Orange essential oil aromatherapy reduces anxiety during labour

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Is Anxiety Bad in Labour?

It is perfectly natural for a woman to feel anxious at the start of labour, especially if it is her first baby.  However, the anxiety effects aren't  limited to making a difficult time even more stressful, they also have some physical effects on a woman and her baby.

Anxiety can cause the following:

⇒ Utero-placental insufficiency - when not enough oxygen is delivered through the placenta

⇒ Angina

⇒ Interference with uterine muscle contractions

⇒ Increased labour pain and sense of control over the process

⇒ Lengthened labour

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are distilled extracts of plants and herbs mixed with a scent-free base oil. They are often used in massage practice and sometimes inhaled for stimulation or relaxation.

They’ve been used for thousands of years to stimulate the olfactory system because different scents promote different reactions. For example, lavender also promotes relaxation but sandalwood or lemon invigorates and promotes alertness.

What Is Orange Essential Oil?

It’s an essential oil derived from sweet oranges - the citrus sinesis variety. In Chinese medicine and aromatherapy sweet orange is used to treat anxiety and a long list of other ailments including:

  • Inflammation
  • Depression
  • Decreased libido
  • Wounds
  • Intestinal gas
  • It’s also used to detox the body and boost immunity

Use of Essential Oils in Labour

Aromatherapy has been used to support labour for many years. It’s used in some maternity wards today as a complementary therapy to help soothe labouring women.

What’s The Study About?

The study  was carried out by the midwives and medical staff of a teaching hospital. 100 pregnant women between the ages of 18-35 were selected. For study purposes they were 37-42 weeks gestational age and 3-5cms dilated. Women with multiple births, a history of hypertension, headaches, loss of smell, those using anti-anxiety medications, or suffering from epilepsy or foetal distress were excluded.

The participants were split into two groups. The intervention group received orange essential oil and the control group received a placebo of distilled water.

The amount of orange oil used was two drops at 2% strength. Both oil and distilled water treatments were placed on napkins 20cms from the participants’ chins. At the start of intervention, and again after 20 minutes had passed, blood pressure, pulse rate and respiration levels were recorded. Anxiety levels were measured on a 20 point questionnaire.

And The Results?

Both groups experienced reduction in anxiety but the intervention group experienced significantly more. They also experienced lower levels of diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate.

Researchers believe essential orange oil is a proactive method of reducing anxiety in labour and that further studies, including ones where orange oil is use for a longer time, may be useful for all types of anxiety not purely labour-induced stress. They also suggest that orange scent could be used in childbirth units to reduce anxiety.

Any methods that cut out the need for drugs in childbirth are welcome! Many childbirth support solutions are medical interventions involving drugs, but using essential oils as a complementary or even a stand-alone treatment for labour anxiety is non-invasive and a seemingly effective method. It’s also cost-effective. Good news!

More about pregnancy and aromatherapy:

Aromatherapy helps new mums sleep.

New evidence neroli oil aromatherapy reduces menopausal symptoms

New evidence for Bergamot’s calming effect

Smelling a lemon helps nausea in pregnancy

Peppermint for nausea



Fahimi-Raschid Fakari et al. The effect of aromatherapy by essential oil of orange on anxiety during labor: A randomized clinical trial. I Journal of Nursery and Midwifery. Dec 2015. 






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