
Essential Oil Safety Information
tips for essential oils - An exclusive excerpt from Consumer Reports
Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth by Denise Tiran offers this
list of "Essential oils that may cause adverse skin reactions":
|Camomile (German, Roman)||Melissa|
|Cinnamon (leaf)||Orange (sweet?)|
|Geranium (especially Bourbon)||Tea tree|
|Ginger (in high concentrations)||Thyme|
When we first received word of this study, we contacted Dr. Derek Henley, the lead author of the research, who works at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Henley told us that this issue first came to his attention when Dr. Clifford Bloch, a pediatric endocrinologist in Denver, Colorado, reported that he had treated three young boys within a short period of time who had symptoms of prepubertal gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in young boys). Bloch thought that was unusual because he normally only sees about one case of prepubertal gynecomastia a year. In the course of his treatment of these patients, Bloch discovered that all of the boys had been using products that contained lavender oil. Bloch told us that the source of lavender oil for one of the boys had been a Paul Mitchell hair gel and shampoo that contained both lavender oil AND tea tree oil. For some unknown reason Bloch decided to include tea tree oil in his write-up even though lavender oil was the only common ingredient used in the products of all three boys. We did a chemical analysis of the Paul Mitchell hair gel and shampoo in question and found that tea tree oil was barely detectable in the hair gel and a very low concentration in the shampoo.
When they received this information from Bloch, Henley and Kenneth Korach, both researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, performed test tube experiments of the effects of lavender oil on breast cancer cells. They also decided to test tea tree oil because of Dr. Bloch's request. They observed that both oils exhibited estrogen-like qualities on the cells. At the annual meeting of the National Endocrine Society held in Boston in June 2006, Henley reported the results of the research, which was subsequently published on February 1 , 2007. What Henley's report failed to mention is that there are literally thousands of harmless natural oils and other natural plant substances that exhibit similar estrogen-like qualities when applied directly to a cell culture. Just a few common examples of products that have similar effects as tea tree oil in similar tests are: soy, hops, garbanzo beans, red clover, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, alfalfa sprouts, licorice, and ginseng.
Dr. Henley told us that while he was being interviewed by reporters about the report, he had the definite impression that they were trying to get him to say that lavender oil and tea tree oil cause gynecomastia so that they could publish a headline that these products should not be used. Henley told us that he was concerned about how the stories had come out as they just took portions of what he said instead of publishing everything he said. Henley emphasized to us that the research does not conclude that either lavender oil or tea tree oil are the direct cause of the gynecomastia in the young boys, but that there may be a correlation. He pointed out that the only common ingredient among all of the products used by the patients was lavender oil and that only one boy had used a product that contained both lavender oil and tea tree oil. In his report Henley cautioned patients of prepubertal gynecomastia to avoid repeat exposure to these essential oils, but in our phone interview he said there is not nearly enough evidence to indicate that people should stop using products with lavender oil or tea tree oil, even young boys.
We believe that these news reports based on this very simple cell culture assay are very misleading.
First, the study does not support a scientific conclusion because there is no connection between the cell culture on tea tree oil and the one boy who used a hair gel and shampoo containing tea tree oil. Both products also had lavender oil, and when tested in a lab the tea tree oil content was virtually undetectable in the hair gel and at very low concentrations in the shampoo, which Dr. Henley informed us was Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo.
Second, thousands of plant-derived compounds have the same estrogen-like impact in a cell culture, including food products that millions of people around the world ingest every day like soy, hops, garbanzo beans, red clover, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, alfalfa sprouts, licorice, ginseng and many others.
Third, rather than use the coincidental story of a single boy, it seems that it would be more appropriate and much more responsible to report the results of millions of users of Melaleuca Oil. Considering the millions of products sold with tea tree oil each year, if there was any truth at all to this unsupported theory it seems that Melaleuca would see a common occurrence of prepubertal gynecomastia in young boys. Instead we have never received a single report! Not one! Ever!
Fourth, all 3 boys lived in the Denver area, yet no other environmental or health factors were considered.
Fifth, the study reports that there are other components in these products that may contribute the gynecomastia that were not tested, including other essential oils in the products the boys were using. The only common essential oil in these products was lavender oil, yet the researchers chose to include tea tree oil in their report and tested no other ingredients in these products.
It seems very odd to us that tea tree oil was even mentioned in this story. It appears that lavender oil is the only common substance used by the three boys in question. It appears that the only reason that tea tree oil was mentioned in the story was because the source of lavender for one of the three boys was Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair Gel and Shampoo. There does not appear to be any evidence whatsoever that the symptoms of that one boy had anything to do with tea tree oil.
It is absurd to us why, when one young boy presents with gynecomastia, and it is learned he used a Paul Mitchell shampoo and hair gel, it is suspected that tea tree oil caused his condition. That shampoo has many other ingredients other than tea tree oil, including lavender! In fact, all three boys had used products containing lavender . We can understand why lavender would be suspect, but it is an almost impossible leap of judgment to conclude that tea tree oil had anything to do with the problem.
That said, it is difficult to shut off or change a story once it gets
started. Nevertheless, perhaps the most convincing data that we have is
that after selling over 123 million bottles of product containing Melaleuca
Oil, we have never had a single case of gynecomastia reported to us. It
is apparent that the researchers in this case got more than a bit carried
away in their effort to link tea tree oil to the story there appears to
be no relationship whatsoever.
Re: applying essential oils to the body of a pregnant or lactating women vs. diffusing essential oils
There are so many modalities out there, but I felt the need to speak up on this topic from a Chinese aromatherapy perspective. (I was trained from Jeffrey Yuen, LAc, 88th generation Daoist priest (master) of two traditions/spiritual and healing lineages.)
In Chinese medicine you have layers of energy from external fields to one's center core. So, following this philosophy the Emotional aspect is divided into three levels: We have Moods which are short-lived and transitory, we have Emotions that stay with us, for example grief, depression, a broken heart. And then we have Temperament which is the constitutional level, what we are born with--the DNA. (Bruce Lipton's new book discusses how scientific research now recognizes how changeable DNA truly is--something that has been a tenet of Classical Chinese medicine for thousands of years).
When essential oils are off-the-body, diffused in a heat or electrical diffuser, or just scented straight from the bottle, the oils work to make shifts at the Mood and Emotional levels.
*When essential oils are applied to the skin:
1. They affect the body at the deepest constitutional levels--vibratory resonance from the essence of plants to the essence of humans/animals.
2. They pass through to the baby of a pregnant or lactating woman.
So, in effect, applying oils during labor is not only affecting mothers' transitory moods or longer-forming emotions, but is also making constitutional changes in mother and the infant.
Now, whatever your beliefs, I think most people accept that babies come to this world the way they are supposed to, and should not be interfered with from outside chemicals.
So please consider using these oils by diffusion only.
The simplest way is too apply a few drops of oil to a cotton ball.
You can then put the cotton ball into a small jar, pill bottle, re-used
Glade air plug-in, or just a small plastic snack baggie.
- Australian Bush Flower Essences - These aren't necessarily specific
to pregnancy, but these descriptions come with a couple of wonderful affirmations
for each essence. [Similar
page from Flower Vision Research] What a great idea! [More
Effects of music
and essential oil inhalation on cardiac autonomic balance in healthy individuals.
Peng SM, Koo M, Yu ZR.
J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jan;15(1):53-7.
CONCLUSIONS: Listening to soft music and inhaling Citrus bergamia essential
oil was found to be an effective method of relaxation, as indicated by
a shift of the autonomic balance toward parasympathetic activity in young
Some women report bad reactions or "allergies" to some essential oils
that are made with toxic solvents or are made from plants that were treated
with pesticides. So it's important to try to use organic sources
and non-toxic solvents when possible.
Harvest has an extensive list of Web
resources for aromatherapy, perfumery, and essential oils
Mia Luna Rising
- Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Birthing Time - Specializing in Natural
Modalities, Consultations & Education Benefiting Infertility, Pre-Conception,
Pregnancy & Childbirth.
Native Remedies - specially
formulated to offer a complete solution for holistic health and wellness.
Oils and Oils-Enhanced Support (used to be Perinatal
Uses of Essential Oils)
Florame has a wide range of high
quality essential oils for you to enjoy. Most of our essential oils are
organic and have been certified by Ecocert. Our oils are not "folded" with
synthetic products and no modifications have been made to their natural
Beginnings - Aromatherapy for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Post-partum
- Natural Beginnings offers a collection of aromatherapy blends made from
the highest quality wild-crafted and organic essential oils available from
around the world.
MichaelaBoldy's fabulous essential oil Labor Blends are available from Maternal Connections at El Camino Hospital, Blossom Birth (25% of profits are supporting Blossom), or directly from www.mbaromatherapy.com.
Essential Oils for Pregnancy & Labor
I have custom designed two essential oil Labor Blends to be applied during labor by back or stomach massage. My blends are created from100% pure essential oils derived from chamomile, lavender, rose, clary sage, frankincense and jasmine, which are known for their pain relieving and calming properties. After the birth these blends make a wonderful relaxation bath oil.
The blends have recently been used in a study at El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, CA. Below is feedback from participants in that study.
Midwife, El Camino Hospital, CA
"We have been recommending Michaela's blends to our patients for some
time now and each time we have used them, the women say how wonderful the
The use of aromatherapy has in the past 10 years become more and more popular in many different areas of health care, Labor and Delivery is not the exception…there are no harmful side effects, they appear to really help the mothers relax and feel calm during labor, which in itself actually encourages labor, and their aroma is just amazing!
So many thanks, Michaela, for introducing us and our patients to your blends and we really hope that more women switch on to them in the future."
Parents, El Camino Hospital, CA
"As a husband, watching your wife go through labor is painful. Applying these blends allowed me to participate in the labor process by helping my wife manage the pain from contractions. The product is easy to use and works fantastically. If we have a 3rd child, this is definitely on our short list of must haves."
"Felt like we were doing something proactive to help with contractions."
"Distracted me and helped me to focus on something else besides the contractions."
"I would definitely use these oils again and recommend to other pregnant women."
"The oils did help me relax and did create a sense of well being."
Why use Michaela Boldy's Blends during labor?
*Highly recommended by midwives, doulas and patients
*Helps reduce anxiety and provides distraction from contractions
*By massaging the blends in to areas where labor pain is felt the most, the labor partner can actively participate and contribute to mother's comfort and well-being
*This group of essential oils was proven in a UK hospital labor unit and used in childbirth since 1998
*Clinically tested at El Camino Hospital, CA.
*100% purity of essential oils tested by G.C.M.S analysis therefore the customer is getting the highest quality aromatherapy product for use in labor
Oxford Brookes University, UK Study
My blends are based on the Oxford Brookes University, UK study which involved 8058 participants over 8 years.
Following completion in 1998, aromatherapy became part of the mainstream care in the Oxford labor unit.
The study proved specific essential oils could contribute to promoting maternal comfort during labor.
Michaela Boldy, R.N., Certified Aromatherapy Practitioner (NAHA), Mother
These Labor Blends are available from Maternal
Connections at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA.
I use helichrysum for PPH will stop a hemorrhage. You only need to apply
it on the lower abdomen for effect. The other oils that I use for birth
are Valor, for courage to over come fear. Gentle Baby for repositioning
the baby and calming and comforting the mom and baby. I also use this oil
for anterior lips and swollen cervixes (not sure if that is plural). It
helps with lessening the intensity of contractions. Had several women tell
me that, and for stretch marks and skin elasticity so not as much of a
chance of tearing. Also Relieve It if gentle Baby doesn't help or any other
pain like lower back. On the baby I use 3 Wise Men for centering the baby
after birth. It opens the crown chakra to release any negative emotion
after the birth. It also keeps negative emotions from reattaching to the
body. Then I use Grounding for stabilizing and grounding the baby so it
can deal with reality in a logical and peaceful manner. I put it on the
feet and it centers the baby and grounds it to the earth. I use many more
oils but these are my main ones for birth. These are all blends from the
company I order from.
With Essential Oils Kill Bacteria - Flame and Oils Work Together, Say British
Nov. 19, 2004 -- Candles containing certain essential oils can do more than set a mood and smell pretty. They can also kill bacteria, according to a new British study.The finding shows a new way to destroy bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (staph) on surfaces, say researchers Lindsey Gaunt, PhD, and Sabrina Higgins of England's University of Southampton. [More information about essential oils.]
Essential Oils as Antiseptics
For HPV, you can use sandalwood oil, helichrysum oil or tea tree oil
directly on the cervix.
Aromas and fragrances affect the brain without being evaluated by the rational brain, so they can "make you" relax even when you're otherwise feeling anxious. This is a very powerful effect that you can really benefit from--use it as a trigger for the conditioned relaxation response that you develop through repeated practice of yoga or guided imagery relaxation practice.
Start by choosing a fragrance that is particularly relaxing for you anyway . . . lavender is a fairly reliable essential oil that most people like, and it is inherently relaxing. (Make sure it is REAL lavender, not a synthetic fragrance. If you're lucky enough to have access to fresh lavender, that can be really nice, too.)
Use your chosen fragrance whenever you engage in your guided imagery relaxation practice. Your body will learn to associate this fragrance with the deep state of relaxation that you're achieving through your practice. Eventually, you will develop a conditioned relaxation response so that the fragrance alone helps you to enter a deep state of relaxation effortlessly.
For best effect, also use some inherently relaxing music on low volume
in the background, and you will also develop a conditioned relaxation response
to the music. This is a POWERFUL combination and can make it so much
easier for you to relax during labor, which will help your entire labor
and birth to be easier as well as more enjoyable.
Learning Influences Our Sense of Smell - Jay A. Gottfried, assistant
professor of neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of
Medicine in Chicago, interviewed on NPR's Science Friday on Dec. 22, 2006
The brain learns to distinguish between similar smells simply through passive experience, according to a new study by Northwestern University researchers. The findings suggest that this process ultimately allows us to distinguish between thousands of similar smells, beginning at birth.
He's done research about the pyriform cortex and orbital frontal cortex. This second region is critically involved in emotional, behavior and motivational states. If you think about smell in evolutionary terms, smell was the scent that drove most animal behaviors: food and foraging, mating behavior, kinship recognition, maternal bonding, escaping predators. It comes as no surprise that the same areas involved in smell processing are also involved in emotion, memory and goal-directed behavior. The olfactory system is very malleable.
Olfactory memory can be used to de-escalate and calm someone.
Different odors can evoke very specific physiological and autonomic
reactions: changes in blood pressure, heart rate, pupil diameter.
They may be hard-wired, and then may be malleable through experience.
This subsection is about the use of essential oils only for their aroma, rather than for topical or internal use.
Ed: - There is a great deal of confusion between flower
essences, which have no fragrance, and essential oils from flowering
plants, which often have a lovely, very powerful fragrance.
formerly the Aromatherapy Organisations Council - contains a list of Member
Associations and Useful
The National Association for Holistic
Aromatherapy (NAHA) is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated
to enhancing public awareness of the benefits of true aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy for Childbirth
Aromatherapy For Childbearing
Information page from NATURE'S GIFT Custom Aromatherapy Products - Balancing Body, Mind and Spirit with Pure Essential Oils
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