Essential Oils and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is without a doubt an exciting time filled with the promise of welcoming a wonderful bundle of joy into your life. But lets be honest, it’s also a time of tremendous changes for a womans body, and those changes can be difficult to cope with.
Morning sickness, mood swings, fatigue, breast pain, back ache, swollen ankles, indigestion and insomnia are all common features of pregnancy, and then comes the birth itself, which for many women is the hardest and most grueling experiences of their lives.
There’s no sugar coating it, carrying and giving birth to new life is hard work, and thats why anything that can safely offer some reprieve from pregnancy-related conditions is a blessed relief.
Enter essential oils. Essential oils are plant based remedies that can help with pretty much every minor pregnancy issue. For the purposes of this article ‘minor’ means any condition that is causing you discomfort, that your doctor or midwife would dismiss as just one of those things you have to put up with.
Not all essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy however, and the amount that you use and the purity of the oils are also important safety considerations.

Pregnancy and Essential Oil Safety

A question often asked by women who would like to try using essential oils to relieve their backache or swollen feet and ankles is “Are essential oils safe to use during pregnancy?”
The answer is that some essential oils are very safe in pregnancy while some others could cause problems and are best avoided.
Pregnancy can be an anxious time, and mothers-to-be tend to scrutinize the products they use and the foods they eat once they find out that they have a baby on board.
Essential oils need to be placed under this scrutiny too, because even though they are natural products, they are still powerful, complex chemicals. Don’t ever be lulled into a false sense of security by the term “natural”.
Natural doesn’t mean that you can smother yourself with large amounts of essential oil, it doesnt mean that you can use the oil right out of the bottle without diluting it first, nor does it mean that you can safely ingest the oils by mixing them into a drink.
Hopefully once you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll have the confidence to use essential oils with the knowledge that you’re choosing only those oils which are known to be effective for the problem you face and which won’t cause any harm to your precious cargo.
That said, if you have suffered a miscarriage or other pregnancy complication in the past, essential oils that are considered safe for use during pregnancy may not be advisable for you.

Why Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy?

When you’re suffering through physical discomfort or emotional upset, it’s completely normal to look for remedies that will help you feel better again, and essential oils offer an alternative to some prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies.
In 2015 the FDA carried out an evaluation of the available scientific research into the safety of certain prescription and nonprescription pain relievers during pregnancy. Unfortunately the different medical research studies contained conflicting information which prevented the FDA from drawing reliable conclusions.
And that really is a great pity because the concerns investigated in the research weren’t minor, they were very serious indeed.
Did prescription NSAID’s (e.g. ibuprofen, diclofenac) increase the risk of miscarriage during the first half of a pregnancy?
Was prescription opioid use (oxycodone, morphine, codeine, etc.) linked to birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord?
Could acetaminophen – prescription and over-the-counter – increase the risk of ADHD in children born to mothers who took the drug at any time during their pregnancy?
FDA advice remains as follows  We urge pregnant women to always discuss all medicines with their health care professionals before using them”.
If you go to the link above and scroll down the page, you’ll find the references to the studies looked at in the review.
Given that there are concerns over the use of common pain killers during pregnancy, it could be a good idea to find alternatives.
Likewise, drugs used to treat stress and anxiety come with risks for pregnant women, and health care providers have to weigh up those risks when deciding whether to prescribe to expectant mothers.
Essential oils can provide an alternative to painkillers and to anxiety and stress medications.

Should You Ingest Essential Oils?

You’ll see no end of advice online claiming that it’s perfectly safe to add a couple of drops of an essential oil to a glass of water every day and drink it down. And at first glance this seems like an easy and fuss free way to make use of essential oils, especially when it comes to digestive complaints like nausea and indigestion..
But let’s take a closer look, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Numerous essential oils are classed as safe for ingestion by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this isnt because theyve been evaluated as medicines, but because they are commonly used food and drink flavorings and preservatives.
So, ingesting an essential oil won’t cause you any harm when it’s contained in a food or properly prepared drink.
However, a couple of drops of essential oil added to a glass of water is not a properly prepared drink!


Essential oils do not mix with water. Try it for yourself and see. The drops of essential oil will just sit on the top of the water. This means that they remain undiluted and can cause irritation and damage to the tissues of your mouth and esophagus.
Undiluted essential oils can also cause allergies and sensitization.
Plenty of people have found out the hard way that essential oils and water don’t mix. Canker sores, burning pain and acid reflux are just some of the outcomes from the supposedly safe and healthy practice of drinking essential oils.
When essential oils are prescribed by doctors for internal use (in some European countries essential oils are a regular option in mainstream healthcare) the oils are encapsulated so they can be swallowed in the same way you would take a vitamin, and this method of ingestion completely avoids contact with the mouth and throat.
If inhalation or massage aren’t working for you, and you’re determined to try ingesting oils, opt for the capsules rather than run the risk of injury from undiluted oils in your mouth and throat. Even better, seek the advice of a qualified, practising aromatherapist before taking any oil internally.

Essential Oils Best Avoided When Pregnant

This list of potentially problematic essential oils is taken from the pregnancy guidelines issued by the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists.
  • Oregano (Origanum compactum)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct thymol)
  • Winter Savoury (Satureja montana)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Cumin (Cumimum cyminum)
  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Anise star (Illicium verum)
  • Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Diluting Your Oils

You must dilute your essential oils before applying them to your skin or adding them to a bath. This can’t be stressed enough. Undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation and skin sensitization. And when youre pregnant, your skin is more sensitive to all manner of substances, essential oils included.
Undiluted oils can also cause allergic reactions and that allergic reaction can be passed on to your unborn child.
The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists in their guidance for professionalaromatherapists recommend a dilution of 1% as the appropriate strength for pregnant clients.
This 1% dilution can be used for massage and for application via a compress.
When using essential oils in your bath no more than 4 drops of oil should be used.
To make a 1% dilution mix 6 drops of essential oil with your preferred carrier oil.
As we’ve already discussed, essential oils don’t mix with water, so you can’t simply drip a little essential oil into your bathwater and swirl it around. The essential oil needs to mixed with a dispersant like a tablespoon of glycerin or full fat milk.


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