As essential oils grow in popularity, there’s also a growing need for an open and accurate discussion about essential oils and pregnancy.
This article is designed to do just that.
I had one main goal: to give you a comprehensive and unbiased resource that you can refer to anytime you have questions about the use of essential oils during pregnancy.
All of the information in this post comes from:
- NAHA – National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (source)
- IFPA – International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (1, 2)
- The U.K’s NHS – National Health Service (source)
- The work of essential oil expert, Dr. Robert Tisserand, and the Tisserand Institute
- The Plant Therapy blog (Dr. Tisserand was a tester/formulator for Plant Therapy and some specific content on their blog has his stamp of approval)
- Mayo Clinic Health System (source)
- Parents magazine (source)
So, if you’re ready to learn more about how to use essential oils during pregnancy, then keep reading!
Note: this post contains some affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you use them.
BENEFITS OF USING ESSENTIAL OILS DURING PREGNANCY
Using essential oils during pregnancy provides physical and emotional benefits such as:
- Creating a sense of relaxation.
- Releasing stress and tension.
- Relieving physical discomfort (such as nausea)
In addition, the use of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage during labor can also help:
- Increase relaxation
- Reduce anxiety (which lowers the perception of pain)
- Reduce nausea
- Make contractions more effective
- Enhance the emotional connection between you and your little one
- Support post-birth recovery
It’s important to note that both the IFPA and the NHS mention working with a “supportive therapist,” midwife or aromatherapist.
So, if you’d like to use essential oils throughout your pregnancy and/or during labor, consider working with a health professional who is well versed in aromatherapy.
ESSENTIAL OILS IN THE FIRST TRIMESTER
Depending on which essential oil expert you come across, you get different responses about the safety of essential oils during the first trimester.
For example, the NAHA quotes one expert who says that “there are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses due to the ‘normal’ use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application.”
Over at Parents magazine, their expert prefers to be extra cautious. She recommends that pregnant women avoid the use of all essential oils during the first trimester.
As for the IFPA, they are of the same mindset as the NAHA: essential oils can be used throughout pregnancy, as long as the right safety precautions are followed.
So, is it safe to use essential oils during the first trimester?
Well, based on my research, there’s isn’t a conclusive answer.
In the same way that very few drugs are tested for pregnancy safety, there isn’t much testing around the safety of essential oils for mothers-to-be.
Therefore, whether or not you use essential oils during the first trimester is ultimately up to you.
From where I’m standing, there are 3 options you can choose from:
- Consult with an aromatherapist who can guide you and work with you on your specific needs.
- Use the references in this article to do more research.
- Take the cautious path and avoid all essential oils during the first trimester.
ESSENTIAL OILS THAT ARE SAFE FOR PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING
Once you get past the first trimester, experts agree that it’s okay to use pregnancy safe essential oils.
One of the reasons why it’s safer to use essential oils in the second and third trimester is because women develop more fat layers as pregnancy progresses.
And coincidentally, essential oils dissolve in fat.
This means that any essential oils you use will sit in those fat layers and will be released at a slower pace into your tissues.
This also means that lesser quantities of essential oils can cross the placenta (as long as you follow the proper safety guidelines that are outlined later in this article).
So, with that understanding in mind, here are some essential oils that are safe for pregnancy use:
|Blue Tansy||Marjoram (sweet)|
|Chamomile (German and Roman)||Rose|
|Citronella||Sandalwood (Indian and Australian)|
|Coriander seed||Sweet Orange|
The above list is a combination of information from the NAHA and the Plant Therapy blog.
For a complete list of the essential oils that are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding see this list from Plant Therapy.
The list was created by Plant Therapy’s aromatherapists and it’s also been approved by essential oil expert, Dr. Robert Tisserand.
It’s the most comprehensive I’ve found that clearly outlines what’s safe to use.
In addition, here are a few known uses of specific essential oils for pregnant women.
|Lavender||anxiety, stretch marks, abdominal discomfort|
|Rose||anxiety, can help during labor if contractions slow down|
|Roman chamomile||heartburn, stretch marks|
|Sweet orange||morning sickness, hemorrhoids, varicose veins|
|Petitgrain||morning sickness, water retention|
|Sandalwood||heartburn, hemorrhoids, varicose veins|
GUIDELINES FOR HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS WHILE PREGNANT
1. Use A 1% Dilution For All Topical Application
Across the board, all essential oil experts state that undiluted essential oils should not be applied on the skin while pregnant.
Instead, always do a 1% dilution (or less).
The best way to dilute essential oils is to use a carrier oil, such as coconut, olive, almond, jojoba or grapeseed oil.
Below is a chart that shows you how many drops of essential oil to use for a 0.5% or 1% dilution, along with how much carrier oil you need.
|10ml||1 drop||3 drops|
|15ml||2 drops||4 drops|
|20ml||3 drops||6 drops|
|30ml (1oz)||4 drops||9 drops|
|50ml||7 drops||15 drops|
|60ml (2oz)||8 drops||18 drops|
2. Don’t Exceed 4 Drops for Baths
Aromatherapy baths provide a lot of physical and emotional benefits during pregnancy.
Just make sure to use no more than 4 drops of essential oils when you take that relaxing soak.
3. Do Not Ingest Essential Oils
Although there are cases when essential oils can be ingested (under supervision of an aromatherapist), it’s best to completely avoid this particular practice throughout pregnancy.
4. Use Good Quality Essential Oils
One of the tricky things about essential oils is that there is no governing body that regulates them.
This means, companies can sell fake oils as “therapeutic” and companies can make lavish claims about their oils being perfectly grown or sourced.
As a consumer, you need to protect yourself (and your baby) by tuning out all the fancy marketing talk.
Instead, focus on finding reliable brands that make good quality oils. Below are a few things to look for when buying essential oils.
Tested or endorsed by respected essential oils experts.
There are many essential oil experts out there. However, the two that I am personally aware of are Dr’s Robert Tisserand and Robert Pappas.
Dr. Tisserand has worked with Plant Therapy, while Dr Pappas has worked with Plant Therapy, Eden’s Garden and doTerra.
Third-party GCMS reports
GCMS tests and reports are used to validate the quality of each batch of essential oils.
Although GCMS tests are not 100% perfect, they are the standard.
The brands that I personally prefer, such as Plant Therapy and Eden’s Garden, show their GCMS reports on their website.
As a consumer seeing these reports increases my confidence level in a brand. So, check to see if the brand(s) you use have these reports.
Also, keep in mind that ideally, the GCMS testing should be done by an independent, third-party lab. If it is done by the company itself, there’s greater chance of bias.
Most essential oils are made by steam distillation.
However, another process, known as CO2 extraction, can actually produce better quality oils.
This is mainly because CO2 extraction actually retains some molecules that would normally escape during steam distillation.
So, if you come across CO2 essential oils that are pure, give them a try. They are great quality oils.
Just keep in mind that CO2 oils can be adulterated too. Nothing’s perfect or guaranteed.
One brand that uses CO2 extraction is Ancient Apothecary (from Dr. Josh Axe of draxe.com). If you’d like to check out CO2 oils, that is one brand you should consider.
ESSENTIAL OILS THAT CAUSE MISCARRIAGE
According to an article from the NAHA, there are “no recorded cases of miscarriage or birth defect resulting from aromatherapy massage using therapeutic applications of any essential oil.”
In addition, the article highlights the fact that reports of toxicity during pregnancy are usually caused by:
- Using excessive doses of essential oils, or…
- Using highly toxic essential oils that are not safe for anyone (including pregnant women)
So, based on the above, you should avoid the following essential oils 100% of the time (whether you’re pregnant or not):
OTHER ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY
Based on information from Parents magazine, the NAHA and the IFPA you’re better off skipping the following oils throughout pregnancy:
|Boldo leaf||Jaborandi leaf|
|Camphor (brown or yellow)||Mustard|
|Clary sage||Parsley (seed and leaf)|
|Clove (bud, leaf and stem)||Pine (dwarf)|
|Tarragon||Thyme red (large doses)|
THE BENEFITS OF PEPPERMINT ESSENTIAL OIL DURING PREGNANCY AND HOW TO USE IT
Peppermint essential oil has cooling properties that make it beneficial for headaches and migraines.
In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, not only does peppermint oil ease pregnancy headaches, it also:
- Relieves nausea
- Improves nasal congestion
- Soothes muscles aches
- Helps postpartum women who have difficulty urinating
Just smelling peppermint oil is usually enough to provide the benefits listed above.
To enjoy these aromatherapy benefits, you can either:
- place a few drops of peppermint oil in a diffuser.
- place 2 to 3 drops peppermint oil on a cotton ball and inhale.
NOTE: while peppermint oil is safe during pregnancy, it should be avoided while breastfeeding.
Is Eucalyptus Oil Safe During Pregnancy?
Yes, according to information from the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, Plant Therapy and the U.K’s National Health Service, eucalyptus is safe to use during pregnancy. Some benefits of eucalyptus oil includes relieving the common cold, sore throats and cough.
So, are essential oils safe to use while pregnant?
Based on recommendations from essential oil experts, some essential oils (such as lavender, peppermint and chamomile oils) can be used during pregnancy, as long as the proper safety precautions are taken. Other oils, like oregano, nutmeg and clove bud oils, should be avoided throughout pregnancy.
Finding reliable information about essential oils for pregnant women can be tricky.
My hope is that the resources in this article help to simplify your research time and give you more clarity.
So, if this article was helpful, save it or pin it for future reference.
And if you know anyone else that would benefit from this info, please share this article with them.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback about essential oil use in pregnancy, drop a comment below 🙂