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Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

People get very concerned about the use of aromatherapy and essential oils during pregnancy. Some, including some aromatherapists, even advise not to use any essential oils at all. I personally think that is a bit extreme, and also a great pity, as many essential oils can be quite useful in helping the prospective mum through this time.

There are a number of reasons that the area of aromatherapy and pregnancy has become the subject of so much concern. And often people are left not knowing what, if anything they can use.

Essential oils listed as “Not to use in Pregnancy” fall into 3 basic groups

  • Oils which are toxic or otherwise dangerous and should be avoided at all times, even when not pregnant. These include bitter almond, arnica, boldo, broom, buchu, calamus, brown & yellow camphor, cassia, chervil, cinnamon bark, costus, deertongue, elecampane, bitter fennel, horseradish, jaborandi, melitotus, mugwort, mustard, oregano, pennyroyal, dwarf pine, rue, common sage, santolina, sassafras, savin, southernwood, savory, tansy, thuja, tonka, wintergreen, wormseed, wormwood.
  • Other oils which require caution for anyone using them (again not just during pregnancy) include ajowan, aniseed and star anise, some types of basil, bay,white camphor, carrot seed, some types of cedarwood, cinnamon leaf, clove (leaf and bud), coriander, cumin, eucalyptus, sweet fennel, hops, hyssop, juniper, lemongrass, nutmeg, parsley, black pepper, Spanish sage, tagetes, tarragon, thyme, tuberose, turmeric, turpentine, valerian.
  • Commonly used oils which are normally safe but may have adverse effects when pregnant. These include angelica, basil, birch, calamintha, cedarwood, celery seed, citronella, clary sage, cypress, jasmine, labdanum, lovage, marjoram, melissa, myrrh, nutmeg, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, yarrow.

In addition there are some oils which are usually to be avoided in the first trimester, particularly if there is a history or risk of miscarriage, such as roman chamomile, geranium, lavender and rose. The first category should always be avoided, but in the main are not readily available anyway. The second should only be considered under the advice of a professionally qualified aromatherapist and generally used in very limited amounts and/or for a limited period of time.

But why do some oils only become a risk during pregnancy? Well, some of these oils are emmenogogues and have a stimulating effect on the uterus. Some affect the hormones or have too strong an effect on a particular organ or system of the body. We also do not yet know to what extent oils used by the mother may affect the developing fetus, so any oils which may be too strong for the child should be avoided.

This amount of caution is also required because the quality of essential oils can vary widely in the marketplace. But under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist, great benefits can be gained by using some essential oils during pregnancy.

Another thing to bear in mind is how & how much oil you use.

Never take essential oils internally. Always, but always, dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin. Never apply them neat to the skin. If you are pregnant, adapt any recipes by cutting down the number of drops to child sized doses, around half of that for an adult. This softens the effect and also takes account of the fact that when pregnant, a woman’s sense of smell is often more acute, so full strength may seem overpowering.  For example if a recipe suggests 5 drops in 10 mls of carrier oil, then use only 2-3 drops. Less is often more in aromatherapy!

Essential oils used in vaporiser will carry much less risk than any applied directly to the body, whether in a carrier oil, in a bath or as a compress. But still err on the side of caution regarding how much you use.

Some useful and safe remedies for pregnancy:

  • Nausea – put 2-3 drops of ginger or spearmint oil on a tissue and inhale.
  • Oedema (swelling of hands and/or feet) – put 4-6 drops of one of the following oils in a foot or hand bath (sweet orange, geranium, grapefruit) and soak
  • Indigestion – dilute 1 drop of spearmint essential oil in 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil and massage into the abdomen in clockwise direction.

Other oils that are generally safe to use include, lemon, sweet orange, mandarin, frankincense, lavender, sandalwood and tea tree.

Always ensure that you are using true essential oils rather than synthetic or fragrance oils.

If you have a personal or family history of miscarriage or your have been advised that your pregnancy is in any way fragile, please seek advice from a professional aromatherapist regarding your particular situation before using essential oils. Professional advice is a good idea for anyone contemplating the use of aromatherapy but especially so in pregnancy. And always let your health practitioner, doctor, midwife or obstetrician know about anything you are using or proposing to use.

This information is meant as general advice.  Please consult your health practitioner or a qualified aromatherapist for advice on your specific situation).

Wendy Mackay is a qualified Aromatherapist and member of the International Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine Association (IAAMA). Wendy and her husband David run Essence of Well-being a successful Aromatherapy & Massage Supply and Pure Natural Skin Care business, based in Mornington on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria Australia.
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Essential Oil Safety First Details

Detailed Safety Information 

We believe there isn’t any condition – physical, mental, or spiritual that cannot be affected by essential oils. Many of our clients have heard us say, “There is a great oil for that!”

It is important to remember that pure essential oils are highly concentrated extracts; 75 to 100 times more concentrated than dried herbs.   While essential oils are natural products, it is still necessary to follow certain precautions when using them.  They are powerful “medicine!”

You will find a detail description or precautions of any particular safety issues related to the specific essential oil in the description.

The following are general guidelines to follow. Of course, if you have any questions, it is important to consult a qualified Certified or Clinical Aromatherapist or a medical professional who has experience with essential oils.


There are many essential oils that have been listed as dangerous to use during pregnancy. According to Robert Tisserand, essential oils that do not have any known safety concerns can be used at 1% during pregnancy and externally.  Rhiannon Harris suggests that no essential oils should be used during the first trimester, so it is best to keep use to a bare minimum during this period.  Pregnancy is a very delicate time for both mother and fetus so we believe that essential oils should be used cautiously during pregnancy and breastfeeding under the guidance of a Certified or Clinical Aromatherapist or your doctor.


The following essential oils should not be used with anyone suspected of being vulnerable to epileptic seizures: Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Hyssop (Hyssop officinalis), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia), White Sage (Salvia apiana), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) True Sage (Salvia officinalis),  Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Spike Lavender (Lavendula latifolia), Thuja (Thuja occidentalis), Mugwort (Artemisia herba alba), and Wild Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).

High Blood Pressure

Some essential oils are stimulating and may increase circulation. Some of these essential oils are Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), Hyssop (Hyssop officinalis), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Spike Lavender (Lavendula latifolia).  Although, there is no evidence that these particular essential oils raise blood pressure.


Photo-toxicity is a toxic reaction provoked by light. The following essential oils can cause a phototoxic reaction on the skin. All cold pressed citruses; Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Lemon (Citrus limon), with the exception of Sweet or Blood Orange (Citrus sinesis), Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), Angelica Root (Archangel angelica), Lemon Verbena (Lippia citriodora), Tagetes (Tagetus minuta) and possibly Oppopnax (Commiphora guidotti) are photo toxic, therefore exposure to natural sunlight or tanning beds must be avoided for at least 12 hours after application.  These essential oils applied at any dilution will likely increase the chance of severe burns from ultraviolet light.
Note: any cold-pressed citrus oil can be photosensitizing, but steamed distilled citruses are not.

Neat Usage

When essential oils are used “neat” this refers to essential oils used undiluted on the skin. Essential oils can be used neat for specific situations, but if essential oils are to be used daily and long term, they oils should be diluted to the appropriate concentration. (Please see Application and Dilution section) Use essential oils neat under the guidance and direction of a Certified or Clinical Aromatherapist, or your physician.

Internal Use

Essential oils should only be taken internally after receiving a detailed consultation and prescription from a trained and qualified Aromatherapy Practitioner.

Children, Elders, and those with Serious Health Conditions

Essential oils should be diluted to a maximum of 1% ( 5- 6 drops per 1 oz of carrier oil or crème). Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children; they can be poisonous if swallowed.

Babies and young children

Avoid using essential oils on babies and children less than 5 years of age. Use aromatherapy on children older than 5 years with caution.


Never ever use essential oils on the fur or skin of animals. To use essential oils on animals, you must be directed by a veterinarian who has training in aromatherapy.

Eyes and Mucous membranes

Keep essential oils away from eyes and mucous membranes, and any other orifice of your body. If essential oils do make contact with these areas, flush immediately with a carrier oil…Not water.

Allergies and Sensitivity

People who have allergies to perfumes should proceed cautiously with essential oils.


Essential oils must be stored in dark, airtight, glass bottles because exposure to light, oxygen, and heat causes chemical changes in the oil over time. Please store in a dark place and under 25-30 degrees

Please Note:  For quality assurance in medicinal/therapeutic blending the GC/MS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry) technology is used to assure the purity of each essential oil.  GC/MS also tells us the exact chemical makeup of each oil.  This information is absolutely necessary for medicinal/therapeutic blending and for quality assurance by clinical aromatherapists.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided purely for informational purposes only, and does not in any way purport to be medical or prescriptive suggestions. Any reference to medicinal or health benefits is not meant to treat or diagnose any problem and is not meant to replace professional medical advice and should not take the place of any prescribed medication that has been prescribed by a physician