doulas and essential oils, essential oils, doulas scope of practice

Doulas and Essential Oils

Essential Oils and Induction

Essential oils have been around for centuries and have recently risen in popularity again. These are oils that have been infused with various herbs and possess many useful properties (when used correctly). However, sometimes doulas prescribe them for various ailments, or desires, of their clients without thinking about the consequences. If a client is approaching their due date, they may ask their doula about ways to get labor “moving along.” Any suggestion towards ways to induce labor, including suggesting certain oils, is outside of a doula’s scope of practice and tip-toes into the realm of medical practice. If something were to go wrong, a doula could be held liable for giving medical advice and prescribing treatment.

Essential Oils and Labor

One of the first questions new doulas ask is, “What should I pack in my doula bag?” About half of the responses to these questions include suggestions of various oils and their uses. A new doula stocks up on these oils without understanding their proper usage, risks, or benefits. That doula then becomes liable the minute she chooses to use those oils at a birth.

In addition to the liability of giving medical advice and treatment without a proper medical (or herbalist) license, clients and babies could be severely injured by these oils. Burns, rashes, permanent damage, and seizures are just a few of the things that have been reported by misuse of essential oils.

Should a client decide themselves that they want to purchase and use essential oils, that takes the responsibility out of the doula’s hands and places it firmly in the client’s. A client may decide to diffuse an oil during labor or to use a particular oil after clearing it with her care provider. Both of these options are suitable as the doula is not the one suggesting the usage of oil for any particular ailment.

The Bottom Line

It is outside of a doula’s scope of practice to use or prescribe usage of essential oils to their clients, while in the role of a doula. This trespasses into medical advice. A doula could be held liable should anything detrimental happen to her client or the client’s baby because of the doula’s usage, or suggested usage, of any particular oil. It simply isn’t worth it to cross that line and is best to suggest for clients to discuss any desires, cares, or concerns with their primary care provider.


About the Author

Christine Santos

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Owner of Sun State Doulas, Christine is passionate about pregnancy, birth, and parenting issues that affect mainstream families. She is mother to 3 girls and is an active member of the roller derby community. Her favorite quote is, “Not my body, not my baby, not my birth, not my choice.”

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