Aromatherapy refers to the practice of using oils and aromatic compounds to alter the physical, psychological, and cognitive wellbeing of individuals through procedures such as massage, topical application, immersion, and inhalation (Luo, Huang, Xia & Zeng, 2014). Essential oils can be used during the transition phase of labor in pregnant women to reduce pain and anxiety. In addition, it can be used to either slow-fast labor or accelerate slow labor. Women desire to give birth comfortably and safely with minimal pain and anxiety. Aromatherapy is an effective approach to providing comfort, relieving pain, and reducing anxiety during labor (Luo et al., 2014). The use of oils and massage helps to prepare the minds and bodies of pregnant women for childbirth. Oils should be chosen and used carefully because even though they can be used as alternatives to drugs, they are harmful if used wrongly. Choosing the right oil avoids harmful effects such as menstrual bleeding and miscarriage. Aromatherapy with the use of essential oils and massage makes women comfortable and safe and reduces pain and anxiety thus improving their labor experiences. There is a need for change about the use of this nursing practice in order to avoid the harmful effects of aromatherapy such as menstrual bleeding, excessive uterine contractions, and miscarriage.
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The effectiveness of massage in relieving labor pain was investigated by Gallo et al., in a study involving 46 women who were pregnant for more than 37 weeks. The participants had also not used any drug after being admitted in hospital the. Women in the experimental group were given a back massage during their active phase of labor (Gallo et al., 2013). On the other hand, women in the control group did not receive any messages. They only got general perinatal care. The intensity of labor pain was measured for both groups. Other outcomes that were monitored included the route of delivery, labor duration, and participants’ satisfaction with delivery services (Gallo et al., 2013). The results of the study found out that on a scale of 0-100 mm, the average for the experimental group was 52mm and 72mm for the control group (Gallo et al., 2013). The results revealed that massage effectively relieved labor pain. In many maternity settings, the use of aromatherapy methods such as breathing, acupuncture, and immersion is common. However, there is a need to incorporate aromatherapy massage and use it more because of its numerous benefits. Researchers have investigated the effectiveness of aromatherapy used together with essential oils and massage in relieving pain and anxiety. The current practice mainly uses massage and aromatherapy individually.
Massage can be effectively used with aromatherapy to reduce pain and anxiety in pregnant women during the labor period. Zahra and Leila (2013) conducted a study to investigate the effect of aromatherapy massage using lavender oil. The study was a prospective, randomized and controlled trial that involved 60 women who were divided into two groups. The experimental group that comprised 30 women underwent labor with the aid of aromatherapy massage. The control group underwent labor with the aid massage only. The researchers used the analogue scale (VAS) to measure the intensity of pain experienced by each of the 60 women (Zahra & Leila, 2013). The results of the study revealed that participants who received aromatherapy massage with lavender oil experienced lower levels of pain compared to those who received massage without the oil (Zahra & Leila, 2013). In addition, they experienced lower durations of first and second labor stages. Aromatherapy massage was effective in relieving pain during labor. Lavender contains a compound known as linalool acetate that has sedative characteristics (Zahra & Leila, 2013). The results of this study revealed that aromatherapy massage using essential oils is an effective way of relieving pain and shortening the duration of labor stages.
A study conducted by Namazi et al (2014) investigated the effect of aromatherapy in reducing anxiety during labor. The study’s objective was to investigate the effectiveness of aromatherapy using an essential oil (Citrus aurantium) in reducing anxiety during the first labor stage (Namazi et al., 2014). The randomized clinical trial involved an experimental group (63 participants) and a control group (63 participants). Levels of anxiety were measured at different points during the study. The findings revealed that the oil had significant effect on anxiety levels. Prior to the use of the oil, participants in both groups had similar levels of anxiety. However, after the aromatherapy intervention, anxiety levels in the experimental group were lower than the levels in the control group (Namazi et al., 2014). The oil reduced anxiety by stimulating the olfactory pathways in the limbic system thus increasing blood circulation in the brain (Namazi et al., 2014). The results confirmed that aromatherapy using the oil was effective in reducing anxiety. Combining aromatherapy and massage during labor would be more effective in relieving suffering than using any one of the methods individually.
The effectiveness of aromatherapy massage in reducing pain and anxiety during labor was validated by another study conducted by Joseph and Fernandes in 2013. The study involved 40 primigravida women who were massaged using Jasmine oil (Joseph & Fernandes, 2013). The study design was experimental. 20 women were placed in each of the two groups (experimental and control). The intensity of labor pain was measured in both groups before and after the experiment. Pre-test results showed that majority of women in the experimental group (80%) had moderate levels of pain while only one woman had mild levels of pain (Joseph & Fernandes, 2013). Only 3 women experienced severe pain. In the control group, 20% experienced severe pain and 75% experienced moderate levels of pain (Joseph & Fernandes, 2013). Four women reported severe pain. Post-test results revealed that the majority (70%) of women in the experimental group experienced mild pain, 30% moderate pain, and 0% severe pain (Joseph & Fernandes, 2013). On the other hand, 15% of women in the control group experienced moderate pain, 60% severe pain, and 25% reported the most intense levels of pain (Joseph & Fernandes, 2013). These findings reveal that massage using essential oils is an effective remedy for labor pain.
Nonpharmacological methods of pain and anxiety relief are vital components of nursing practice that can be effectively used in transitional labor phases. Aromatherapy massage using essential oils is an effective method that relieves muscle tension, enhances relaxation, and increases uterine blood flow. Essential oils aid in reducing anxiety and relieving pain. On the other hand, massage aids in reducing anxiety and relieving pain by easing muscle tension and improving blood flow. Massage aromatherapy using essential oils has physical and emotional benefits that make women feel safe and comfortable during labor. Combining aromatherapy and massage is more effective than using either of the two methods alone. Current practice relies mainly on either massage or aromatherapy. Using the two methods together is highly effective and should be encouraged.
Gallo, R. B., Santana, L. S., Ferreira, C. H., Marcolin, A. C., PoliNeto, O. B., Duarte, G., & Quitana, S. M. (2013). Massage Reduced Severity of Pain during Labour: A Randomized Trial. Journal of Physiotherapy 59, 109-116.
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Joseph, R. M., & Fernandes, P. (2013). Effectiveness of Jasmine Oil massage on Reduction of Labor Pain among Primigravida Mothers. Nitte University Journal of Health Science, 3(4), 104-107.
Luo, T., Huang, M., Xia, H., & Zeng, Y. (2014). Aromatherapy for Laboring Women: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Open Journal of Nursing, 4(1), 163-168.
Namazi, M., Akbari, S. M., Mojab, F., Talebi, A., Majd, H. A., & Jannesari, S. (2014). Aromatherapy with Citrus Aurantium Oil and Anxiety during the First Stage of Labor. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 16(6), 1-6.
Zahra, A. & Leila, M. S. (2013). Lavender Aromatherapy Massages in Reducing Labor Pain and Duration of Labor: A Randomized Controlled Trial. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 7(8), 426-430.