When you become pregnant, there is a whole laundry list of dos and don’ts to get acquainted with. Do take prenatal vitamins, schedule regular visits with your obstetrician, drink lots of water and eat plenty of protein. Don’t eat processed foods like hot dogs, avoid high-mercury fish like tuna, no raw eggs or offal, and limit your caffeine intake. No to amusement park rides and rigorous sports but yes to low impact exercise like walking and yoga. Getting a manicure, whitening your teeth, shvitzing in a sauna, and scooping the kitty litter are all big no-nos.
Aromatherapy with essential oils is frequently found on the don’ts list. And yet therapeutic use of EOs during and after pregnancy can help soothe and alleviate many of the less desirable symptoms of gestation naturally. There is certainly some stigma involved when it comes to essential oils and pregnancy. Let’s dispel some of these myths…
What is the Risk of Using Essential Oils During Pregnancy?
The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) both agree that essential oils can be used safely during pregnancy. Although there have been no recorded cases of essential oils harming pregnancies or unborn children, the concern is that the concentrated constituents in an essential oil can cross into the placenta and affect the developing fetus.
We know that essential oils are powerful stuff, with the ability to stimulate brain receptors to positively impact our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. In adults, inhalation and topical application of diluted essential oils has a near-instantaneous effect.
During pregnancy, a thicker layer of fat develops beneath the skin. Since essential oils are fat soluble, this added padding provides a slower release of beneficial compounds to the rest of the body. By keeping essential oil use at a low dose, only miniscule amounts would be gradually metabolized throughout bodily tissues. It is very likely that essential oils will cross the placenta, but there is no evidence that these low doses are toxic to the baby.
Although some pregnancy websites and mommy blogs state that essential oils should be skipped altogether until the second trimester due to fears that they can cause miscarriages, promote contractions, or induce labor, the NAHA and IFPA guidelines do not share this concern. Rather, both associations recommend keeping essential oil use at low doses.
As always, it’s best to discuss essential oil use with your healthcare provider first.
While no one wants to be tricked into purchasing synthetic botanical oil, pregnant women should be especially vigilant and use only natural, therapeutic grade, 100% pure essential oils.
Synthetic oils are not derived from plants but are made entirely in a laboratory. The artificial fragrance that mimics the genuine botanical one is mostly derived from petroleum. And using crude oil as the main ingredient means exposure to dangerous toxins like toluene, formaldehyde, parabens, and styrene to name a few. These chemicals are notably carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and allergenic; they can disrupt the endocrine system and irritate the respiratory tract.
Some fragrance oils are shrewdly marketed to take advantage of unwitting customers. To determine whether an oil is fake, check the bottle label for these details:
- Is the Latin name of the plant provided?
- Is there a statement about purity?
- Compared with other brands, is the price too good to be true?
- Is it made by a reputable company?
Of all the essential oil makers out there, Plant Therapy is among the most trusted brands and the one that we consistently recommend for their quality, affordability and customer service.
Use a 1% Dilution or Less
In general, using a 2% essential oil dilution for massage and other topical applications is considered safe for adults.
For expecting moms, less is more. When using essential oils on the skin, add only 3 to 6 drops per ounce of carrier oil. In the bath, add no more than 4 drops of essential oil to the water. Because pregnant women tend to have a heightened sense of smell, you may need to experiment with the amount of drops that work best for you.
Which Essential Oils Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
The vast majority of essential oils are safe to use when pregnant. The IFPA advises that essential oils containing phenols, ethers, and aromatic aldehydes are best avoided since they can irritate the skin in some users. Here are a few examples of oils that should not be used until after the baby is born:
- Anise Star (Illicium verum)
- Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
- Cinnamon (Cinnamomum camphora)
- Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Cumin (Cumimum cyminum)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
- Oregano (Origanum compactum)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
- Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Which Essential Oils are Safe to Use When Pregnant?
Fortunately many of the most common and cherished essential oils are completely safe to use throughout the entirety of the pregnancy. These essential oils have a safe track record when used responsibly:
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
- Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Eucalptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
- Juniper (Juniperus communis)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Lemon (Citrus limon)
- Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
- Neroli (Citrus x aurantium)
- Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
- Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
You can purchase all of the above essential oils from this page on the Plant Therapy official website.
13 Ways Essential Oils Can Help Alleviate the Discomforts of Pregnancy
Carrying a little human in the womb for nine months isn’t easy. Get some relief from your pregnancy-related woes with these essential oil recipes:
- Diffuse sweet orange or mandarin oil for instant relief from nausea.
- Dilute lavender, ginger, and sandalwood in coconut oil and massage into your belly.
- In a bowl of water, add 3 drops of grapefruit oil and place it on your bedside table before bed.
- Inhale ginger or lavender oil directly from the bottle.
- Put a few drops of sandalwood or Roman chamomile in a diffuser.
- Using a spray bottle, dilute lavender with water and spritz your sheets before bedtime.
- Draw up a warm bath and add 4 drops of lavender or bergamot to the water.
- Dilute geranium or ylang ylang in a carrier oil and massage into the sore spots.
- Soak in a warm bath with eucalyptus, frankincense, or black pepper. Add some epsom salts to enhance the effect.
- Blend one drop each of lavender, lemon, geranium, and ginger with coconut oil and massage into swollen feet and ankles.
- Add juniper to a tub of water and soak your feet for 20 minutes.
- Blend together 3 ounces of cocoa butter, 1 ounce of avocado oil, and 4 drops of either neroli, lavender, frankincense, lemon, or Roman chamomile. Massage onto the abdomen, thighs, and breasts.
- Add juniper or lavender to a carrier oil and massage into the belly to soothe a growing baby bump.
- Blend cypress, sweet marjoram, or neroli with grapeseed oil and rub all over the lower abdomen.
- Make a cool compress by soaking a cloth in a blend of 5 drops of cypress and 4 cups of water. Apply to problem areas while keeping your legs elevated.
- Blend 3 tablespoons of shea butter with sandalwood or sweet orange and massage onto your legs.
- Breathe in lemon, eucalyptus, or sweet orange oil from the bottle to alleviate fatigue.
- Diffuse a blend of lemon, lime, and grapefruit oils.
- Add 4 drops of bergamot, geranium, or sweet orange to your bath water.
Rebalance Your Hormones
- Add 1 drop each of clary sage, geranium, lavender, and chamomile to a warm bath.
- Inhale or diffuse lemon or frankincense oil.
- Blend sandalwood, ylang ylang, or clary sage in a carrier oil and massage into your skin.
Calm the Nerves
- Inhale lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, or frankincense directly from the bottle to quickly de-stress.
- Dilute 3 drops of lavender oil with 1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil and massage into your neck or the soles of your feet.
Relief from Postpartum Depression
- Using a 2% blend of lavender and rose oil is very effective in fighting postpartum depression and anxiety.
- Bergamot, Roman chamomile, ylang ylang, and sandalwood are excellent mood boosters.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of postpartum depression, please discuss it with your doctor to help manage your symptoms and receive prompt treatment.