One of the most popular natural health remedies right now is essential oils. You've likely heard at least something about their many benefits and uses. But what about pregnancy and essential oils?
Many women want something natural to help their bodies (and emotions) through pregnancy. Essential oils provide that, but there are questions about how safe they are for pregnant women to use.
The good news is that with certain precautions you can enjoy the benefits of essential oils during your pregnancy.
Whether you're already using them and want to keep doing that or you want to try them for the first time, here's what you need to know about essential oils and pregnancy, including the top ones to use.
What Are Essential Oils?
If you've never used essential oils before but want to try them, here's a quick overview of what they are.
Essential oils are the concentrated, volatile extracts of certain plants. They are extracted through methods like steam distillation, cold pressing, and resin tapping. Each oil has a unique chemical composition and can contain hundreds of different compounds. (1)
Essential oils capture the fragrance and essence of the plant they are derived from. They are extracted from leaves, trees, flowers, roots, seeds, and fruit peels.
To get an idea of how concentrated they are, it takes about 220 pounds of lavender to produce one pound of lavender oil. (1)
It's important to note that oils extracted chemically and oils made synthetically are not true essential oils.
Overview of Pregnancy and Essential Oils
The main concern over using essential oils during pregnancy is whether the compounds from the oils would cross over into the placenta at a toxic level. This is because the oils are absorbed into the body to some degree when used topically or inhaled.
According to the pregnancy guidelines from the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), the amount of essential oil that actually reaches the placenta is minuscule when it's diluted properly. (2)
Mainly, doctors and other health practitioners may be reluctant to recommend using essential oils because there is a lack of research studies on oils and pregnancy, not because there have been reported cases of toxicity.
In fact, professionals point out that there are no reported cases of aborted or abnormal fetuses due to the "normal" use of essential oils. (3)
The most controversial aspect of this topic is whether essential oils should be used during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a key period of development for your baby, and some professionals recommend waiting until the second and third trimesters. (4)
So far, there is no evidence that essential oils pose danger to your baby during any period of pregnancy. Ultimately, you should talk with your doctor and/or midwife to decide what you feel most comfortable doing.
General Safety Tips for Pregnant Women
There are a few guidelines you can follow to get the most out of essential oils during pregnancy and minimize any risks.
The best methods for using your oils are in a bath, a diffuser, or a massage oil for topical application. You should not use essential oils internally or undiluted during pregnancy.
When applying to your skin, use a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond, or jojoba. It's recommended that you dilute to about a 1-3% dilution or use around 4 drops of essential oil in a bath.
If you use essential oils in your diffuser for aromatherapy and stress-relief, they are already diluted enough. Just keep in mind that many women will have a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy. Cut back on the amount of essential oils you use if you find the smell overpowering.
Apart from diluting essential oils properly, the most important safety measure is to only use high-quality, 100% pure essential oils. Synthetic or chemically extracted oils are a health hazard and should not be used. (2)
Top Oils and Their Benefits
There are many different essential oils that can benefit you during pregnancy. Some will help with stress and anxiety, while others can relieve sore muscles or reduce nausea.
Here are a few of the most used:
- Lavender essential oil: Lavender can help you sleep better, reduce anxiety, and ease sore muscles. It's also good for skin health. You can add a few drops to your bath, run it in a diffuser, or apply diluted to sore spots.
- Peppermint essential oil: Peppermint is frequently recommended because it can help with nausea, headaches, and muscle soreness. Just inhaling the oil may reduce nausea, and it can be applied diluted to your temples for a headache.
- Frankincense essential oil: Frankincense is a very calming oil and can be helpful for feelings of stress and overwhelm during pregnancy. You can also try using it in a pillow mist to help you sleep better at night.
- Citrus essential oils: Some women find that the smell of citrus helps them with nausea. As a bonus, all citrus oils are natural mood lifters. Lemon, orange, bergamot, and grapefruit are especially popular. Just don't apply them to skin during the day since they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Other essential oils that can be safely used during pregnancy include chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, ginger, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, and ylang ylang. (Not an exhaustive list.)
You can also safely use essential-oil infused products like soaps that have a very low concentration of essential oils.
Essential Oils to Avoid During Pregnancy
Opinions remain divided on which essential oils should be avoided. According to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), only a few should be avoided altogether.
These include sassafras, wormwood, cassia, pennyroyal, mustard, and elecampane, which are not typically sold to consumers anyways. (2)
Others that you will want to avoid or use sparingly include:
Making Pregnancy Better With Essential Oils
When used correctly, essential oils are a great way for you to feel better naturally during pregnancy. They can support your mood, help you get more restful sleep, and ease normal aches and pains.
There's no need to be afraid of using oils while pregnant. You just need to follow a few safety guidelines and be intentional about which essential oils you choose to use.
Be sure to speak with your doctor or midwife about any concerns you have.
If you want more ways to enjoy essential oils, try these products: