Women in labour will now be offered relaxation and massage using essential oils to help ease labour pains, sickness, muscle aches and anxiety. Midwives at North Bristol NHS Trust, who have been trained in aromatherapy, are offering the services.
The therapy has been offered at Southmead Hospital's birth suite, in Bristol, during home births and will be offered at Cossham Birth Centre, the city’s first midwife-led birth centre, when it opens in the autumn of next year. If successful the technique could rolled out to other parts of the country.
Mary Carlisle, manager of the birth suite at Southmead Hospital, said: “Aromatherapy reduces anxiety and fear by helping women feel more relaxed and can help to reduce symptoms such as heartburn or backache,” she said.
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The group of 24 midwives, who were trained on the chemistry of oils and how to mix them, would use the technique to alleviate stress during birth. They use seven basic oils, bergamot, clary sage, jasmine, lavender, peppermint, frankincense and grapefruit, which are mixed with a base oil. The oils can be applied by infusion through inhalation, in a footbath, through a compress to the skin or a drop on the hand.
Only trained midwives can apply aromatherapy through massage or prescribe and mix the oils.