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  • Alexis Varady, DC, CD, CPD, CBC

Creating Scent Memory with Essential Oils

I sat down to blog about the physiological benefit of using certain essential oils during pregnancy and labor. I wanted to write about how certain oils can activate certain parts of your nervous system, oils that help with hormone regulation, oils that are calming and pain relieving. The concept for this post quickly changed when I asked Hannah from Oily Wife Life for her opinion and research on which oils are safe and effective during labor. She gave me the most beautiful answer and it broadened my perspective on the use of oils entirely.


Have you ever heard that some women pick a "signature scent" for their wedding? It's a specific perfume that they choose to wear during their wedding (different from their regular daily scent). In the future, every time they smell that perfume, it brings them back to their wedding day. This is called an Olfactory Memory. Your nervous system analyzes and records every thought and feeling that you have ever had, including information from all five senses. Although a scent may not always provoke visual memory, it can provoke other parts of your system to feel similar to when you first experienced that scent. For me, Olfactory Memories are emotion provoking.


Hannah suggests finding an oil that is relaxing, uplifting, or just smells really good to you and using it as an "anchoring oil" throughout pregnancy or while trying to conceive. She says, "I diffused Citrus Bliss often through my pregnancy, added it into my hair many days, took deep breaths from the bottle when I was picturing labor and meeting my baby and mentally preparing. Then during labor it was the main oil I wanted to smell and have around. It laid on a towel by my head while I was laboring and just kept inhaling it frequently through labor. Now it has a strong memory association for me and takes me right back to the experience of laboring to meet my baby. And it’s the best! I love smell memory connections and encourage cultivating one just for the happy feelings." The same way Hannah inhaling Citrus Bliss takes her back to her experience in labor, smelling it during labor could take her back to the calm and encouraged state that she was in while smelling the oil and thinking forward to labor and holding her baby.


Hannah recommended some DōTERRA oils that are safe and helpful during labor to diffuse, drop on a towel near mom's head, etc. The first set of oils she recommended are oils that help you feel calm and grounded. These include:

  • Balance--a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus

  • Lavender

  • Serenity--a blend of Lavender, Cedarwood, Ho Wood, Ylang Ylang, Marjoram, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver Root, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Hawaiian Sandalwood

  • Adaptiv--Wild Orange, Lavender, Copaiba, Spearmint, Magnolia, Rosemary, Neroli, and Sweetgum

  • Align--a blend of Bergamot, Coriander, Marjoram, Peppermint, Geranium, Basil, Jasmine absolute, and Rose

  • Peace-- a blend of Vetiver, Lavender, Cananga, Clary Sage,Marjoram, Cistus, Mint (Clary Sage on its own is great for encouraging the continuation of contractions and can be applied to uterine pulse points)

There are also oils that are energizing and uplifting:

  • Citrus Bliss--Wild Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit, Mandarin, Bergamot, Tangerine, Clementine essential oils and Vanilla Bean.

  • Arise-- Lemon, Grapefruit, Siberian Fir, Half Moon. Osmanthus, and Melissa

  • Citrus Bloom-- Wild Orange, Grapefruit, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Magnolia

  • Wild Orange

Clary Sage is widely used during labor. Clary Sage is known for its calming effect. This oil has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and is a natural antidepressant. Women have used Clary Sage in an attempt to naturally induce labor, decrease stress during labor, decrease the pain of contractions, and in many other aspects of labor. You can even use Clary Sage topically on specific pulse points to ease pain.

On top of the advice from Hannah, there are many physiological benefits from essential oils that you can learn from the DōTERRa website, other essential oil company websites, peer reviewed research, or from instagram users like Hannah that do the research for you (@oilywifelife).

**Although these oils are considered safe to use during pregnancy, some oils are not. It is important to do research and/or ask a provider for information about adding any oils to your routine.






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