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Aromatherapy During Pregnancy: What to Use and What to Avoid

Aromatherapy can be traced back to several ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians and Egyptians who used essential oils in their cosmetics and drugs. These essential oils are obtained by distillation and they are highly concentrated liquids that contain the volatile chemical compounds of the plants from which they are extracted. Aromatherapy health benefits include stress reduction, improved mental focus and increased energy levels. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, there are several precautions that you should take if you’re pregnant.


  • Use Essential Oils to reduce Pregnancy Symptoms

To reduce morning sickness: Use ginger, lavender or peppermint essential oils. You can use these oils in a diffuser or add a drop of your preferred oil to a cotton ball and sniff it a few times to ease your morning sickness.

To lower stress levels: Use lavender French, sweet orange or neroli essential oils. Add a few drops of these oils to your bath water and enjoy a short calming soak. Essential oils can make your tub slippery so it’s best to ask your partner for help getting out of the tub or use a non-slip mat to prevent falls.

To reduce muscle aches: Use chamomile, frankincense or ylang-ylang essential oils. Add 8-10 drops of essential oil to 28 grams (2 tablespoons) of a carrier oil such as olive oil or sweet almond oil. Use this as a massage oil and leave it on for a few hours before you take a warm (but not hot) shower.

To improve sleep: Use cedar wood, frankincense or mandarin essential oils. Schedule 30 minutes of alone time just before you go to bed to meditate or simply relax while listening to music. Add these oils to your diffuser during this time to calm your body and mind so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

  • Invest in an Ultrasonic Diffuser instead of Tea Light Oil Burners

Tea light oil burners are very attractive and are excellent essential oil diffusers. Unfortunately, they also pose a risk of fire, especially if you are using them in your bedroom where the flame could come in contact with curtains, sheets or furnishings. Furthermore, if the burner is accidentally knocked over, the oils from the diffuser would act as a fuel and increase the size of the fire. An ultrasonic diffuser is a much safer option as it is a cold diffuser. It contains a flexible membrane which vibrates ultrasonically and turns the water in the diffuser into water vapor. This vapor is propelled into the air along with the essential oil that has been added to the water.

  • Dilute Essential Oils for Massage Therapy

Massage therapy with essential oils can help to reduce anxiety, muscle aches and joint pain during pregnancy. Some massage therapies may also help to improve lymphatic and blood circulation as well as improve labor outcomes and newborn health. Even a simple foot massage from your partner will go a long way in reducing your discomfort and stress levels. However, it is important to recognize that essential oils are highly concentrated which is why they have to be diluted with a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Using undiluted essential oils can cause adverse reactions so make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle.

  • Do Not Use Essential Oils Internally

There are several ways to use essential oils for cooking but when you’re pregnant, it’s advisable to skip using essential oils internally. There are two reasons for this – the first reason is that the oils could be diluted with fillers or contain impurities that could have a negative impact on you and your baby. The second reason is that there isn’t enough research to prove that pregnant women can safely consume essential oils. According to the NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy), the main concern is that essential oils could cross the placenta barrier and reach the fetus, which might pose a risk of toxicity to the baby.


Some essential oils are considered unsafe during pregnancy as they can cause uterine contractions which could result in miscarriage or preterm labor. Avoid the following essential oils during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding:

  • Aniseed
  • Basil
  • Birch     
  • Camphor            
  • Hyssop
  • Mugwort            
  • Parsley seed/ leaf           
  • Pennyroyal        
  • Sage     
  • Tansy   
  • Tarragon             
  • Thuja    
  • Wintergreen     
  • Wormwood

Your ob-gyn may recommend inhaling clary sage essential oil if you are past your due date as studies show that it can raise the levels of oxytocin in some women which can help to induce labor. According to the experts at What To Expect, you should research the essential oils that you wish to use and then clear it with your ob-gyn. These safety precautions will allow you to enjoy all the benefits that aromatherapy has to offer without any fear of side effects. When buying essential oils, look for reputable brands even if they cost a little more as they have higher production standards and offer the purest essential oils. When using a diffuser, use only 3-5 drops of essential oil depending on the size of your room. When in doubt, it is best to use a little less than the maximum amount given on the bottle. Use aromatherapy on a regular basis to reduce your pregnancy symptoms and enjoy this experience to the fullest.


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