Case study 1: Labour Massage – Motherlylove Due Date Pregnancy & Labour Massage Oil

From despondent labour to light hearted delivery

Primrose* had been in labour all night and was exhausted. This was her first baby and she was desperate to give birth naturally. At 6:45 am, fatigued and despairing, she had far to go yet was still determined to deliver her baby without an epidural.


In my role as a midwife aromatherapist I was asked to see Primrose by the attending midwife. When I entered the delivery room I found Primrose standing, leaning on a bean bag which was on the bed. Her contractions were every 2-3 minutes, lasting 60-70 seconds. She was using gas and oxygen (Entonox), and both she and her husband were weary and gloomy after having been up all night.

She was 9cm dilated, but everything was going medically well for both her and the baby. Our concern was that Primrose was extremely anxious and was breathing very quickly during contractions. The most urgent need for Primrose was that she relax, so she could be more in control of the birth and hope for an uncomplicated delivery.

I had a brief discussion with Primrose, and offered her an aromatherapy massage of mandarin, roman chamomile, and frankincense in a carrier oil Jojoba. She was happy to try it.

With a gentle stroking motion and using steady pressure during contractions, we were able to induce uterine contractions and relieve their pain.

After the massage

Primrose was now coping with the contractions and her breathing had slowed both between and during contractions, which meant that baby would be getting more air. She said she was relaxed and less anxious, and her spirits had lifted from despondency to light heartedness. There was a dramatic shift in the feeling in the room, as she now had the energy, the urge and the will to push.

But nausea interfered. Only half an hour later, Primrose’s contentment with her delivery was interrupted by a sudden feeling of wanting to be sick.

The midwife called me back to the delivery room. I placed two drops of peppermint oil on a cotton wool ball for her to smell. She told me that she felt better and that she’d also enjoyed the aroma.

Ten minutes later 

Only ten minutes later, Primrose was on all fours on the bed, and delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 9lb 8 oz (4.4 Kg). Everyone was delighted.

Primrose and her baby were discharged from hospital on the third day after delivery. The baby was breast feeding well, and she and her husband were over the moon with their new baby.

Mum and Dad were delighted and grateful of the care they had received. On the 10th day after delivery the community midwife informed me that Primrose and baby were discharged to the care of her health visitor, as all was well.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality

Please inform the midwife or doctor, when you are using complementary therapies.

The science

The essential oils of mandarinroman chamomile, and frankincense used were chosen for their harmonious blend with Apricot, Baobab, Kukui vegetable oils for being appropriate in pregnancy, effectiveness and quality, specifically for aromatherapy massage in labour.

Jojoba is beneficial for most skin types. Studies have shown that it is an anti-inflamatory agent and has been used for psoriasis, eczema, sunburn and chapped skin.

For an investigation into the use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice, see Burns, E., Blamey, C., Ersser, E., Barnetson, L., Lloyd, A., (2000). The Journal of Complementary Medicine. Volume 6, pp141-147.

The peppermint oil was used as Tate (1997) demonstrated it relieved post-operative nausea for women who had gynaecological surgery. It was very effective in this case.  Peppermint oil: a treatment for postoperative nausea.J Adv Nurs. Sep;26(3):543-9.

Jan Bastard BSc. (Hons) complementary therapy/aromatherapy, RN, RM, Anaesthetic Diploma, IAIM.