In a recent study, Iranian researchers assessed the effects of aromatherapy using Damask rose essential oil on the pain and anxiety felt by nulliparous women, or first-time mothers-to-be, during the first stage of labor. The first stage is characterized by irregular uterine contractions and the dilation of the cervix.
During this stage, women feel visceral pain due to the cervix stretching, and somatic pain due to the pelvic floor, perineum and vagina stretching, dilating, being restricted of blood supply and tearing. This is why reducing anxiety and labor pain is one of the most important goals of maternity care.
The researchers reported their findings on the pain-relieving and anxiety-reducing effects of Damask rose essential oil in an article published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine.
Aromatherapy has long been used to improve mental health. Some of the best-known uses of this holistic healing treatment include improving sleep quality, reducing stress and anxiety and relieving headaches, migraines and even sore joints.
According to a study published in The Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, inhaling Damask rose essential oil is effective for relieving pain. They reported that patients with second- and third-degree burns whose wounds were being dressed experienced a significant reduction in pain severity after inhaling Damask rose essential oil.
Meanwhile, another study by Iranian researchers compared the effects of aromatherapy with Damask rose essential oil versus aromatherapy with lavender essential oil. Patients who had undergone cesarean section reported experiencing a larger decrease in pain severity and anxiety after inhaling Damask rose essential oil, suggesting that Damask rose has more powerful anxiety- and pain-reducing effects than lavender.
To determine if aromatherapy with Damask rose essential oil could help during the first stage of labor, the researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 110 nulliparous women. They randomly assigned the participants to either the control group or the aromatherapy group.
The aromatherapy group received 0.08 mL of the essential oil every 30 minutes, while the control group received 0.08 mL of normal saline. The researchers measured pain three times, once each at three stages of cervical dilation (i.e., 4 to 5 cm, 6 to 7 cm and 8 to 10 cm). They also measured anxiety twice, once each at two stages of cervical dilation (i.e., 4 to 7 cm and 8 to 10 cm).
The researchers used the Spielberger anxiety questionnaire, numerical pain rating scale, demographic and obstetric questionnaire, and an observational checklist for data collection. Data analyses included the t-test, Mann–Whitney U test and Chi-square test.
The severity of labor pain and anxiety served as the primary outcome measures, while labor and delivery characteristics (e.g., number of contractions, duration of contractions in second stage, Bishop score, augmentation by oxytocin, Apgar score and mode of delivery), demographic characteristics and fertility information served as the secondary outcome measures.
The researchers found that pain severity was significantly lower in the aromatherapy group than in the control group after treatment and at each pain assessment. Anxiety levels were also significantly lower in the aromatherapy group than in the control group. (Related: Acupuncture found to be an effective pain reliever for women in labor compared to spinal-epidural anesthesia.)
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that aromatherapy with Damask rose essential oil is a convenient and effective method of reducing pain and anxiety during the first stage of labor.