Using Essential Oils Throughout your Pregnancy
Plenty of changes take place during pregnancy, both physically and emotionally. The use of essential oils can help a mama-to-be have an easier and more enjoyable motherhood transition. You may be new to the use of essential oils so I want you to know what essential oils are, how oils can help throughout your pregnancy, and the safety measures to take into account.
*All the information on this page is for educational purposes. It is not meant to be used to diagnose, prescribe or treat any diseases or injury. Seek information from your care provider if you have any questions, comments or concerns.*
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are sourced from plants, flowers, and seeds and are isolated or extracted by steam distillation or a mechanical process. This distillation process makes essential oils very concentrated making them far more potent than dried herbs. Since essential oils are volatile compounds, they are fragrant and thus are used in aromatherapy. Amy Galper, the executive director and founder of New York Institute of Aromatherapy defines essential oils as “plant medicine” and that “aromatherapy understands that our sense of smell is deeply connected to the overall health and wellness of our whole being” (1). From ancient writings and traditions, it seems aromatherapy has been used for rituals, physical needs, and treatment of illness dating back to 4500 BC. Evidence even suggests that the people of the ancient times may have had a greater understanding of essential oils than we have today. Luckily, as more health care practitioners, doctors, and scientists continue to study essential oils, it may open up new doors and ways to use this plant medicine.
Are Essential Oils Safe During Pregnancy?
Using essential oils during pregnancy can be a controversial topic that continues to be studied. The biggest concern is the risk of essential oil metabolites passing into the placenta. It is thought that essential oil metabolites may cross the placenta due to the close but not direct contact between maternal and fetal blood (2). However, crossing the placenta doesn’t necessarily mean a toxic effect to the fetus, states Balacs and Tisserand. In actuality, toxicity levels depend on the plasma concentration of the oil compound (3).
Another common myth or fear held by moms is that massage oils containing Clary Sage, Rose or even Rosemary (all essential oils) may increase or cause miscarriage and thus should strongly be avoided throughout pregnancy. There have been a number of authors such as Ron Guba, Chrissie Wildwood, and Kurt Schnaubelt who have all verified that there has been “no recorded cases of miscarriage and/or birth defect directly resulting from essential oil based massage (4,5,6). Ron Guba further states that recorded essential oil toxicity during pregnancy is almost solely due to pregnant women taking large toxic doses of oils such as pennyroyal and parsley seed (4). Research is now showing a positive effect from essential oils for moms to help common symptoms that show up in pregnancy such as nausea, swelling, low back pain, and improved sleep to name a few!
That being said, aromatherapy or essential oil use during pregnancy is best used under the guidance of your care provider, whether that is a OB-GYN, Midwife, naturopath or other professionals your care provider may recommend.
What Oils Can I Use?
Your body is undergoing some amazing changes so even oils that are considered safe during pregnancy may still cause an unwanted reaction (case by case situation). Thus, when using oils while pregnant, it is usually best to dilute the pure essential oil with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil to name a few). A good rule of thumb is to dilute 1-2 drops of essential oil with ½-1 tsp of carrier oil.
The following are essential oils and a few of their uses during pregnancy.
*Consult your care provider first if you are suffering from any of these symptoms prior to self administering essential oils as therapy*
|Tension/Anxiety||Lavender, ylang ylang, melissa||Diffuse or dilute and rub on neck, temples, chest, shoulders or reflex points on feet|
|Softening Perineum||Geranium||Dilute and massage perineum|
|Nausea and Morning Sickness||1-Ginger, peppermint
2- Cardamom, ginger,sweet orange
|1-Dilute and apply 1-3 drops on ears, jaw bone and feet reflex points
2- Diffuse or inhale
|Back and Leg Cramps||Lavender, roman chamomile or sweet marjoram, geranium||Make a Bath Blend (2 drops lavender, 2 drops roman chamomile, 2 drops geranium, 1 tbsp liquid castile soap, 1 cup epsom salt|
|Soothe Muscle Aches||Lavender, ylang ylang, ginger, chamomile, frankincense||Add total of 12 drops of essential oils to 2 tbsp of a carrier oil and rub on affected areas|
|Hemorrhoids||Tea tree, cypress, geranium, lavender||Blend together two drops of each oil, add 2 tbsp of aloe vera gel and apply to affected area with a cotton ball|
|Improve Sleep||Lavender, ylang ylang, mandarin, frankincense||Blend together 2 drops of each oil and either diffuse or add to 2 tbsp of distilled water in a spray-mist bottle and mist pillows before bed|
|Reduce Stretch Marks||Lavender, myrrh||Blend 2 drops of each oil to a carrier oil and apply to affected area|
|Numbness and Tingling in the Hands||Lemon Grass||Dilute 3 drops and apply to hands nightly|
*The above recommendations were found from multiple sources (1,7,8) *
What Oils Should I Avoid?
Due to the lack of direct and clear information regarding the toxic effects of certain oils during pregnancy, it is safe to follow recommended safety guidelines and avoid these oils (4).
- Basil ct.estragole
- Boldo Leaf
- Carrot Seed
- Parsley Seed/leaf
- Tansy (*Blue Tansy is safe)
There are a number of essential oils that are listed as unsafe (some due to lack of research) but the ones listed above are the most common and widely cited. Know what you put on or what goes into your body and be sure to do your own research.
Essential oil use or aromatherapy can be an invaluable companion during pregnancy and the motherhood transition. It is a safe and effective tool, however make sure that safety remains a priority for you and your little. Pay attention to which oils are safe and which should be avoided and use the oils correctly. If you would like more information on essential oils look to a BIRTHFIT Leader or your care provider for guidance.
Have a great concoction that has helped you throughout your pregnancy?
We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Jill CameronBIRTHFIT RFV @birthfit_rfv
- Burfield, T. (2004). Opinion Document to NAHA: A Brief Safety Guidance on Essential Oils. NAHA document no longer available.
- Tisserand, R., and Balacs, T. (1995). Essential Oil Safety. New York: Churchill Livingstone
- Guba, R. (2000). Toxicity Myths. International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol 10.½
- Wildwood, C. (2000). Of Cabbages & Kings Aromatherapy Myths, part II. Aromatherapy Today, 14, p. 12–14.
- Schnaubelt, K. (2004). Aromatherapy Lifestyle. San Rafael, CA: Terra Linda Scent.