Using Clary Sage For Labor
Most pregnant women have likely heard about clary sage or are aware that it is sometimes used to induce labor, but you may not be aware of how this essential oil works or whether it is safe to you and your baby. If you are wondering if clary sage is the right choice for your birthing plan, keep reading to learn more about this essential oil.
Understanding Clary Sage Oil
Clary sage is a type of herb in the sage family, but it is not the same. This sage variety has been used for hundreds of years for its medicinal properties, and women have long relied on it to induce labor, to help labor progress, or to reduce the pain and stress of giving birth. How exactly does it work?
The compounds found in clary sage have properties that both regulate and stimulate estrogen, as its chemical structure resembles that of the female reproductive hormone. Many also believe that it stimulates the release of oxytocin, which is the chemical produced by the body to stimulate labor and signal the beginning of the childbirth process.
Among clary sage’s other benefits, though, are its ability to reduce depression, to promote relaxation, and to calm the nerves. All of these can be helpful during labor and delivery, as well. Modern uses for clary sage usually involve it as an essential oil, which is created when the leaves and flowers are distilled and used to create a more therapeutic form of the plant.
It is important to note that, if you are pregnant or actively trying to conceive, you should not use clary sage for any reason until after the 37th week. Because this herb has the potential to induce labor, you do not want to use it earlier and risk a pre-term delivery or, during the early parts of your pregnancy, a miscarriage.
Labor is induced by a release of oxytocin in the body that normally occurs once the baby’s lungs reach full development. When women have reached the full term of their pregnancy but are having little movement on the delivery front, doctors may recommend inducing using synthetic oxytocin. If you are looking for a more natural method for encouraging labor to begin for a full-term pregnancy, then you may want to give this herbal treatment a try.
The Difference Between Herbs and Oils
When discussing the use of certain plans for various medical purposes, it is important to understand that using natural plant material, like leaves or roots, can have quite different effects from using essential oil. Oils are distilled from enormous quantities of plant material to form a highly concentrated substance that may have different effects after exposure to the distillation process. In the case of clary sage, the essential oil and the raw herb are vastly different.
Using Clary Sage During Labor
Much of what we know about the effectiveness of this herbal treatment comes from anecdotal evidence or trials without control groups or placebos. Little medical research using double-blind methodology has been conducted to determine the effectiveness of this herbal treatment, but women have been swearing by its use for generations.
Because of the vulnerable and sensitive nature of conducting research on pregnant women, most of the research on essential oils during pregnancy comes from animal trials. While these can be helpful for researching the possible effects of these oils on people, we still lack definitive medical evidence on the safety or effectiveness of really any essential oil, not just clary sage.
In a 2000 study of the use of essential oils by midwives, researchers found the clary sage and chamomile essential oils were among the most effective for helping to reduce anxiety and lower pain during labor. The compounds in clary sage were believed to stimulate contractions and the release of oxytocin in patients, which are both helpful in allowing labor to progress naturally. The use of clary sage in this study was during labor, not as a method of induction. This study did not have a control group and was based on data reported by the patients and midwives, which is important to note.
The Effects of Clary Sage
While it is true that many swear by clary sage as a compound that can induce labor, it is difficult to parse out if these claims are actually true. For example, many women are asked to lie down and relax while using clary sage for aromatherapy. The act of relaxing and forgetting the stress of the upcoming birth could play a role in encouraging the induction of labor. Another popular application for clary sage is via massage of the abdomen. Massage alone is known to stimulate the uterine walls as well as relax the mother, which both could play a significant role in starting labor.
How to Use Clary Sage During Labor
Based on the evidence we have and by following best practices when it comes to safeguarding the health of both mother and child, the guidelines for using clary sage before and during labor are as follows.
- You should not use clary sage oil before week 37 of pregnancy. You should only use this method once you are at full term and, in most cases, you should not consider it unless you have reached your due date.
- If you have opted for a medical induction or to have your water broken, you should wait at least one hour before using clary sage to give the other interventions time to induce labor.
- If you plan to have an epidural during your labor and delivery, you should not use clary sage oil.
- Always dilute clary sage oil with a carrier oil before applying it directly to your skin. This essential oil is very intense and can cause irritation, burning, and even skin damage.
- If you are using a birthing tub or having a water birth, you should not put clary sage oil directly into the water.
- You should never ingest clary sage oil, as it is poisonous. Always keep this oil safely out of reach of children.
- Avoid contact of this essential oil with your eyes, lips, vagina, or other mucous membranes. It can be very irritating and cause discomfort.