Objectives: This study's aims are to examine the effects of aromatherapy massage on women's stress and immune function during pregnancy.
Methods: This longitudinal, prospective, randomized controlled trial recruited 52 healthy pregnant women from a prenatal clinic in Taipei using convenience sampling. The participants were randomly assigned to the intervention (n = 24) or control (n = 28) group using Clinstat block randomization. The intervention group received 70 min of aromatherapy massage with 2% lavender essential oil every other week (10 times in total) for 20 weeks; the control group received only routine prenatal care. In both groups, participants' salivary cortisol and immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels were collected before and after the intervention group received aromatherapy massage (every month from 16 to 36 weeks gestation) and were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: The pregnant women in the intervention group had lower salivary cortisol (p < 0.001) and higher IgA (p < 0.001) levels immediately after aromatherapy massage than those in the control group, which did not receive massage treatment. Comparing the long-term effects of aromatherapy massage on salivary IgA levels between groups at different times, the study found that the pretest salivary IgA levels at 32 (p = 0.002) and 36 (p < 0.001) weeks gestational age (GA) were significantly higher than the pretest IgA at 16 weeks GA (baseline).
Conclusions: This study presented evidence that aromatherapy massage could significantly decrease stress and enhance immune function in pregnant women. The findings can guide clinicians or midwives in providing aromatherapy massage to women throughout the pregnancy.
Keywords: aromatherapy; immune function; immunoglobulin A; massage; salivary cortisol; stress.