Using Essential Oils During Pregnancy: Tips, Precautions, Best Ones to Use, and Which to Avoid

Benefits of Essential Oils During Pregnancy

Essential oils are derived from herbs, flowers, plants and trees. They are distilled to produce a concentrated liquid. The oil vaporizes easily in the air, has a pleasant smell and is entirely natural.

The distilled liquid contains elements which help to keep the plant healthy and protect it from bacteria and other threats. These elements, when used on the human body, can have similar effects. Using essential oils can help alleviate the feelings of stress and promote relaxation.

Popular Uses of Essential Oils

Essential oils often are used in skin care products to improve the appearance of skin that is dull, dry and dehydrated. They are used in massage and aromatherapy as a way to enhance the feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Another popular use for essential oils is to promote well being. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to destress and relax the body and mind. Holistic wellness provides you with a natural approach that brings feelings of balance to your spiritual, physical and mental well being as a whole, to help you feel the best you can feel, during times of stress and illness.

The Benefits of Essential Oils in Pregnancy

Essential oils can assist with the feelings of discomfort experienced throughout the pregnancy. They can help ease the sensations associated with nausea, help improve the appearance of the skin to minimize stretch marks. Some studies suggest they can even induce labor; however, pregnant women must take certain precautions before using essential oils. In order to enjoy the benefits of a massage or a relaxing bath, for example, you need to ensure you are using essentials that are safe pregnancy.

First Trimester:

In the First Trimester, you’ll probably need oils to help with queasiness and low energy levels. During this early stage of pregnancy, there are many essential oils that should be avoided. Always check with your doctor before incorporating them into your daily self-care habits.

Second Trimester

In the Second Trimester, essential oils can help a backache and, when added to a nourishing cream base, can assist the skin in looking more suppl and help with the look and feel of water retention. This also may carry over to the Third Trimester.

Third Trimester

By the Third Trimester, you might be experiencing a lack of sleep or anxiety which can be helped by inhaling essential oils or massaging into your skin.

How to Properly Use Essential Oils During Essential Oils

How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils can be diluted with a base oil and applied directly on to the skin. You can do this during a massage or apply the oils yourself at home. The type of base oil includes coconut, almond, avocado or jojoba oil. Or, you can use the oils you might have in your own kitchen, such as grapeseed, sunflower or olive oil. These oils are known in the field as a ‘carrier oils’. You can apply oils to most parts of your body including your temples for a headache, behind your ears and on the soles of your feet.

You can use the old fashioned method of putting a few drops of oil in a bowl of hot water and breathe in the vapour with a towel over your head. Or, for an easier method, apply a few drops to a tissue or cotton ball and hold a few inches from your nose and inhale, or take small sniffs of the oil directly from the bottle. You can also use a diffuser or a humidifier to circulate the aroma throughout your environment. Another way to use essential oils is to add them to a bath or make up a spray bottle with a mixture of essential oils and water and spray a room. You will need to shake the bottle well before spraying as the oil and water separate when not in use.

Precautions in Pregnancy

If you're using essential oils for the first time, it is best to avoid any use duirng the First Trimester. The exception is Lavender which can be used for inhalation when feeling nauseated. Starting with the Second Trimester, only use around 5 drops per ounce of carrier oil. Make sure you are using an oil that is recommended for use during pregnancy as not all oils are safe. Diluting the oil is especially important when you are pregnant if you are trying out something you haven’t used before. If you are using a recipe from a book, the general rule of thumb is use half the recommended amount.

If you are under the care of a medical professional, it is best to consult them before using essential oils; however, keep in mind that many medical professionals do not have a lot of detailed knowledge of essential oils unless they use them personally.

Remember that essential oils not only affect your body but also the baby. What is good for you may not be good for the baby. This is more important when you put essentials oil the body vs. inhaling the oils. You can use a diffuser and run it for 5-10 minutes every couple of hours. Keep in mind that the aroma is stronger and more concentrated than normal synthetic fragrances and you tend to be more sensitive to smells during pregnancy resulting in a headache or nausea. Using a blend of essential oils is better than using single oils.

In fact, according to the information on the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) website, there are no records of miscarriage or birth defects caused by the use of essential oils in pregnancy. You can read more about safety issues and the oils that shouldn’t be used on their safety information page.

The safest oil to use during pregnancy is Lavender Oil and even this oil should be used in half dilutions.

General Safety

Always follow the instructions on the bottle. Bear in mind there are certain oils that shouldn’t be used when you are pregnant. Always consult a professional before you begin using an oil during pregnancy. Here are some other basic guidelines:

  • Don’t get oil near your eyes, wash your hands after use.
  • All essential oils should be diluted before any contact with your skin.
  • You shouldn’t ingest an essential oil; they are for external use only.
  • Essential oils should be kept at room temperature or cooler in a tightly closed container.
  • Consult a medical professional before you use essential oils if you are epileptic or if you have cancer, liver problems or any other serious condition.
  • Be careful, especially with citrus oils, when applying directly to your skin and venturing into direct sunlight, as they can cause pigmentation spots on the skin. If using one of these oils, avoid sun exposure for 18 hours after application.

9 Essential Oils Safe to Use During Pregnancy

9 Essential Oils You Can Use When You’re Pregnant

  • Chamomile Roman –If you have a backache, helps ease the discomfort of aches and pains.
  • Frankincense – instills helps feelings of anxiety during labour. Put a few drops mixed with Orange into your diffuser.
  • Geranium – Used for stress or anxiety. Use the oil in a massage oil, cream or lotion. Put into a diffuser and inhale.
  • Grapefruit – Helps instill feelings to lift the mood. It also can be used in a blend of other oils to alleviate feelings of fluid retention in the lower leg and ankle. This usually occurrs in the Third Trimester.
  • Lavender – Known as the Universal Oil, it has many uses. Can help with feelings of nausea, headache, and low spirits. Also can be used during labor to ease pain.
  • Mandarin – Combined with Lavender, useful in relieving the feelings of morning sickness. Combine with Lavander and Chamomile Roman to help ease the feelings of heartburn.
  • Tangerine – To feel fresh and energized, use in a massage or bath using diluted Tangerine to give your spirits a lift and reduce feelings of fatigue.
  • Tea Tree –After birth, mix with water and use as a spray on the perineum area. It’s anti-inflammatory properties relieve swelling and bruising.
  • Ylang Ylang – Helps to relieve anxiety and improve your mood. If you’re feeling stressed, a bath using diluted Ylang Ylang oil will make you feel calmer and help you to get a better night’s sleep.

It’s not recommended that you put essential oils in a birthing pool. It will float on the surface, and the oil could cause skin irritation or internal damage if your newborn accidentally swallows some pool water.

Essential Oils to Avoid if You’re Pregnant

Although not a great deal of information is available about the bad effects of essential oils in pregnancy, the general opinion is that oils which might cause miscarriage or birth defects should not be used by pregnant women, although they are perfectly safe at other times. Some of these include:

  • Aniseed
  • Arnica
  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Cedarwood
  • Cinnamon
  • Fennel
  • Hyssop
  • Mugwort
  • Parsley (leaf or seed)
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Sweet Basil 
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Thuja
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

You should also avoid blended oils that contain these ingredients. A professional aromatherapist will be able to advise you on the best use of essential oils and tell you which oils you should avoid during pregnancy or while you are breast feeding.

Why Quality is Important

Don’t expect to get a good quality essential oil cheaply. The concentrated liquid needs a vast collection of the plant or herb, which is labour intensive and therefore can’t be produced at a low cost. Cheaper versions may be of lesser quality and concentration and contain carrier oils, such as grapeseed or sunflower oil. This means you don’t get the quality that you will with 100% pure natural concentrated oil.

Good quality oils last longer and are more effective. Blended oils should also contain pure oils. They are blended for a number of uses including mood uplift, stress relief, to ease congestion or help you to relax.