Clary sage oil is often touted as an effective method to induce labour naturally and enhance contractions once labour has started. The reality is that babies come precisely when they are ready. It has been shown that labour is triggered once the lungs of the baby are fully developed and release a protein that then triggers labour.
That said, many women are willing to go with old wives tales and try all manner of things – some more effective than others – to try and induce labour naturally and avoid a medical induction. Clary sage oil is an easily available and easy to use method.
This guide is intended to give a bit of background to clary sage oil and its use in late pregnancy and labour, and give guidelines for safe usage.
Clary sage is a variety of the sage herb plant, and is known to have various aromatic and medicinal properties such as flavour for some spirits. The leaves are edible and the leaves and flowers can be distilled into an essential oil for therapeutic use. Please note that sage oil is quite a different thing and musn’t be confused with clary sage.
It has oestrogen-regulating and stimulating properties, said to be because of its similar chemical structure to oestrogen, and so has had a long association for use with menstrual problems. Clary sage is also thought to have a stimulating effect on pregnant women so it is generally advised not to be used before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
It also has a host of other benefical properties for people outside of pregnancy, but for the purposes of this article I just want to focus on its use after 37 weeks of pregnancy and in labour.
All essential oils prepared by a reputable source are safe to use providing you adhere to the following guidelines of things to AVOID.
- Do NOT use clary sage oil before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It has a stimulating effect on the uterus and so it should be avoided until you are at term or later. For most women it is probably not appropriate to use clary sage before your due date.
- Do NOT use clary sage essential oil directly onto the skin as it is very intensive – in some cases up to 100 times stronger than it’s original source – and can cause burning and skin damage.
- Do NOT ingest clary sage oil, it is poisonous, so keep it out of reach of children.
- Do NOT get it on your mucous membranes (such as eyes or lips) as it can cause irritation or burning, even in a diluted for.
- Do NOT mix clary sage with any other essential oils or products unless you have consulted a qualified aromatherapist. It can react with other oils and have unintended results.
How to safely use Clary Sage Oil to naturally induce labour
To scent a room
You can put a few drops of clary sage oil into a room diffuser or essential oil burner. Ensure any previous oils are throughly cleaned as some are not appropriate for use in pregnancy.
You can use clary sage oil in this way from 37 weeks in any room, and can also be used in labour to enhance contractions. That said, if you get fed up of the smell, then it can be difficult to get rid of it quickly so probably not advised during labour itself.
Note, you cannot burn candles in a hospital setting. You can put a few drops onto
An alternative is to put a few drops onto a tissue (or cotton wool) and have the tissue draped over a radiator or perhaps tucked into a sleeve so that if you want a break from the scent you can easily dispose of it. The oil can also be put on a piece of fabric (like a rebozo) but again, you need to be really sure you are not going to want to have a break from the scent. It may cause staining on clothes so test it out on a corner first.
Add a few drops of clary sage oil to an unscented base massage oil – such as coconut oil, almond oil, baby oil, etc. Ensure you have at least equal parts clary sage to base oil. Ideally have a few drops with about 10-15 ml to ensure it is properly diluted.
The oil can be massaged over the entire body, but is particularly nice to massage into your bump. This helps to make a connection with your baby and coupled with some great relaxation music and birth visualisations, can be a wonderful way to encourage labour to start.
Just remember that in late pregnancy you should avoid lying on your back so make sure you are either supported in a semi-reclined position, or lying down on your side.
You can add a few (5-10) drops into a bath to get a fully immersive clary sage oil experience. You get the benefit of the oil on your skin, but also through the steam of the bath get the inhalation as well – double whammy!
In order to prevent the oil collecting on the surface of the water, add the drops to an eggcup of milk before pouring into the bath. The milk acts to help disperse the oil.
CAUTION: It is inadvisable to use clary sage with any other bath products just in case it interacts with them so avoid bubble bath and shower gel and just add it to a plan water bath.
It can also cause the surface of the bath to be slightly slippery so take extra care when getting in and out of the bath.
Use of clary sage oil to induce labour
Like so many natural methods to induce labour, clary sage oil has not been studied in great depth, and so its efficacy to bring labour on is hard to pinpoint.
There are many cases of women who attribute going into labour as a result of using clary sage oil but it is very anecdotal. How soon you go into labour after using clary sage oil is a big question. What other methods have you used? And for as many people the clary sage oil does little or nothing towards inducing labour.
It is known to have relaxation properties and perhaps just the act of relaxing and not getting stressed about going into labour has the desired effect? Labour is controlled by oxytocin and getting in a warm bath in a private dark space will boost your oxytocin well before you add clary sage oil into the mix.
It certainly doesn’t seem to do any harm though! And baths and massage are a lovely way to bide your time before labour starts.
Ultimately if it was THAT efficacious to bring on labour, we would be using it in hospitals rather than the artificial oxytocin that is currently used for inductions.
Use of clary sage oil in labour
There has been a study that looked at different essential oils used by midwives during labour. Although the study didn’t have a control group (so it is difficult to draw hard conclusions), it did indicate that clary sage (and chamomile) oil were effective in helping to reduce pain and ease anxiety.
Clary sage is although though to stimulate contractions and oxytocin which are two essential ingredients for labour. So its use during labour is believed to enhance the labour and intensify contractions. Clary sage could be used to help speed things up if labour seems to be slowing down or taking a long time to get into an established routine.
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