Aromatherapy in Pregnancy – how essential oils can benefit you

Pregnant women are conscious of what they eat and drink whilst carrying their unborn baby. Increasingly, women are recognising that the cleaning products, beauty and skin care products and drugs they use for common ailments such as indigestion and headaches, need to be more natural, to avoid over exposure to toxins and chemicals that leave residues and accumulate in the body over time.

In July 2005, the Environmental working group’s research detected 287 chemicals in umbilical cord blood. 180 of these cause cancers in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development. Experts believe rising rates of birth defects, asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders, and other serious diseases in US children are a result of these early chemical exposures.

Scientific research over the past few decades has found that essential oils are a popular natural therapy for many households and are beneficial from a health and cosmetic perspective. Essential oils are concentrated, liquid extractions derived from a plant source and their uses and effects are bountiful.

For pregnant women there are several considerations to be aware of when using these oils.

  • Essential oils should not be taken internally when pregnant. Essential oils are not generally recommended for using on the skin within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women develop a thicker layer of fat underneath the skin which acts as a safety area between the baby and the essential oil: essential oils dissolve in fat and will be more likely to rest in the fatty layers giving a slow-release treatment rather than an immediate one, as they are release more slowly into the tissues. The amount of essential oil that accesses the mother’s skin is very tiny and therefore the amount that reaches the placenta is miniscule if proper dilutions are being used. Small amounts of essential oils can be beneficial to the baby and there are no recorded instances of harm being caused to the child through essential oils used in aromatherapy massage.
  • Essential oils are highly concentrated, so need to be respected when used on the body. Did you know that it takes 18 stones of peppermint leaf to make just 16 ounces of peppermint essential oil? One drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea! More than the average herbal tea lover would probably drink in a week! For pregnancy, I recommend a 1% dilution – that’s 4 drops of essential oil per 20mls of carrier oil. This ratio of blend will also be less offensive to pregnant women’s heightened sense of smell. Essential oils should be diluted when used on the skin in a carrier oil (such as coconut or grapeseed) or in the bath with milk or a natural soap to break down the oil bonds.
  • I recommend that women choose high quality essential oils, carrier oils and other aromatherapy products to receive the best results. I only use high grade essential oils in my therapies. Therapeutic essential oils can present very little hazard in comparison to synthetic oils.
  • Only use your diffuser for 10-15 minutes per day – Pregnant women’s noses sense of smell is much more sensitive, and so running the diffuser for too long can cause headaches and nausea. Try not to use the same oil repeatedly for several weeks, change the oils regularly to reduce build up. Repeated intense daily use is not suggested – It is best to utilize essential oils for when you really need it like helping with acute issues such as nausea, indigestion, leg cramps/spasms, insomnia, cough/congestion, stress/anxiety, etc.
  • DO NOT add essential oils to the birthing pool – Essential oils do not mix with water, they float on the surface. Adding essential oils to the birthing pool could be potentially harmful to your new-born with risks such as burns, irritation, or other problems from accidental ingestion. Keep the essential oils to inhalation/diffusion during the actual birthing process, if you are in a pool.

Why use Essential Oils in Pregnancy?

The benefits associated with using essential oils in pregnancy are many. There are many reports of essential oils aiding in the relief of pregnancy-related issues and can also help you feel relaxed, calm and balanced. Alternatively, if you need some energy, there are a variety of oils to help boost your vitality and help to make you feel energised and uplifted. Essential oils can also clear your mind, help you concentrate and even aid in decision-making

Pregnant women can enjoy using Essential Oils in the following ways

• Diffusion
• Direct inhalation
• Massage
• Homemade cleaner
• Air freshener
• Relaxing bath
• Hair treatment

Pregnancy-Friendly Essential oils

Most oils are suitable for use during pregnancy; the real danger comes when the dosages are incorrect or irresponsible. Essential oils work with the body, not against it. The body always remains in control with low doses of oils. The oils below are used commonly in practice and present no hazard. Please note, this is not a definitive or complete list.

Cypress: Cypress is safe for use after five months and helps to relieve varicose veins, soothe swollen ankles and ease haemorrhoids. It is also recommended for perineal healing.

Eucalyptus: This oil is fabulous if you’re feeling a little congested as it acts as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antiviral to ease symptoms of respiratory congestion.

Frankinsence: great for scarring and stretch marks. Use on its own or blend with mandarin in a carrier oil and massage over skin morning and evening.

Geranium: Great for boosting energy and promoting circulation, geranium is safe to use after the first three months of pregnancy. It also relieves aching legs and helps you to feel refreshed. Also, good for haemorrhoids.

Lavender: Safe for use after 12-weeks, lavender is a great oil to feel serene, relaxed and balanced. It also eases pregnancy aches and pains and reduces fluid retention and can help with Candida (thrush) if used in the bath. It is great for perineal healing and ‘afterpains’ too.

Neroli: For those experiencing anxiety or pregnancy nerves, neroli is said to help you feel relaxed and tranquil. This, along with lemon, orange and bergamot are all great for reducing symptoms of depression. It also boosts your skin cell regeneration, so you look and feel great too.

Orange: This essential oil is said to make you feel joyous, calm and uplifted. This, along with other citrus oils helps to improve feelings of nausea.

Patchouli: Need to decide but struggling to control your racing thoughts? Pick up some patchouli and feel clear-headed and in control again. Said to alleviate apathy, indecision and confusion, patchouli is a great oil to keep in your cupboard for those ‘baby brain’ days.

Peppermint: is great for helping with nausea and dizziness, headache and migraines, colds, swollen ankles, aching muscles and even pregnancy acne. Use with tea tree and geranium to improve your skin.

Sandalwood: If you’re having troubles sleeping or feeling relaxed, you’ll want to invest in some sandalwood oil. Sandalwood is a natural sedative and anti-depressant and eases cystitis during pregnancy.

Tea tree oil: To be used only during pregnancy and not during labour, tea tree oil is an antifungal and antiviral oil that helps ease the symptoms of candida (thrush) during pregnancy and helps with colds and coughs.

Ylang Ylang: This great all-rounder is a must-have during pregnancy. Not only does it act as an aphrodisiac, but it also reduces your blood pressure and it said to comfort individuals that are feeling tense or stressed.

There are certain oils to be avoided in pregnancy. Lavender was banned for use years ago, but there is no evidence that it’s use is unsafe. Read here to find out why this oil is now considered safe to use. Furthermore, there is no solid evidence about Peppermint used during the latter part of pregnancy or after child birth limiting milk production in some mothers. Read more here to make an informed choice.


If you have a history of miscarriage, epilepsy, heart problems, diabetes, liver, thyroid or kidney disease or blood clotting problems I suggest you don’t use essential oils during pregnancy. If you have any questions or concerns, make sure you speak to your doctor or midwife.

I am a qualified Aromatherapist and trained with ITEC to ensure that I received in-depth training for this specialist therapy. I offer Aromatherapy for pregnant and postnatal clients. Please click here to book