Women in labour are being offered relaxation and massage with essential oils as a natural pain-relief technique by midwives trained in aromatherapy at North Bristol NHS Trust.
The techniques help ease labour pains, sickness, muscle aches and anxiety, and are being offered by a group of 24 midwives at Bristol's Southmead Hospital's birth suite, as well as to those who choose home births.
Midwives have been taught how to mix oils and use their properties to relieve symptoms. Bergamot, clary sage, jasmine, lavender, peppermint, frankincense and grapefruit are the seven basic oils the midwives use, which are then mixed to a base oil.
Up to three oils can be included in a mixture as appropriate to relieve the symptoms and can be applied through a drop on the hand, a compress to the skin, in a foot bath or by infusion through inhalation.
Midwives can also apply aromatherapy through massage. Only those who are trained can prescribe and mix the oils.
Mary Carlisle, manager of the birth suite at Southmead Hospital, said: "Aromatherapy reduces anxiety and fear by helping women feel more relaxed and can help to reduce symptoms such as heartburn or backache.
"When women in labour are relaxed, their need for pain relief is reduced but every woman is individual and we can use the oils specific to their needs.
"Aromatherapy will not be appropriate for every woman and our midwives undertake a health assessment to ensure that the oils will be safe and beneficial.
"We are promoting choice and aromatherapy is ideal for women who want a home birth, giving them another option for pain relief."
Aromatherapy will also be offered at Cossham Birth Centre, Bristol's first midwife-led birth centre, when it opens in the autumn of next year.