Easing the way for the baby and lulling the pain for the mother is the speciality of Eleonóra Kunszt in the maternity ward at Dr.Rose Private Hospital, using aromatherapy to stimulate the body’s own capacity for effective pain relief. Fragrant essential oils for most of us are smelly drops in an evaporator to help the ambience of a stuffy room. Neurologists think better of the lingering smell: fragrances affect the limbic system in the human brain. Tiny molecules of the volatile oil get trapped in the mucous membrane in the nose, their information is transferred through the olfactory nerve straight into the central nervous system, prompting the brain even to produce certain hormones. The same volatile substances take effect inhaled through the lungs, or absorbed through the skin as well. “Experienced midwives are using these potent potions to induce higher levels of oxytocin and endorphin during labour and delivery,” says Eleonóra, who was voted Midwife of the Year in 2010, and used her prize to complete an extensive training course on aromatherapy.
Labour has to be a relaxed, calm experience for the mother. Hormones pay a pivotal role in the process, but emotional factors are just as important: feeling secure and cared for creates a stress-free environment for labour, so that the mother can fully concentrate on the experience of giving birth. “That’s why we promote childbirth education,” explains the midwife. “There is no better way to get to know in advance the natural labour process. When a woman knows exactly what is happening to her, childbirth is transformed into an intimate experience. Instead of stress hormones that block other necessary hormones in the blood stream, a relaxed mental and emotional state allows endorphin to do its job: to relieve the pain of contraction. That is the scientific truth behind harmonious natural birth, and aromatherapy is immensely helpful to make it happen.”
Good to know
Essential oils are extracted from plants with either cold extraction or distillation. Depending on the plant, as little as twenty kilos, or as much as seven metric tons of raw materials are used to retrieve a litre of oil. It takes thirty roses to make a single drop of rose oil. That explains why a tiny amount goes a long way, and why you need just a few drops to achieve the desired effect. Pure essential oils are potent substances, each with a specific – beneficial or unwanted – therapeutic effect, so don’t experiment, always refer to a specialist.