September 15, 2004
Volume 6, Issue 19
Midwifery Today E-News
“Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Labor”
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Quote of the Week

"The question is not whether women have a choice, but are they willing to make a choice."

Kim Wildner

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In This Week’s Issue:

The Art of Midwifery

To treat infant eye infection other than that caused by an STD:

* 2 drops of red burgundy wine to 10 drops of water is a natural antibiotic remedy for eyes. It even alleviates pink eye. Do a couple of applications—it won't hurt eyesight.

Joan Dolan

* "Brew a half ounce of dried eyebright and two whole goldenseal roots in a pint of boiling water [covered] for at least eight hours. Strain the brew very thoroughly, through a coffee filter or cotton towel, before storing in your refrigerator or freezer. Avoid goldenseal powder; it is very difficult to strain out completely. You can keep this infusion for up to a month if you wish to prepare it well before your due date." (source: Susun Weed Herbal)

A couple of notes: Eyebright is getting increasingly harder to find, and you may omit it without much effect. Goldenseal is the topical mucous membrane antibiotic supreme. It is costly due to endangered status and the challenges of growing it organically. You can substitute Oregon grape root.

Sterilize a dropper and administer a few drops in each eye, after birth and then as needed.

Any herbal preparation that will touch sensitive mucous membranes (especially newborn) ought to be a water-based formula, made saline with the addition of sea salt. After straining the herbal tea, add a bit of salt at a time and dissolve well. Go slowly, tasting as you go. You are aiming to mimic the salinity of tears. If pregnant, have a friend do the tasting because both herbs (goldenseal and Oregon grape) contain berberine, a compound that can stimulate uterine contractions.

Adrienne Leeds

* For slight eye irritations I tell moms to put a drop or two of breastmilk in baby's eyes.

Claudia Toms

Midwifery Today Forums

ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you've perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn! Share them with E-News readers by sending them to

News Flashes

Raffle to Benefit Longtime Friend of Better Birth

I am organising the Australian branch of a U.S. raffle to benefit my friend and mentor Jeannine Parvati Baker. A birthkeeper, as she calls herself, for over 30 years, Jeannine has been seriously unwell this year, and unable to work. A raffle has been organised by her friends based in the U.S., with first prize of a gorgeous king-size quilt, named "Parvati's paradise." View the quilt and get more info about the raffle and many other prizes at

Sarah J Buckley,

Effects of Pesticides

A University of Minnesota study examined 43,500 birth outcomes in selected counties in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana where chlorophenoxy herbicides, a common weed killer, is sold commercially and used in agriculture. Areas of high-wheat acreage revealed a two-fold increase in circulatory and respiratory malformations in newborns and a 50% increase in musculoskeletal malformations relative to low-wheat-production counties. Death rates from birth malformations in male infants were more than twice as high. Chlorophenoxy is used in parks, private residential yards, roadsides, and utilities rights of way as well as in agriculture.

Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2003

Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Birth

Leg Cramp Oil

This oil is soothing and relaxing on tired muscles. It is not only effective for leg cramps, but also for varicose veins, varicosities, and sore backs.

Put the following ingredients into a container and shake well before using:

  • 2 ounces St. John's Wort oil
  • 5 drops neroli essential oil
  • 5 drops grapefruit essential oil

Belly Balm or Stretch Mark Prevention Oil

This oil is smooth and moisturizing and can help alleviate the itching that so often happens when skin starts stretching.

In a double boiler, melt the carrier oils listed below. Carrier oils are nut or seed oils such as almond oil, shea butter, coconut butter, or olive oil. They are pressed and not distilled.

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/8 cut apricot, almond, or grapeseed oil
  • 1/8 cup kukui nut oil, shea butter, or mango butter (my favorite)

When the oils have melted completely, remove the mixture from the heat. Allow it to cool for 15–20 minutes, then add these essential oils:

  • 10–20 drops sandalwood
  • 15 drops patchouli
  • 15 drops sweet orange essential oil.

Essential oils are distilled from leaves, seeds, roots, and flowers and are very concentrated and fragrant. Transfer the blend to a container and allow it to cool completely before using.

Additional options can be used such as rosewood, rose, lavender, tangerine, and neroli. If you blend your own mixture, be sure to keep the amount of essential oils used at less than 50 drops total.

Massage the balm over thighs, breasts, stomach, and anywhere that needs nourishing and moisturizing.

Nausea Spray

Add the following to four ounces distilled water and use in a spray bottle:

  • 20 drops spearmint essential oil
  • 15 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops sweet orange essential oil.

Shake the mixture well and mist the air with it when a woman feels nauseous. You may find that different women prefer other types of scents, so you can also try ginger, neroli, and rosewood. When making an alternative blend, keep the amount of essential oils used at less than 60 drops.

Labor Mists

Be as noninvasive as possible when using mists during labor. Every person is different and has individual needs. Make sure you understand and know the person you are making a blend for because the wrong blend can assault the senses.

Relax and Focus

This blend promotes clarity and focus.

Fill a 4-ounce spray bottle almost full with distilled water and add:

  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 15 drops sweet orange essential oil
  • 10 drops spearmint essential oil.

Shake well and mist the labor room. You can also make a compress by misting a wet cloth with the blend and applying it to the laboring mother's forehead or back.


This mist will ground and calm the woman in transition and help lift her spirits.

Add distilled water to nearly fill a 4-ounce spray bottle. Add:

  • 15 drops mandarin essential oil
  • 10 drops bergamot essential oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops clary sage essential oil.

This is a strong blend that should be used away from the mother. Never spray the mother directly.

Always remember to use essential oils with education and care. Research each oil before use, especially in regard to pregnancy and labor.

"Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Labor," Demetria Clark, The Birthkit Issue 41

TO ORDER Birthkit Issue 41, go here.

Herpes Formula

  • 4 drops Eucalyptus citriodora
  • 4 drops MQV (niaouli)
  • 1 drop geranium
  • 2 drops tea tree
  • 2 drops bergamot
  • 1 ounce carrier oil (calendula-infused oil is best)

Apply to affected area two or three times a day.

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, Kathi Keville and Mindy Green (The Crossing Press: Freedom, CA; 1995)

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Forum Talk

I teach childbirth classes privately, which is a joy. I also teach hospital-based classes, with a huge, unusual level of freedom in what/how I present.

I am frustrated by the fact that classes generally decline in attendance. I will start with 10 or 12 or even more moms and partners and a fourth or even a third attend sporadically or quit entirely after a few classes.

I used to announce "If you will miss a class, let me know so I won't worry about you. I understand that not everyone can attend every class with busy lives, but you will get more out of it if you are able to attend every class session." A friend (a fellow doula) who attended my classes toward her CBE certification told me I should not assume people won't attend and not say that. So I quit saying that, and nothing has changed.

I am assured by the evaluations after each class series that the classes were useful. I get nice thank you cards, e-mails and phone calls after babies are born.

Any ideas on how I can encourage those to attend full series, and/or not feel it personally that people don't come all the time?


Go to our forums to share your thoughts and experience.

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Question of the Week

Q: I am 19 years old, and I've been menstruating for seven years. Usually my periods come between 21 and 33 days. I have severe cramps, especially on the first and second days of my menstrual cycle, but less-severe cramps last on and off through the sixth day. I also feel hot and very weak, almost ready to faint, and I have headaches and lower back pain. I don't have diarrhea but I go to the bathroom quite frequently. OB/GYNs have prescribed birth control pills and pain killers. A CNM prescribed the same things. I usually feel a little better when I can stay home and take a shower or use a hot-water compress. The pain killers also help, but the more I use them the stronger the pain killer it seems I have to use. I'm wondering if there is anything else I can do to help me with these symptoms. I hate the idea of taking hormones. I have never been pregnant.

— Mai

SEND YOUR RESPONSE to with "Question of the Week" in the subject line. Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the message.

Question of the Week Responses

Q: I am 36 years old and the mother of an 11-month-old boy. I was induced twice for his birth because I was late by two weeks, and he was born by c-section. I think I have conceived again. Will the baby and I be okay? Is it too soon after a cesarean to be pregnant again? Might I have any complications (problems)? At times I have backaches.

— Jane

A: Most health professionals recommend waiting about two years after having a cesarean before getting pregnant again—so this is earlier than recommended. I have learnt, though, that whatever is recommended is not always the only way forward!

As far as your question, are you and your baby going to be all right, it sounds to me that you are very worried, or even thinking that you have done something irresponsible by getting yourself pregnant when it was supposedly not yet safe. I think that while the situation is not ideal, it is potentially fine, especially if you look after yourself well, eat well, organise help with your toddler, and make informed choices.

I understand you were two weeks "late" with your son. You might well be late again. It is possible that you take longer to get babies ready, and that is OK.

If you decide to go for a vaginal birth this time, you will have to wait it out, because you will be risking uterine rupture by being induced with Pitocin. Cytotec is obviously the biggest NO-NO in your situation. It is important to remember that the World Health Organisation regards a pregnancy "overdue" only at 42 weeks. You possibly have a long menstrual cycle as well, or a short time between ovulation and menstruation. This can easily make the two-week difference when your pregnancy is timed by your last menstrual period. A 35-day cycle will add a week to your pregnancy. A short luteal phase of 10 days from ovulation to menstruation can add as much as six days. If your baby is OK and you are sure of this by regular monitoring, it can be safe to go 44 weeks.

I urge you to find out about everything that is at your disposal—e.g., alternative practices such as acupuncture and homeopathy—because these practices can strengthen you through the pregnancy as well as through labour and/or another cesarean. It is true that it is very hard to have children this close, even without the history of a cesarean. Stay positive. People tend to say "How will you cope?" too many times. You will cope by organising a lot of support for yourself and realising that at the end of this time of crisis and little sleep, you will have two beautiful children who will have suddenly grown up.

It would be a very good idea to get yourself a birth and postnatal doula as well.

— Chamutal Isaacs, doula and fertilty awareness teacher, London

Regarding episiotomy [Issue 6:17]:

A: I read the letter from the midwife who ended up with a 3rd degree tear. I do hope that she is not blaming herself for this. The worry I have is that she may now see all Asian/Indian women as a risk. Like all groups who are lumped together like this, there is such wide variety of sizes/shapes of pelvises and also of full-term babies. Continue to treat mothers as individuals, monitor progress of delivery, and make decisions based on experience, wisdom, and yes, intuition. Be prepared to defend your decisions.

— Muriel O'Driscoll, retired midwife, United Kingdom

A: Since the midwife had such a good view of the woman's perineum, I wonder what position the mom was in. It doesn't sound like she could have been a squat or delivering in water. Both of which might have made a difference in the degree of tear.

I have been a midwife's assistant for only three years, but I am concerned that you would print and perpetuate a stereotype that Asian women have a tight perineum and are likely to need an episiotomy.

— Kellie Fuller

[Editor's Note: The opinions/experiences expressed in Midwifery Today E-News do not reflect those of Midwifery Today, Inc. (see disclaimer). We provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, wisdom, and experience that gives all readers the opportunity to think, reflect on their practices/beliefs, and respond in order to enlighten others. See Muriel O'Driscoll's comments in the preceding message for a wonderful example of this philosophy at work. Only in the most dire circumstances do we think censorship is in the best interest of our readers.]

Regarding breastfeeding an adopted baby [Issue 6:16]:

Besides herbs and pumping, the power of the mind can be quite effective in inducing lactation or in enhancing low milk supply. According to Laura Shanley's Web site (, her husband was able to induce lactation after reading about it. He only needed to give himself the suggestion for a week before he saw results. It is helpful to know and believe that it is possible to lactate. Perhaps the stories on Shanley's Web site will help inspire.

The best way to begin is by meditating for about 15 minutes a few times a day. Talk to the cells of the breasts and ask them to start producing milk. Concentrate on the images, feelings, and sensations of being able to nurse the baby. Imagine a tingly sensation as you feel the milk coming in. When you are pumping, shut off all other distractions so that you can concentrate and visualize the results that you want. The more often you do this, the sooner your mind will receive the messages. Add affirmations to the pumping or visualizing. "I produce an abundance of milk for my baby" or "My breasts are capable of producing milk."

Using your mind as well as herbs and pumping strategies should be able to increase success with adoptive breastfeeding.

Sheri Menelli, hypnotherapist

Editor's Note: Responses to any Question of the Week may be sent to E-News at any time. Write to Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the subject line or in the message.

Editor's Note: Only letters sent to the E-News official e-mail address,, will be considered for inclusion. Letters sent to ANY OTHER e-mail addresses will not be considered.

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