How to Use Essential Oils Safely During Pregnancy
By Caryn Gehlmann
“Can I use essential oils safely during pregnancy?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear as a clinical aromatherapist. This topic requires a thorough, thoughtful answer, so I decided it was time to cover this in more depth.
First and foremost, I recommend you always consult your health care professional before using essential oils during pregnancy. Also, don’t forget that beyond your pregnancy, you might have other health considerations to keep in mind. Our approach at essential 3 is to always lean toward caution and best safety practices.
If you do choose to use essential oils during your pregnancy, go about it slowly and systematically. Listen to your nose and to your body. Studies show that as many as two-thirds of pregnant women become more sensitive to scents when they’re pregnant. If you get a negative reaction to an essential oil’s scent, steer clear of it!
Essential Oils to be Avoided During Pregnancy
Birch – Betula alba
Camphor – Cinnamomum camphora
Carrot Seed – Daucus carota
Cassia – Cinnamomum cassia
Chaste Tree/Vitex – Vitex agnus castus
Cinnamon Bark – Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Ho leaf – Cinnamomum camphora
Hyssop – Hyssopus officinalis
Lavender Sage – Salvia lavandulifolia
Oakmoss – Evernia prunastri
Oregano – Origanum vulgare
Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris
Myrrh – Commiphora myrrha
Parsley leaf and seed – Petroselinum crispum / Petroselinum sativum
Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium
Rue – Ruta graveolens
Sage – Salvia officinalis
Spanish Sage – Salvia lavandulaefolia
Western Red Cedar – Thuja plicata
Wintergreen – Gaultheria procumbens
This list is just a starting point, there are other essential oils that may not be recommended during pregnancy. Read the label of any essential oil you use for more information.
Essential Oils Generally Thought of as Safe During Pregnancy
Again, this isn’t necessarily a complete list so do your homework and read all labels!
How to Use Essential Oils Safely During Pregnancy
Inhalation is often the quickest, most effective way to safely trigger the intended effects in your body. A research study of pregnant women found aromatherapy inhalation using essential oils containing linalyl acetate and linalool effective for parasympathetic nerve activity. In other words, it helped moms kick into a more relaxed state of mind.
Another benefit of inhalation is it’s easy to change your mind, if the scent is not working for you, turn off the diffuser! However, inhalation doesn’t require a diffuser, aromatherapy inhalers, or even a cotton ball or tissue with a few drops of essential oils allows you to take your aromatherapy with you.
Morning Sickness Tip
Many find e3’s Nausea Relief blend to be a lifesaver in the morning. Use it in an aromatherapy inhaler, or place 2-4 drops of essential oil on several cotton balls or tissues; place nearby or tuck into the grate of fan or air vent in your home or car. You can also try doing the same thing with lemon essential oil, which research shows to be effective for morning sickness.
Another way to benefit from essential oils during pregnancy is by applying them topically. This requires extra caution. Some experts recommend you steer clear of applying essential oils topically during the first three months of pregnancy. Also, never ingest essential oils when you’re pregnant. Read more about the dangers of ingestion in my article, Food Grade Essential Oils — What Does That Mean?
The key to safe topical use of essential oils when pregnant is dilution. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated so diluting with a carrier is an important safety recommendation. In e3’s Dilution Guidelines, as a general rule, we recommend 0.5% – 1% dilutions for children, elderly, frail, pregnant, or individuals with health concerns.
Itchy Belly Tip
Many women deal with itchy skin as they enter their last trimester. A study showed that diluting Peppermint essential oil with a carrier provided relief. You could try Jojoba, Calendula, or Fractionated Coconut Oil. You could blend peppermint oil with e3’s all-natural massage lotion for a natural, steroid-free, way to find itch relief!
Other application methods include body sprays, foot baths, aromatherapy baths and showers, and more. If you find a recipe you’d like to try and there are no instructions specific for pregnancy:
- First, make sure it contains essential oils safe to use during pregnancy.
- Then, dilute it a little more than the general recommendation. Start slow!
Massage can be very relaxing and help relieve tension, stress, and minor ailments during pregnancy. JoAnn Lewis, a massage therapist and educator, recommended to us the following when using essential oils for massage:
During pregnancy, dilution is important, so use a maximum of 2-5 drops per 50ml of massage oil of no more than 3 oils or use in a spray bottle of water or a room air diffuser. During pregnancy, these are the essential oils I recommend: Lavender (low level), Geranium, Cypress (low level), Chamomile, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin, Orange, or Pine.
For a Postnatal massage use oils as for pregnancy and/or Bergamot (Antidepressant), Frankincense (skin aid), Neroli, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Rose, Ylang-ylang. Be careful to avoid breast area if breastfeeding your baby and handle oils with care so you don’t inadvertently pass them on to your baby. It’s also good to keep in mind that mothers and babies bond through smell, so if you’re breastfeeding, it’s best to use an essential oil only if it is absolutely necessary and for a specific reason.
The bottom line if you choose to use essential oils during pregnancy, take it slow and educate yourself on different essential oils and safe application methods. Feel free to reach out to e3’s team of clinical aromatherapists if you have questions. For tips on how to use essential oils safely and effectively as well as various uses and application methods to improve your health and wellbeing, download the free ebook, “Listen” to Your Nose – An Introduction to Aromatherapy.