Recherche scientifique Aromathérapie

Essential oils relieve mothers during childbirth: survey

Les huiles essentielles soulagent les mamans lors de l'accouchement : enquête

Midwives have known for many years that essential oils can facilitate their practice during childbirth and its preparation. They are also among the health professionals who are among the most interested in aromatherapy training. And that’s completely normal! Indeed, several serious studies have demonstrated the usefulness of essential oils during childbirth and in particular the important study by Burns et al. conducted in England. Discover in this article a short summary of the encouraging results.

A study ? What study?

It was at the John Radcliffe Hospital of Oxford Brookes University that Burns et al* carried out the largest clinical investigation ever carried out in aromatherapy. The “John Radcliffe Women's hospital” center, which welcomes 6,500 births each year, allowed this team to work for 8 years with doctors, midwives and pregnant women to study the medicinal virtues of Essential Oils in this area.

The main objective of the study was to examine the contribution of aromatherapy to improving the quality of obstetric care and overcoming anxiety and fear in order to improve maternal comfort at the end of pregnancy, upon arrival of contractions and during childbirth.

What method?

The survey covered 8,085 mothers . Data collected on aromatherapy use during the period was compared to a control group of 15,799 mothers who did not use aromatherapy at the center.

The investigation studied the effect of essential oils on childbirth-related parameters such as anxiety, pain, nausea and/or vomiting.

The variables of this research included: the evaluation of the effectiveness by the mothers, the action of aromatherapy on the labor of childbirth, on the use of pharmacological painkillers, on the use of oxytocin by intravenous route to induce childbirth and accelerate it, on associated symptoms and on annual costs.

The exact title of the study is “An investigation into the use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice” by Burns EE, Blamey C, Ersser SJ, Barnetson L, Lloyd AJ, J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6(2):141.

What Essential Oils?

The essential oils used in this study were chosen by several aromatherapists and midwives at the hospital. The list was limited to the following ten:

These Essential Oils have been administered in different ways:

  • In the form of drops placed on the pillow;
  • On the forehead and on the palms of the hands ;
  • In the form of preparations for massages , foot baths and perineal washings .

Please note that some of these Essential Oils are not suitable for routine aromatherapy treatments during pregnancy. They were indicated here in the accompaniment of childbirth.

What results?

  • The study showed, significantly, that aromatherapy is a safe option for mothers and babies;
  • 50% of women confirm the effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing their level of fear and anxiety during labor and childbirth, sometimes dramatically. The essential oils of True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Frankincense (Boswelia carteri) were the most commonly used oils for this purpose;
  • The study also confirmed the effectiveness of aromatherapy in relieving nausea and/or vomiting, improving the mother's natural well-being during labor and contractions. Some mothers find that Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita) is most helpful in these cases.
  • For pain relief, almost 60% of mothers who chose essential oils instead of traditional hospital methods testified that aromatherapy was useful for them. One of the main findings of the study suggests that the essential oils of Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) and Noble Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are the most effective in relieving pain during childbirth;
  • During the 8 years of this study, the use of Pethidine (morphinomimetic drug) in the John Radcliffe Hospital Women's center decreased from 6% to 0.2%;
  • The essential oils of Globular Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) , Lemon Tree (Citrus limonum) or Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata) were chosen by a good number of women in this study to strengthen their general feeling of well-being;
  • Only 80 mothers (1%) experienced minor reactions such as mild skin irritation or nausea.


This study and a few others encourage us to think about aromatherapy for childbirth . We can calmly talk about it with professionals in the sector and especially midwives.


Sleep disorders: sleep better with Essential Oils

In France and Belgium, nearly one in three people complain of suffering from sleep disorders and a large proportion of them consume chemical substances to help them fall asleep. However, what becomes a crutch can quickly turn into an addiction. This is why essential oils can represent an excellent transition, with, in passing, the olfactory pleasure that accompanies them.

Oncology: treating facial and neck ulcers with Essential Oils

In 2006, a clinical study involving 30 patients with ulcerative tumors was carried out to measure the effectiveness of essential oils in reducing bad odors linked to ulcers and on their healing. The results of the study in question demonstrated that essential oils could be of valuable assistance in the care provided to patients and those close to them. This undoubtedly explains the growing interest of oncology, palliative care and other medical services in aromatherapy. Essential oils are indeed the allies of choice for gentle therapy that combines olfactory pleasure and effectiveness. Please find attached a summary of this study. A clinical study: Based on the multiple power of Essential Oils, Warnke et al conducted therapeutic trials on 30 patients with inoperable squamous cell carcinoma with anaerobic bacteria, in six different oncology units. The participating patients suffered from cancers localized to areas of the head and neck with malodorous necrotic ulceration. Their condition required them to be isolated for treatment, which is often psychologically unwelcome. These trials led to the publication of the study: PH Warnke et al. Antibacterial essential oils in malodorous cancer patients: Clinical observations in 30 patients. Phytomedicine 13 (2006) 463–467 Antibiotics and Essential Oils: In order to combat bacterial proliferation and the bad odors of putrefactive ulcers, the Warnke et al group opted for a local treatment with a synergy composed as follows: 70 mg of Eucalyptus EO (we do not specify which one) , 50 mg of Tea tree EO, 45 mg of Lemongrass EO, 45 mg of lemon EO, 7 mg of clove leaf EO, 3 mg of thyme EO and an ethanol base to 40%. This was combined with oral antibiotic therapy. Positive results: These clinical experiments have confirmed the antibacterial effect of essential oils, but also their anti-inflammatory effect. We also observed, to a low degree, a re-epithelization of the neoplastic facial ulcers of the patients. The greatest benefit of this treatment, however, is the improvement in quality of life linked to a reduction in the foul odors associated with ulcerations. Instead of being isolated as usual, patients were able to be monitored under regular medical conditions. Talking images: Three photos of a patient show how treatment with essential oils contributed to the very clear improvement of the ulcer: On the day of the consultation, the inflammation and purulent excretion from the superinfected fistula are at their maximum. The edges of the wound are rough. A cotton drain is introduced intraorally to the external surface. After two and a half weeks, pus formation is significantly reduced and the foul odor has resolved completely. The fistula appears clean and the deposition of a layer of fibrin marks secondary healing of the fistula. The patient can leave the hospital and continue aromatherapy with his wife at home. After six weeks of treatment with essential oils, the fistula is closed. This development is not common in neoplastic ulcerations. Unfortunately, at the eighth week, we note an enlargement of the tumor along the route previously taken by the fistula. Despite this, the new fistulization remained clinically without superinfection and the foul odor did not reappear. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of Essential Oils in topical use in the treatment of wounds. Note here the absence of lavender but the presence of tea tree, lemon and lemongrass. If you are interested in scientific aromatherapy, you have the opportunity to train at the Dominique Baudoux Aromatherapy College.