Becoming a mother can be one of the most transformative, growth-filled, awe-inspiring experiences. AND – it is really hard. The experience of creative and carrying a being for 9 months in itself is amazing and challenging. Sometimes, however, there is an expectation (especially as we see in idealistic movies) of giving birth, and finding a loving harmony as a new mother. For many women all over the world, this bliss may not happen as we would like to imagine.
Postpartum depression is a heavy topic and serious condition, one which we are personally passionate about helping to support mothers who may be dealing with difficulties after birth.
What is postpartum depression?
One of the most common medical complications for women after giving birth is postpartum depression, which occurs in almost 15% of new mothers. Not only is the mental, physical and emotional state of the mother affected, without proper care and support, this condition can affect the development and behavior of the child as well.
How is postpartum depression treated?
Conventional treatment may include medication or psychotherapy, though oftentimes women are looking for more support, with less potential health risks (especially as mothers need to be very careful with medication during the nursing period). As more women branch out to natural, alternative therapies, there has been a rise in aromatherapy techniques and recommendations specific to mothers looking to support their postpartum care.
A safe and effective approach for postpartum depression is at the forefront of research, with the use of essential oils being one area that continues to grow.
Why essential oil therapy for postpartum depression?
More than just lovely smelling blends and relaxing massages, the therapeutic use of essential oils (often referred to as Aromatherapy) is a healing tool used to bring the body and mind to balance. Through the naturally extraction of the aromatic essence of plants, essential oils contain potent therapeutic properties direct from nature. When used in therapeutic ways, essential oils can support the physiological, psychological and spiritual process of balancing the body’s hormones, internal systems and emotional body.
Using essential oils is a way to deeply connect with the healing nourishment of nature.
Essential oils can be used in a number of ways – simply putting drop on your wrist and inhaling can be deeply beneficial to enliven your senses or calm your mind. Oils can also be placed in a diffuser to spread the aroma to the entire space and create fresh, clear and beautiful smelling air. People also take high-grade essential oils internally for supporting the body’s internal systems. A drop of peppermint oil in hot water – voila – digestion boosting peppermint tea!
Most common types of therapies:
Aromatherapy massage for managing postpartum depression
Topical use – blends and single oils on wrists and other body parts.
Inhalation – through a diffuser or just breathing in.
“Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul.” Robert Tisserand
Can Essential Oils really help with postpartum depression?
Many studies in the realm of essential oil use for mental and emotional conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression have reported positive results in self reported effects of calming the mind and supporting body health. As postpartum depression can show up in a number of forms, from anxiety, stress, insomnia and withdrawal and low mood, it’s evident that supporting a new momma going through such an experience with the use of essential oils can have positive effects.
Below are some of the most well known and researched oils used for these depressive states all associated with postpartum depression, and tips on how to use them if you, or someone who know, needs some nourishment. The most commonly used oils for postpartum treatment are lavender, rose, clary sage and bergamot.
Lavender is one of the most extensively studied, and widely used oils. It is most often known for it’s healing benefits to calm anxiety and aid in restful sleep. Have you ever heard (or tried) lavender oil on your pillow to sleep? (If you haven’t – it’s amazing. I put a drop on each wrist, smell it, and place a drop on my pillow each night).
There is evidence to support the use of this oil to relieve insomnia, as it increases slow-wave sleep patterns.
Another study of lavender in relation to depressive conditions revealed that there were more self-reports of increased relaxation with those who used lavender aromatherapy as part of their treatment, compared with those who continued to only take regular medication.
A decline in anxiety is often reported for people taking lavender supplements also. From these findings, it is clear that to support a calm state and relieve the stress, insomnia and anxiety that come with postpartum depression, lavender is beneficial oil.
This oil is well known as a supporter of feminine health, often used in conditions associated with hormonal imbalance (such as menopause symptoms or PCOS).
It has relaxing and calmative properties and has been found to reduce blood pressure and slow respiratory (breathing) rate in studies. The stress hormone cortisol was also found to be reduced after inhalation. For women especially feeling anxiety and stress in their postpartum experience, clary sage is a great choice.
As another popular oil used for relation, often in aromatherapy massage, studies with rose essential oil found that this oil not only have stress relieving effects, but also reduced instances of reported pain. Blended with the oils above, it will support feelings of calm and relaxation.
As a form of citrus oil (known to enliven the senses and boost the mood) this oil has been clinically studies for stress and anxiety therapy. It was found that bergamot is beneficial for people dealing with low mood, depressive states and stress related disorders.
Below are recommendations for safe usage to support yourself, or others, to relieve postpartum depression symptoms.
Topical application of essential oils for postpartum depression:
- Simply place a drop of any of these oils on your wrist, bottoms of feet and back of neck to absorb through the skin into the blood stream. Carry an oil (or blend of these) in your bag and smell and apply when you feel you need support.
- Create a blend of these oils (and dilute with a carrier oil like macadamia oil) and place on body yourself, or use in an aromatherapy massage. It’s suggested to apply aromatherapy massage treatments at least once a week for the most benefits to support postpartum depression.
Here’s our own recommended blend for to use topically on your body and to inhale:
- 2 drops lavender, 1 drop clary sage, 1 drop bergamot, 1 drop rose diluted in a carrier oil (macadamia, olive, avocado etc.). Put in a small glass oil bottle and apply whenever you need.
Inhalation of essential oils for postpartum depression:
- If you don’t already have a diffuser at home – seriously consider getting one – they are amazing! Not only to support your body health, diffusers make the entire room and space feel more fresh with cleaner, clearer and nicer smelling air. Unlike burning candles, which can affect the quality of the air, diffusers are a safe and clean way to create aroma and inhale.
- You can also take a bath with some oils to both inhale through the steam, and to nourish and absorb into the body.
Ingestion of essential oils for postpartum depression:
Only with high grade oils. You can create your own capsules with a blend of the oils, or place a drop in hot water for a tea. This is a stronger form of essential oil therapy, and it is advised to use only very small amounts (a drop in a big jug) at a time before you understand your body’s response.
Based on the research, these particular oils may be very beneficial in supporting any woman dealing with postpartum depression, and there are a number of ways to use them on yourself, or another person.
Additionally, research also revealed that the use of various essential oils with massage improved reported physical and mental health, as well as reports of deepening the feeling of connection with mother and infant immediately after the therapy.
This is an example of how essential oil therapy can be beneficial to not just mothers experience postpartum depression, but all women looking to find a calm, relaxed state with a deeper connect to their child.
If you, or someone you know may be dealing with postpartum depression, or are looking for general support after giving birth, there are so many options of therapies to support. Here we reviewed the use of essential oils in supporting mothers, based on scientific research.
If you, or yourself have experienced positive results with using natural remedies like essential oils to treat postpartum depression, let us know in the comments below, we love to share the love with all women reading!
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Conrad, Pam, and Cindy Adams. “The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman–a pilot study.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 18.3 (2012): 164-168.
Dalinda Isabel Sánchez-Vidaña, Shirley Pui-Ching Ngai, Wanjia He, Jason Ka-Wing Chow, Benson Wui-Man Lau, and Hector Wing-Hong Tsang, “The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2017, Article ID 5869315, 21 pages, 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/5869315
“Exploring Aromatherapy.” National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, 2017. Web. 19 July 2017. <https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/what-is-aromatherapy/>.
Imura, Masumi, Hanako Misao, and Hiroshi Ushijima. “The Psychological Effects of Aromatherapy‐Massage in Healthy Postpartum Mothers.” Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 51.2 (2006).
Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
“Lavender – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. Examine.com, 29 Apr. 2017. Web. 18 July 2017. <https://examine.com/supplements/lavender/>.
Navarra, Michele, et al. “Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application.” Frontiers in pharmacology 6 (2015).
“Rose Essential Oil – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. Examine.com, 29 Apr. 2017. Web. 18 July 2017. <https://examine.com/supplements/rose-essential-oil/>.
“Salvia Sclarea – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. Examine.com, 29 Apr. 2017. Web. 18 July 2017. <https://examine.com/supplements/salvia-sclarea/>.
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