Soothing oils for baby and you
By Ayesha Inoon
The incredible experience of nurturing a new life within you, and bringing it into the world can be enhanced by the use of essential oils or aromatherapy, says Kishani Gunawardena, a professionally qualified aromatherapist.

The use of aromatic herbs during pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period is centuries old, with midwives traditionally using them long before the advent of modern medicine. The soothing effects of many of the oils and massage techniques used in aromatherapy can increase your sense of wellbeing and improve your general health during pregnancy.

Mohanie Ahangama, is a prenatal educator as well as a trained midwife with several years of experience in Britain. Managing Directress of Pulse Beat Gym, she says that preparing for childbirth should be considered no less important than preparing for any academic examination. Although it is a natural phenomenon, it is only a mother equipped with the right knowledge of what her body is about to undergo and how best to facilitate the process who can enjoy the ultimate experience of childbirth.

To this end, attending pre-natal classes, and making use of methods such as aromatherapy can be of benefit, she says, adding that although these are relatively new concepts in Sri Lanka, aromatherapy is widely used in birthing centres in countries such as Britain.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils obtained from plants to promote the health and wellbeing of the body. Essential oils are the ‘living’ elements of a plant extracted by various processes from different parts of the plant. When used as indicated, they have no side effects, which is significant, especially during pregnancy.

For example, nausea can be warded off by inhaling essential oils of peppermint, ginger, petitgrain, and sweet orange. The tantalizing fragrance of the essential oil of lavender can soothe a nagging headache. Other lotions prevent fluid retention or swelling, aid relaxation and help prevent stretch marks and cramps.

While there is a pre-blended range of drops and lotions, clients can also request for specific blends, made up to suit individual requirements and undergo a customized treatment including massages, throughout their pregnancy, says Kishani whose clinic Aromystique offers specialized aromatherapy treatment for the pregnant woman.

Aromatherapy can also be used to ease the process of labour. When the muscles are well toned from exercise and the techniques used in aromatherapy, the baby positions itself more easily for birth, says Mrs. Ahangama.

When an essential oil is inhaled, it travels along the nose to the limbic system, or, the midbrain-that part of the brain which is responsible for hormonal control.

Memory, mood and blood pressure are said to be controlled by the limbic system, which is also looked on as a gland releasing the hormones which are necessary for the process of birth inducing efficient uterine contractions and protection against pain.

The aroma of an essential oil such as lavender stimulates this part of the brain, resulting in a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. This succeeds in calming and soothing the mother, as well as less pain being felt, enabling her to feel the true beauty of the last precious moments of birth. This is of prime importance, says Mrs. Ahangama. The trauma of labour is also lessened for the baby.

Essential oils should always be used during pregnancy at 50% of the normal strength, adds Kishanie. Various blends to combat baby blues by aiding relaxation, and to treat conditions such as cracked nipples and breast engorgement, as well as to stimulate lactation, can be made use of during the postnatal period.

“Birthing is a knowledge-based experience,” says Mrs. Ahangama, who feels that with the right tools, childbirth can be the amazing, profound experience that it was meant to be.

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