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Massage Today
April, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 04

Aromatherapy for Clients With Special Needs

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

Continuing on the topic of safe use of essential oils, it is important to know some of the current perspectives on using aromatherapy during pregnancy and childbirth. This is one area that holds some widely differing opinions.

I personally have known a woman who went through two "perfect" pregnancies while working full-time in a small aromatherapy shop making blends and pouring oils, and then delivered beautiful, healthy babies. Still, I believe it is better to be safe than sorry when treating this emotionally sensitive client population.

As part of the safety information contained in The Aromatherapy Practitioner Manual, Volume I, Sylla Sheppard-Hanger writes:

"It is best to stay away from all essential oils during pregnancy (especially in the first three months and altogether with any history of miscarriage) except those considered safe: rose, neroli, lavender and chamomiles. Distillation waters can be safely used instead."

Distillation water, which results from the method of steam extraction of essential oils, is commonly called a floral water, hydrosol or hydrolat and would not be appropriate for massage. For the purposes of relaxation and lifting the spirit, Sheppard-Hanger suggests using the following essences in small doses: geranium, lavender, neroli, rose, jasmine, petitgrain, patchouli, mandarin, Roman chamomile, sandalwood and ylang ylang.

Salvatore Battaglia, in his widely used text The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, cites research from another publication that suggests the main cause of infant mortality is premature birth, in which stress plays a major role. Because of this and the heightened sense of smell during pregnancy, conscious and caring use of aromatherapy can be of great benefit. The use of essential oils in bath, inhalation or room diffusion also is suggested.

For backache, Battaglia suggests spike lavender, cajeput and lemon, which will relive pain and tone muscles supporting increased weight. For morning sickness, inhalation of ginger, lavender or spearmint is suggested. For constipation, try chamomile, neroli, sweet orange, tangerine and black pepper. For leg cramps, try geranium, lavender, cypress, ginger and black pepper. For edema, try a foot massage or soak with grapefruit, sweet orange, geranium, tangerine or lime, as applicable.

When using the essences in the massage blend for pregnant clients, the more diluted the essence, the better. Do not exceed the normal 2 percent solution (approximately 7 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil). I have used even less than this to great effect for a client in her eighth month, suffering with leg pain and fatigue due to circulation problems (not deep vein thrombosis, which is a contraindication for massage and requires prompt medical attention). I gently applied light effleurage with a mixture of rosemary and geranium (1 drop each into half an ounce of carrier oil). I gave her what I had left over, and her daughter applied this for her at home. She reported great relief. I also found that a blend of two drops of lavender, one drop of sandalwood and one drop of ylang ylang bestowed relaxation, relieved lower backache and produced a state of peaceful euphoria for pregnant clients, particularly those in the last trimester.

Aromatherapy is a great support during childbirth. Some essences are known to strengthen and deepen contractions and at the same time, relieve pain. Others remove anxiety. Jasmine is a famous aid in the labor room, often combined with clary sage, lavender, chamomile and neroli or rose.

English aromatherapist Patricia Davis says that neroli (also called orange blossom) is the first aroma the newborn should experience. The beautiful, gentle essence of neroli has strong spiritual qualities and is calming to the smooth muscles of the intestines, while it facilitates easy breathing. Neroli can be diffused in the labor room, where everyone will benefit along with the baby or the receiving linens can be fragranced with a few drops or a spray of neroli hydrosol.

If a client is suffering from postnatal depression, Battaglia recommends the essential oils of bergamot, rose, neroli, clary sage, geranium, grapefruit, frankincense, mandarin, patchouli, rosewood, tangerine, vetiver and/or ylang ylang.

As always, your clients will have a preference or dislike for some aromas and could have sensitivity to certain essences. Screen for these, use proper dilution methods, and you will add a welcome aromatic support to your pregnancy massage.

Click here for previous articles by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.


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