Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sniffing Lavendar

Smelling is such an amazing sense. It takes you back to happy memories, relaxes , excites, repulses and even can evoke a sense of calm. That’s what I want to talk about, how lavendar essential oil can be a really useful tool for early and active labour. Essential oils are powerful for external use only. French doctors prescribe essential oils for internal use in France as medicine just to give you an idea of their potency!

Essential oils such as lavendar oil works amazingly well with raised blood pressure in labour for instance. This mother was having her 3rd child at the birth centre in Wales and her blood pressure was creeping up. I was the second midwife and the primary midwife was working towards her Aromatherapy Certification. If the blood pressure went any higher then she would require a transfer into the hospital. The primary midwife had the labouring mum sniff this lavendar oil on a kleenex before, during and after her contractions. To my amazement her blood pressure was lowering. It seemed slow only because high blood pressure worries me,but in actual fact, within the half hour, she had stabilized herself to having a respectable blood pressure. Thankfully she was then able to stay at the birth centre and have the birth she wanted.

In the birthing pool room we had a little blue bottle of lavendar oil sit on the window sill ready to go in the pool once it was full and the mum wanted to go in. We would drop it in then stir the oil so it would disperse and then it’d do it’s magic. It amused me that some midwives just dropped in the oil 'willy-nilly' and others were more respectful of the amount. Once the oil hits the water the entire centre would smell like a lavendar field. It was divine. I eventually learnt the ‘right’ amount for the giant tub. Sometimes an over enthusiastic dropping session would make me so soporific that I just wanted to sit and do nothing but relax...not what a labouring woman wants her midwife to be doing! Sometimes it was so strong it stung your eyes and you had to wait for it to evaporate before you could go into the pool room. That amount had the reverse effect almost making you nauseous.

None the less, lavendar was and is still my oil of choice for almost everything except cooking of course so don't get me stared on the olive oil. Rarely some women didn’t like the smell but we’d check first. The other day we didn’t have a bath tub for the active labour but a hot shower, plastic chair for her to sit on in the shower and a bottle of lavendar to sniff. The mum was so pleased and relieved by the smell. Her body responded by dilating at a good pace due to her new found ability to completely relax and let her body do what it was designed to!

Lavendar in aromatherapy boasts being able to treat:

“...Insomnia, depression, stress, headaches, burns ,acne, sore muscles, sprains, bruises, bites, stiff joints, nervous tension, and hair loss (Edwards H. Victoria). The application of lavender essential oil can be applied with water, a base oil or by inhalation. A lavender oil is one of the few essential oils that can be applied to the skin without dilution. The aroma is sedative to the nervous system and the 160 different components in lavender are soothing to the skin.”
Taken from: Lavender Essential Oil: The Natural Healing Properties of Lavender Oil in Aromatherapy

More specifically:

“Nervous System: Lavender essential oil has a calming scent which makes it an excellent tonic for the nerves. Therefore, it helps in treating migraines, headaches, anxiety, depression, nervous tension and emotional stress. The refreshing aroma removes nervous exhaustion and restlessness and increases mental activity.

Sleep: Lavender essential oil induces sleep and hence it is often recommended for insomnia.

Pain Relief: Lavender essential oil is also an excellent remedy for various types of pains including those caused by sore muscles, tense muscles, muscular aches, rheumatism, sprains, backache and lumbago. A regular massage with lavender oil provides relief from pain in the joints.

Urine Flow: Lavender essential oil is good for urinary disorders as it stimulates urine production. It helps in restoring hormonal balance and reduces cystitis or inflammation of the urinary bladder. It also reduces any associated cramps.

Respiratory Disorders: Lavender oil is extensively used for various respiratory problems including throat infections, flu, cough, cold, asthma, sinus congestion, bronchitis, whooping cough, laryngitis, and tonsillitis. The oil is either used in the form of vapour or applied on the skin of neck, chest and back. It is also added in many vaporizers and inhalers used for cold and coughs.

Skin Care: The health benefits of lavender oil for the skin can be attributed to its antiseptic and antifungal properties. It is used to treat various skin disorders such as acne, wrinkles, psoriasis, and other inflammations. It heals wounds, cuts, burns, and sunburns rapidly as it aids in the formation of scar tissues. Lavender oil is added to chamomile to treat eczema.

Hair Care: Lavender essential oil is useful for the hair as it can be very effective on lice and lice eggs or nits.

Blood Circulation: Lavender essential oil is also good for improving blood circulation. It lowers blood pressure and is used for hypertension.

Digestion: Lavender oil is useful for digestion as it increases the mobility of the intestine. The oil also stimulates the production of gastric juices and bile and thus aids in treating indigestion, stomach pain, colic, flatulence, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Immunity: Regular use of lavender essential oil provides resistance to diseases.
Other health benefits of lavender essential oil include its ability to treat leucorrhoea. It is also effective against insect bites. The oil is also used to repel mosquitoes and moths. You will find many mosquito repellents containing lavender oil as one of the ingredients.

As with many other essential oils, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using lavender essential oil. It is also recommended that diabetics stay away from lavender oil. It may also cause allergic reactions to people having sensitive skin. Some people may also witness nausea, vomiting and headaches due to usage of lavender oil.”
Taken from:

Pretty winning argument to use it in labour don’t you think?! Though not advised in pregnancy a lavendar essential oil burner/infuser can smell up a room and give that sense of calm we can all use! And a lavendar bag warmed up in the microwave is delightful for a sore stretching tummy. Your local health food store or pharmacy will have good quality pure essential oils.

Take care and happy sniffing

Monday, October 11, 2010


Somebody slow the spin of the world, I need to catch up! You know there was a reason that we fall back and have that extra hour....for people like me who need 25 hours in the day to get things done! Too bad it only comes once a year.

So I've had many moments where blogs have come into my head, but finding the time to put them on computer has been difficult. I'll be glad when Apple comes up with an Ipad that reads minds! But I had a chat with someone the other day who actually reads this blog and she really got me to thinking, and I promised her instead of keeping it my head, I'd write it down. She really got me thinking about the expectations of birth and the pressure that goes along with these.

Go with me on this thinking....there really is method to my madness.

One of my favourite movies, don't laugh, is Baby Boom with Diane Keaton. It came out in, I think, 1988 and in that movie, she's a high powered advertising executive who gets left with guardianship of this little girl who's probably about 14 months of age. Anyway, of course the initial funny part is seeing this non maternal woman dealing with this baby but in one scene she's sitting in the park one day playing in the sandbox and she overhears 3 mums talking about how upset one of the mum's was because her 3 year old didn't get into Dalton preschool. She asks the mums why was this important, and these mothers basically leave her with the impression that if she doesn't get Elizabeth (the little girl) going now on studying, she won't get into the good preschool, which means she won't get into a good school and her life is ruined. Naturally, wanting to do the right thing and feeling pressured, Diane Keaton's character enrolls Elizabeth right away into a special preschool program. The movie goes on from there, and while it was funny it was very true about societal expectations that are placed not only upon our kids, but also upon ourselves when birthing those kids. The pressure starts early to have perfections.
I wish I could promise perfection for everyone going through labour and birth. But like with kids.....they are who they are, and so too will be your birth experience. It took me nearly 10 years of my oldest son's life to realize he wasn't going to be the next Stephen Hawking, no matter how much I read to him, encouraged him, made him flashcards etc. He is what he is, and to me that's pretty near perfect. (Oh come on, I can't tell him he's perfect yet.....he's a man, what a burden I put on his future wife if I do! :)
The same applies to birth. There are so many things to read, so many methods to go by, so many expectations that you will walk, sit on a ball, do the bath or shower, try every position, hang upside down, have no drugs, and have a perfect birth, intact with no support. Sometimes you're lucky and your child really is the next Stephen Hawkings or Sidney Crobsy and all the tools you put at his/her disposal are used and bring about the perfect societal ending. And sometimes, you can use every tool available and the child simply becomes who they want to be, no matter how hard you bat your head against the wall. We are simply not all the same. That's a good thing. And just as no two people are alike, neither is any two births. Your birth may be different from your sister's, your friend's, the lady down the way. Not because you didn't try, but because everyone is different. In the end, as I do today, you look upon that child or that birth and think, well....maybe you're not exactly what I envisioned, but you are/were perfect to me.
So take off the pressure on yourself. Tell everyone to mind their own business. You, your baby and your partner (where there is one) are going to do it your way. Thank you for all the tools available, you're going to give them all a try, but if this baby decides that's not who they are, that's not how they will come to be, so be it! It is still ..... perfect.