What it is:
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to achieve a desired physical or emotional state. Essential oils are derived from plants.
How it works:
At the most basic level, certain smells make us feel more comfortable and relaxed, while others make us feel tense and nervous. These can be scents that draw on memories, such as your mother's homemade applesauce; or they can be scents that are pleasant.
Research is also being done on the healing benefits of certain oils. Some scents may have very similar effects on most people, and some of the effects may be deeper than a change in mood or relaxation. Certain oils may have antibiotic or pain deadening properties.
How to do it:
Use candles and potpourri to scent the air in your labor area (most hospitals will not allow you to bring in candles). You can purchase scented massage oils or moisturizing lotions that can be used with massage to cause a deeper relaxation. There are even shampoos and soaps that incorporate essential oils into the product.
When using essential oils, it is important to work with a professional aroma therapist as some oils will not be appropriate for use on a pregnant woman.
It is also important to remember that the senses of a laboring woman are heightened. Smells that are normally enjoyable to her may be overpowering while in labor. So use the scents sparingly.
Incorporating it into labor:
If the mother is laboring in a tub of warm water, add a small amount of bath oil or shampoo to scent the water.
Use a vase or two of fresh cut flowers in the labor area as aromatherapy "stations." As the mother walks through her labor, encourage her to "stop and smell the roses."
Fruit flavored hard candies can give a boost of energy while they bathe the mother in fresh scents.