Aromatherapy for Pregnancy

Aromatherapy is a natural, healing modality employing essential oils extracted from aromatic plant sources to treat and balance the body, mind and spirit. During pregnancy, there are many instances when aromatherapy can be an extremely beneficial and helpful option, while also being very easy to employ. In order to use essential oils safely during pregnancy a few extra safety guidelines must be followed.

Essential oils are extremely concentrated. They need to be diluted before use. A common dilution for aromatherapy blends during pregnancy is 2 % – which would equal approximately 10 drops essential oil to 1 ounce or 2T carrier oil. For an aromatherapy bath add 6-10 drops essential oil to the tub and mix well before getting in. 3-6 drops essential oil in a bowl of warm water wrung out in a washcloth works well for a compress. Use the same dilution in a bowl of steaming hot water for a steam inhalation.

There are many essential oils that should be avoided during pregnancy*. The following table contains oils that should be avoided during pregnancy* and oils that are recommended for use during pregnancy. See also the following table for specific uses of oils that are recommended during pregnancy.

Use of essential oils should be extremely limited or avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy, but has many wonderful uses in the last two trimesters and especially during labor. The following oils you can feel comfortable using during pregnancy. As always, use caution if you have allergies or a family history of allergies. If you think you may be allergic to an oil, do a patch test first. See also the next table for specific uses for each of these oils.
Oils to avoid during pregnancy include:*
Clary sage (ok during labor)
Cypress (ok after 5 months)
Jasmine (ok during labor)
Rose (ok during labor)
Sweet marjoram
Good oils for pregnancy include:
Cypress (ok after 5 mos.)
Geranium (avoid in early pregnancy)
Tea Tree
Ylang Ylang

*Please note: Since it would be highly unethical to test on pregnant women, the list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy is based on knowledge of the general properties of each essential oil. For obvious reasons, during pregnancy it is recommended to avoid essential oils which are known to thin the blood or cause cramping or contractions. Used under proper dilution, most of these oils should not cause any problems during a healthy pregnancy, but it is always best to err on the side of caution.

If you are currently pregnant and have been using any of the “to be avoided” essential oils but are not experiencing any bleeding or cramping, then there most likely is nothing wrong. However, we strongly encourage you to consult your doctor or midwife and discontinue use of the “to be avoided” essential oils. This information is provided “as is” — it cannot replace the personal care your doctor or midwife provides you.

However, one of the safest ways to enjoy essential oils during pregnancy, or otherwise, is through inhalation via room fragrancing. You can enjoy the therapeutic benefit of virtually any essential oil by diffusing a small amount throughout the room. Because with this method, you are not physically applying the essential oils to your body, there are very few limits to the range of oils you can safely use. Please be aware that the possibility of allergic reactions, such as headaches, still exists, however.

Common methods of diffusing include:

Aroma lamps – upper reservoir is filled with water and several drops of essential oils. Oil is dispersed by the heat from a tea light underneath.

Light Bulb Rings – Several drops of essential oils are placed in a ceramic ring that is then placed around a light bulb. The heat of the light bulb diffuses the oil.

Fan diffusers – Drops of oil are placed on pads that are inserted into the fan diffuser. The breeze from the fan wafts the scent throughout the room.

Nebulizers – Air is blown through a glass vial that is filled with a small amount of essential oil, filling the room with your chosen aroma.

There are even car diffusers and aroma jewelry available these days for your olfactory enjoyment.

Aromatherapy Benefits for Pregnancy

Listed below are some of the benefits and therapeutic effects of the essential oils recommended for use during pregnancy.

Bergamot Analgesic, antiseptic, antidepressant, uplifting, and refreshing. Helpful for cystitis during pregnancy.
Chamomile Antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Soothes pain from muscular aches, headaches, toothaches and Indigestion.
Cypress (ok after 5 mos.) Antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent and diuretic. Helpful for Varicose veins, hemorrhoids and swollen ankles.
Eucalyptus Antiseptic, antibiotic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral. Helpful with respiratory congestion.
Frankincense Antiseptic, astringent, sedative, warming
Geranium(ok after 3 mos.) Antiseptic, antidepressant, astringent, refreshing, uplifting. Eases aching legs and is good for poor circulation.
Grapefruit Astringent, digestive aid, lymphatic stimulant. Helps with Water retention.
Lavender Antiseptic, antibiotic, analgesic, antidepressant, healing, Relaxing. Helps soothe aches and pains of pregnancy,encourages cell renewal and helps with fluid retention.
Lemon Antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, stimulant, Tonic. Useful as an inhalant for morning sickness and in Massage for varicose veins.
Mandarin Antiseptic, refreshing, tonic, mild relaxant. Can ease fluid retention in leg and ankle massages.
Neroli Antiseptic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory,Relaxing. Useful in pregnancy to promote healthy skin cell Regeneration and for easing nervous tension.
Patchouli Antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, nerve sedative. Eases confusion, indecision and apathy.
Petitgrain Antiseptic, antidepressant, sedative, refreshing, tonic. Helpful in dealing with pre or postpartum depression.
Rosewood Antiseptic, sedative
Sandalwood Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, sedative. Helpful for cystitis during pregnancy.
Tangerine Antispasmodic, lymphatic stimulant, calming, sedative. Helps to prevent stretch marks.
Tea Tree Antibiotic, antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, disinfectant. Can be used to treat thrush during pregnancy.
Ylang Ylang

Antiseptic, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, sedative, lowers blood Pressure. Restorative when overworked or tense.


©2014, Herbs of Grace.

This article is copyrighted by Vanessa Nixon Klein, the proprietor of Herbs of Grace, who is a Traditional Naturopath specializing in medicinal herbalism, nutritional therapy, homeopathy and aromatherapy. If you would like to reprint this article, either online or in print, please contact us.

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