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Natural Induction

Evaluate Natural Induction of Childbirth with Essential Oils

Women who wish to avoid medical induction of labor, often look for safety information on natural induction methods. Review the research on the risks and benefits of essential oils and other methods of natural labor induction.

At the bottom of this page you will find other methods used for natural induction besides essential oils.

essential oil for massage

What are Essential Oils? Essential oils are extracted from plants through a distillation process. They are often used in aromatherapy. True essential oils differ from the aromatherapy products often sold in stores as scents or fragrances which are artificially synthesized products and not plant oils.

Both essential oils and herbs are natural plant derivitives. See herbal inductions Like herbs, essential oils have a clinical effect and are not regulated.

Keep in mind when you read that a particular oil is used for a particular condition, that that statement may or may not have valid research to back it up. There is very little research on the use of essential oils for natural induction of labor.

Using Essential Oils

Essential oils are usually diluted in an unscented carrier oil. Most of the oils are too potent to be used undiluted so a few drops are added to an appropriate massage oil to achieve the desired effect.

Also, therapeutic oils are usually expensive to extract and so are diluted for that reason as well.

Essential Oil Safety

There are some common sense safety measures that should be used with oils, whether they are used for as a natural induction method or for any other reason. Remember that the extracted essence may be 100 times more potent than the plant itself, so no one should use these oils without first looking up the proper use. If a stronger solution is made than is recommended, skin or other reactions can occur. Some severe skin reactions or allergic reactions can cause significant difficulty.

Second, essential oils are not intended to be digested. There are some physicians in Europe who do prescribe essential oils for internal use; however such uses should be restricted to those trained in them.

Third, keep the oils out of the reach of children. That may seem like an overly obvious statement, but the little bottles and caps are tempting to young explorers and accidental ingestion could be serious.

Finally, no essential oil should be used in the eyes or near the eyes. Therefore, as soon as someone is done handling the oils, they should wash their hands to prevent them from inadvertently introducing them into the eyes if they unwarily rub their eyes later.

Lavender Oil in Natural Inductions

Overview of Lavandula Angustifolia

Several oils are widely used for childbirth. The first is Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) oil, which is well known for its ability to enhance relaxation.

Lavender is one of the few oils that can be applied directly to the skin. It can be used as a mist in the air, or a few drops can be added to bathwater or to a pillow. It can also be added to a carrier oil and applied to the skin through massage. It can be used throughout pregnancy and labor to help a woman relax.

Lavender has been used for insomnia, depression, skin burns and bruises, insect bites, and headaches, as well as numerous other local complaints.

Lavender is sometimes called the “princess of oils” because it is lovely and considered quite safe. There have been cases of Lavender sensitivity (similar to latex sensitivity) in people who handle the pure oil on a daily basis. While lavender can be used neat, or undiluted, on the skin, irritation has developed on people with sensitive skin types if used in dilutions greater than 16%.

Lavender has an aroma that is widely accepted. It should be mentioned that a person’s nose may habituate to the smell of lavender and then be inclined to use more after a few minutes. This, in fact, may happen with all essential oils. It is not necessary to apply more oil because the organic compounds have a physiological effect even when the nose no longer smells them. However, in the case of lavender, overuse can have the opposite effect. Too much lavender can make a person restless if more than 10 drops are used. Two or three drops on the clothing, cotton ball, or in a cup of steaming water are all that is needed.

Caution should be used by individuals to obtain the oil with the botanical name Lavandula angustifolia. Another form of lavender (Lavandula latifolia), usually called Spike Lavender, has a stimulating, rather than a relaxing effect. Their aromas are somewhat similar and the difference in smell may not be noticed by an inexperienced user.

Lavender Oil in Labor

A study published in 2000 tracked the results of aromatherapy treatments given to more than 8,000 women from 1990 to 1998 at a British Hospital. The aromatherapy was administered by midwives trained in its use, and was offered to mothers experiencing anxiety, pain, insufficient contractions or nausea. Lavender was one of the oils used for anxiety and pain. It was rated as helpful in reducing anxiety by 50% of mothers experiencing anxiety; and rated helpful for reducing pain by 54% of women who used it for that reason.

It should be noted that Rose (Rosa damascene) was found more helpful for anxiety (rated helpful by 71%) and Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) was rated as helpful by 64%. Rose was found particularly helpful in reducing the use of epidural anesthesia, with only 14% of mothers who used rose receiving an epidural. Unfortunately, statistics were not kept on women in the hospital who did not receive any aromatherapy treatments, which weakens the conclusions of the study since statistical comparisons can not be made.

Lavender oil is usually not used alone to induce labor, but is often added to a blend with labor inducing oils because of its calming effect.

Natural Induction with Jasmine Oil

Jasmine (Jasmine officinale) is an oil that is sometimes used to induce labor by stimulating uterine contractions. Unlike lavender, it should not be used throughout the pregnancy because it may stimulate labor.

Overview of Jasmine Officinale

Jasmine is a hand picked flower whose oil is more difficult to extract and thus is more expensive than other oils. It may cost $1 for one drop. It is often purchased in a small quantities are already diluted due to its high cost.

It should be noted that Jasmine is not a pure essential oil. It is called an absolute because a fatty substance is required to assist the plant to give up its oil. Jasmine may be inhaled directly or applied to the skin through a carrier oil. Lavender or other oils can also be added to the carrier oil with the Jasmine, or they can be used simultaneously through different routes.

Jasmine in Labor

Jasmine oil can be used by the mother to massage her abdomen with light strokes called effleurage. Or the oil can be used by another person to give her a back, hand, or foot massage. The effect of the jasmine is to strengthen contractions.

Very little research has been published on Jasmine. Applying a different species of Jasmine flowers directly to the breast has been demonstrated to decrease the production of milk. This is not the same plant as the Jasmine officinale that the absolute is extracted from.

Currently, pregnancy-before-term is the only known contraindication to the oil of Jasmine. It should be diluted to 5% or less to prevent skin irritation.

In addition to labor, Jasmine has also been used for PMS symptoms, depression, muscle aches, and as an aphrodisiac. It has a pleasant and warm odor that is enjoyed by most people.

Jasmine is very expensive, and thus it is likely to be adulterated when purchased at local stores. The problem with using an adulterated oil (in addition to the ethical problem of not getting what you paid for) is that the chemical properties of the other oil is not known, and safety precautions can not be followed. It is advisable for those interested in purchasing jasmine to get it directly from a reputable dealer who specializes exclusively in therapeutic essential oils and has their imported oils chemically tested for purity.

Clary Sage for Labor Induction

Clary Sage (Salvia sclaea) is another oil used for labor. It has a chemistry similar to estrogen, one of the female hormones. It has both a uterine stimulating effect and a relaxing effect. In fact the substance that makes Lavender so well known for relaxation, Linalyl acetate, is present in even greater quantities in Clary Sage.

Research on Salvia Sclaea

One animal study did demonstrate that Clary Sage has a contraction stimulating effect on skeletal muscles. The uterine muscle is slightly different, but this does add some credibility to the ancient practice of using Clary Sage for natural induction of labor.

The same study mentioned above with essential oils in a British hospital also used Clary Sage on women with a weak contraction pattern in order to augment the contractions. However, only 36% of the mothers rated it as helpful in stimulating contractions. In spite of that, the authors noted that only 30% of multigravidae and 55% of primigravidae required augmentation with pitocin. They felt those numbers were significantly low considering they were dealing with women who were experiencing a poor contraction pattern. The lack of control group, however, makes it impossible to measure the effect of the oil. The researchers recommended further research with a control group to examine the impact of Clary Sage on uterine contractions.

Other uses of Clary Sage

Clary Sage has been used for female related problems, including PMS, hot flashes, and infertility because of its estrogen like chemistry. It is known for its relaxing and antispasmodic effects.

There are some safety precautions to note with Clary Sage. There is seldom skin irritation if used in dilution of 8% or less. However, it should be avoided with individuals who have fragrance sensitivity or used in concentration of less than 0.25%. Because of its estrogen like effect, it should be avoided with individuals with female reproductive cancers. It may potentiate alcohol so should not be used with individuals who have been drinking alcohol beverages. Not everyone enjoys the scent of Clary Sage. It is an oil that is primarily used for its therapeutic results rather than its scent. It is more economical than Jasmine, often with a price of less than $10 per 5 ml, compared to $50 or more for 5 ml of Jasmine.

Other Oils Used In Natural Inductions

By no means is this list of oils exhaustive, as many more may be used during labor. A few others will be mentioned here, though the other three were included in greater depth because of their popularity.


Geranium is another oil that has been used instead of Jasmine or Clary Sage for its effect on the female reproductive system. Many people find Geranium has a more pleasant smell than Clary Sage, and still is more economical than Jasmine. Its use is similar to Clary Sage, but does not have the contraindications.


Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is particularly helpful for nausea and vomiting. In the study quoted earlier, 50% of the women who used Peppermint found it helpful for treating nausea. Peppermint does have a stimulating effect and should not be used with infants, patients with seizures, newborn infants, cardiac patients, or those with G6PC deficiency. For nausea, one drop of Peppermint can be placed on a tissue or cotton ball and inhaled directly.

It is a popular scent that many people like, and is frequently used for headaches.

Interesting, peppermint is one of the essential oils with the most contraindications and negative side effects. This is significant because many people who are worried about the safety of essential oils are unaware that one of the most caustic of the oils is one we are most familiar with.


For patients who are nauseated but cannot use or do not like Peppermint, Ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be used instead. Ginger has no precautions specific to it. Its smell is not as enjoyable to many people as Peppermint. It also has a pain relieving effect so it is frequently used as a massage at less than 4% for muscle or joint aches.

Rose Oil

Rose (Rosa damascene) was mentioned earlier as an oil that was found useful in the study for patients with anxiety. Rose is a very popular scent, but also quite expensive, often around $10 per ml.

Oils for Anxiety

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) are other oils that are useful for anxiety. For patients with anxiety, either a massage with oil or soaking bath with a few drops of the oil added will aid relaxation.

Oils for Pain Relief

In addition to the Frankincense and Lavender, there are other oils that have been used for pain. Ginger and Black Pepper both have a very warming and pain relieving effect when used with a massage.

Oil Mixture for Natural Induction

Needless to say, it is not recommended that anyone purchase all these oils. If someone is looking for a particular oil to use for labor, a solution of 5% Jasmine and 3% Lavender in Evening Primrose Oil would be recommended if that is affordable.

As a less expensive option, 3% Lavender and 5% Clary Sage can be used in Jojoba or any other cold pressed oil for massage. Or they can be inhaled or used in bath water. You may use any of the oils mentioned above to add to the mixture instead of lavender. A total of three different essential oils may be added to a carrier oil.

Mothers can begin massaging their abdomen with oil to which Jasmine has been added from 38 weeks of pregnancy and on. Many mothers have reported an increase in uterine contractions when this is done. No research exists at this time to determine what percentage of women will successfully self-induce with this natural induction technique.

Many women have reported that it strengthened their contractions in labor and provided physical and emotional comfort simultaneously.

Other Methods of Natural Induction

Common methods of naturally inducing labor or augmenting labor include:
  • Herbs for Labor Induction
  • Sexual stimulation
  • Accupressure
  • Laxatives (not really a natural method, but a self-inducing method
With all methods of medical or natural induction, the mother should know the risks and benefits, and have open communication with those involved in her care.

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By Karen Newell Copyright 2003 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA