Clary Sage for Induction, Labour & Birth – It’s natural but is it safe?

Let me set the scene! So your estimated due date is fast approaching or perhaps
you’re already post dates? The pressure’s starting to build, as with each day the
prospect of induction looms. You’re receiving regular phone calls and messages
from friends and family eagerly anticipating the birth. Those final checks with
the medical professionals now include discussions regarding a proposed ‘stretch
and sweep’ or induction date. All of which are adding to the pressure. Sound
familiar? Perhaps this is where you find yourself right now, at this very
moment? Then read on.
It’s at this point in time that many women consider ‘natural methods of
induction’, and there are a few regularly recommended on social media. The use
of clary sage (Salvia sclarea), typically being one of the favorite options. Almost
everyday I read posts urging women to bathe, or massage themselves in this
essential oil. This desire to avoid induction of labour has meant that clary sage is also
probably, the must abused of essential oils.

Yes, amongst it properties, clary sage is a uterine stimulant and that is why it’s
not recommended before 37 weeks gestation. However, worryingly, I regularly
come across social media posts recommending its use with no regard to safety.
There appears to be a general assumption that as essential oils are natural they
are perfectly safe and may be used without caution. However, natural doesn’t
always mean safe, take arsenic or deadly nightshade as a prime examples.

Clary is described as one of the most important essential oils in ‘women’s
remedies’ as all three phases of a woman’s life stand to benefit; menstrual cycle,
childbirth and the menopause (Battaglia 2003).

Often described as euphoric, clary is one of the most powerful relaxants in
aromatherapy. It is beneficial for treating anxiety, stress, nervous tension and
has analgesic properties, which makes it useful during labour. As previously
mentioned clary also stimulates the uterus to contract so can be helpful with
induction and acceleration of labour.

However, when labour is well established, clary sage is contraindicated. So if you
are experiencing regular, strong surges with labour progression, clary sage is not
required. In fact to give it could result in hyperstimulation of the uterus (too
many surges), which may result in fetal distress.

It’s also advised to avoid clary sage in the early days following birth if you’re
lochia (blood loss) is heavy.

So if you are contemplating the use of essential oils, at any time during your
pregnancy or birth but you’re unsure of their suitability, please consult a
qualified aromatherapist, ideally someone accredited by The International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFPA) or the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA).

Battaglia, S. (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2 nd edn). The
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

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