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December 2013

Lavender Aromatherapy May Help Relieve Pain After C-Section

Lavender may be an effective part of a combination treatment for pain after Cesarean section, but may not be recommended as the only therapy, a study reports.

A Cesarean section (C-section) is surgery to deliver a baby. The baby is taken out through the mother's abdomen. In the United States, about one in four women have their babies this way. Most C-sections are done when unexpected problems happen during delivery. These include: carrying more than one baby; health problems in the mother, such as diabetes or high blood pressure; the position of the baby; not enough room for the baby to go through the vagina; or signs of distress in the baby. The surgery is relatively safe for mother and baby. Still, it is major surgery and carries risks. It also takes longer to recover from a C-section than from vaginal birth. After healing, the incision may leave a weak spot in the wall of the uterus. This could cause problems with an attempted vaginal birth later. However, more than half of women who have a C-section can give vaginal birth later. Individuals can discuss options during childbirth before the due date in order to alleviate any added stress during labor and delivery.

Lavender aromatherapy has been previously studied for the treatment of pain after undergoing a Cesarean section. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, Russia, and Africa. It has been used in cosmetics and medicine throughout history. In modern times, lavender is cultivated around the world and the fragrant oils of its flowers are used in aromatherapy, baked goods, candles, cosmetics, detergents, jellies, massage oils, perfumes, powders, shampoo, soaps, and tea. English lavender is the most common type of lavender used. Many people find lavender aromatherapy to be relaxing. Overall, evidence suggests that lavender reduces anxiety, although additional research is needed to draw firm conclusions. Lavender aromatherapy is also used to help with sleep, decrease pain, and mental performance among other uses. However, there is insufficient evidence to support lavender's effectiveness.

In the current study, researchers recruited 60 pregnant women who had been admitted to a general hospital to undergo a C-section. The subjects were randomly divided into two groups, one of which inhaled three drops of 10 percent lavender oil essence after undergoing the procedure, while the other group inhaled three drops of placebo. The aromatherapy took place after the start of post-surgery pain, four, eight, and 12 hours later, for a duration of five minutes each.

The authors found that women in the lavender group reported less post-surgery pain four hours after the first medication, compared to the placebo group. The lavender group also had a lower heart rate and greater satisfaction with pain relief. The use of other treatments for complete pain relief was significantly higher in the placebo group than the lavender group.

The researchers concluded that inhaled lavender essence may be an effective part of a combination treatment for pain after C-section. However, it may not be as effective when used alone. Further study is needed to confirm these results.

For more information about lavender, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Olapour A, Behaeen K, Akhondzadeh R, et al. The Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Blend containing Lavender Essential Oil on Cesarean Postoperative Pain. Anesth Pain Med. 2013 Summer;3(1):203-7. doi: 10.5812/aapm.9570. Epub 2013 Jul 1. 

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