the best essential oils for pregnancy and birth | A Portland Oregon birth doula tells how to use oils in the hospital

The Must Have Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Birth

Essential oils seem to be all the rage right now! They smell delicious, they have physical, mental, and emotional benefits and are affordable for everyday use. If you are healthy, low risk and mindful of proper usage, essential oils for pregnancy and birth can be a wonderful aid and natural remedy with great benefits. We doulas wouldn’t want to leave for a birth without them!

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted from plants. They are used for healing purposes, as the small molecules are absorbed inside your body and provide healing benefits. They can be purchased at most health food stores and grocery stores, as well as from independent consultants.

essential oil bottles in a row a Portland doula shares the benefits of essential oils for birth

Safe Ways to Use Essential Oils in Pregnancy and Birth

  • Aromatically – can be inhaled directly from the bottle or from a oil diffuser which provides some steam to the air.
  • Topically – diluted and applied to the body to be absorbed through the skin for benefits.
  • Ingesting essential oils in pregnancy and birth is NOT recommended for safety reasons.
  • Essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive or almond oil with the following dilution.
    • Pregnancy- 1-2% (1-2 drops per tsp)
    • Labor- 3% (3 drops per tsp)
    • Postpartum- 2-3% (2-3 drops per tsp)

Essential oils safe for pregnancy pregnant portland woman outside holding her belly in a sweater

Remedies for Common Pregnancy Symptoms

We’ve been there and know all the “wonderful” changes that comes with the pregnant body! Pregnancy comes with a host of some unwelcome symptoms and essential oils for pregnancy and birth can be helpful with these natural remedies.


Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender & Grapefruit. Inhale, apply behind ears or to abdomen; add to waste bucket or toilet when throwing up (this is a doula trick we use in labour too) 🙂


Geranium & Cypress. Baby Nest sells a ready made handcrafted spray for hemorrhoid and vaginal swelling – oh the fun of pregnancy!

Stretch Marks

Frankincense, Lavender, Patchouli, Lemongrass, Cypress. Apply these essential oils for pregnancy and birth topically 2x daily.

Varicose Veins

Geranium & Cypress. Apply topically in upward direction daily.

Perineal Prep for birth

Geranium, Lavender & Cypress. 

how to avoid tearing at birth with essential oilsFor perineal preparation, we recommend Ease the Way Spray, made of these essential oils and soothing witch hazel and aloe vera gel. Use these essential oils for pregnancy in the 3rd trimester 2-3x a day to help strengthen the perineum for birth, and to encourage stretching instead of tearing. Also it’s the perfect remedy for healing after birth to soothe swollen lady parts and soreness that comes from birth.

Buy Ease the Way Spray here 

Essential Oils That Are NOT Safe For Pregnancy

Uterine stimulants may cause uterine contractions and are best avoided until full term because they could cause preterm labor contractions.

Oils to avoid in pregnancy include Clary Sage, Jasmine, Fennel, Myrrh, Aniseed, Angelica, Basil, Black pepper, Camphor, Cinnamon, Chamomile,Mustard, Mugwart, Clary Sage, Clove, Fir, Ginger, Horseradish, Juniper, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Wintergreen.

Essential Oils are a Must for the Birth Bag!

As doulas in the Portland Oregon area, if we had to grab one thing for a birth, it could be our essential oils! Essential oils for pregnancy and birth are a simple, but powerful way to enhance the birth experience, create a relaxed environment, and give energy for this athletic event. You don’t need a whole bag full of oils, just a few can do the trick and give great results!


PLEASE NOTE: Don’t use essential oils if abnormal pregnancy or labor present. Essential oils for pregnancy and birth are not recommended if you have the following conditions: pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, polyhydramnios or oligohydramnios, hypertension and severe hypotension.

Orange & Geranium

These two essential oils for pregnancy and birth can uplift the mood and spirits, keeping one positive, less agitated and anxious – something every laboring mother needs! The birth team will also benefit from smelling these oils to keep the mood positive and give energy to keep coaching.


This is the most popular of essential oils, some LOVE lavender and some are over of it, as it’s commonly found in soaps, lotions etc. The pure essential oil lavender can enhance relaxation, calming the whole body and mind as soon as it’s inhaled. I have had a few clients that won’t let go of the lavender bottle! They breathed it in during every peak of active labour contractions and swear it is the thing that got them through!

Clary Sage

Now that you are in labour, you can now USE clary sage! This oil can be a uterine stimulate which can be helpful in creating stronger contractions when you need. For slow and long labours, for when your water breaks but no contractions follow or when you have a pending induction, this diluted oil can be used massaged on the bottoms of the feet and massaged on the lower abdomen to encourage labour to begin or progress.


Feeling nauseous in labor?! Grab the lemon oil! Such a great oil to inhale to help the nausea that comes with labour. Partners too – it can be a lifesaver for those partners that may have also feel a bit queasy. A doula tip, is to put a few drops in the barf bucket so she can inhale that lovely smell instead 🙂

Oh, and another crazy cool feature of lemon oil in birth is to put a few drops in the toilet to help her pee! Can be super useful when she has a full bladder but can’t relax or when after baby is born and it’s difficult to urinate. The lemon oil vapor causes the “potty muscles” to relax – so awesome and easy to do!


A wonderful oil to keep the birthing mother grounded and clear minded. Use in active labour when contractions ramp up in intensity and definitely in the transition stage when things are hard and heavy. Frankincense offers pain relief during birth, especially useful massaged on the back for back labour.

Peppermint & Rosemary

These oils works wonders to get laboring mothers focused and empowered. They provide energy, motivation and uplifting effects, They promote more oxygen supply to the brain so perfect to use if someone gets dizzy or lightheaded – mom, partners, AND Grandma included! (often this happens close to the baby being born, it’s just SO exciting that we can get a little dizzy so pull out the peppermint oil!)

Peppermint is also one of my go-to oils in birth for dealing with nausea, inhale and a put a drop or two in the barf bag – she will SO appreciate it!  It’s also great for helping painful back labor when diluted and massed on the lower back.

I pull this one out as a birth doula when I hear the common, “I can’t do it” or “I’m so tired”. This often happens during the pushing stage. They need energy and peppermint can provide this. Inhaling or rubbing on feet are great applications at this stage when they need some oomph at the very end.

If the birth team is exhausted from nights of no sleep, some deep inhalations of peppermint can be a pick me up without the coffee! As a doula in the Portland area, I have inhaled my share of peppermint to get me through long labours!

Doula Secrets to Using Essential Oils in Birth

  • Always ask mom first if the smell works for her at that moment. Things change constantly in labour, so always double check before using.
  • Don’t put oils in the bath water or do a full body massage with them. The smell will be EVERYWHERE and if she doesn’t like it, it’s a huge ordeal!
  • Portland Oregon and Vancouver Washington hospitals typically don’t allow you to diffuse essential oils in the air anymore. Due to allergies with staff, they have restricted this use. That is okay, there are still other ways you can use it to your benefit, and you’ll save room in your birth bag without the diffuser.
  • Some Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington birth places have instituted a no smell hospital rule. This means no essential oils, perfumes at all. We understand that they don’t want the whole room smelling like an oil or the scent to be going into other rooms. Because of this, I encourage my clients to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, because the benefits are so great and useful in birth. If you just use on the person, inhale from the bottle or put on a cotton ball or damp washcloth, it shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Partners, Grandmas & Fellow Doulas – you matter too and essential oils could be life-saving during birth for YOU. If the hospital smell bothers you, put a drop on your shirt collar. Feeling nauseous, anxious, dizzy or exhausted, use the oils too!
  • For those that are going to birth by cesarean, put an essential oil on a washcloth or cotton ball before heading back to the operating room, partners too! The OR can have unwelcome smells and anxiety can be quite high so the essential oil helps combat these unpleasant sensations and providing a therapeutic, calming effect at birth.

Wanna know what other MUST HAVES for your Labour Bag are? Check out our blog post on what is in our Doula Bag!

• Essential oils are highly concentrated, powerful substances. They can be toxic if used incorrectly.
• This information has been written with the assumption that only pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are used.
• It is fundamental that you consult your Midwife /Doctor/Certified Aromatherapist before using essential oils while pregnant/during childbirth. Baby Nest is not a certified Aromatherapist/Midwife/Doctor
• This information is for information purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat for any health condition.
• No medical claims are offered, guaranteed or intended.
• Please consult your certified health professional for guidance on all individual health conditions.