How to Use Essential Oils for Pregnancy
There is nothing like pregnancy to make you doubt everything you know about your body and habits. What can you eat? More accurately- what do you even like to eat anymore? What medicines (natural or otherwise) can you take? What can you do about this newfound nausea that you wake up with, every. single. morning? Wait… are those stretch marks?!
A cup of coffee here and there is not the end of the world, especially if you’re constipated and needing a little help to get things moving. And even though doctors don’t know much about them, there are essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding… in fact, they are often highly effective for some of the top pregnancy complaints, like nausea.
In this article you’ll discover how essential oils are highly effective for promoting a healthy and comfortable pregnancy without unnecessary exposure to toxins found in over the counter medications. Let’s get to it.
Top Benefits of Oil Use in Pregnancy and Postpartum
- Plant based natural remedies in the comfort of your home
- Avoid side effects from conventional medication
- Ease pregnancy and postpartum discomforts naturally
- Accelerate healing and recovery
- Avoid exposing baby to medication (for nursing moms)
- Cost effective and easy to use
ESSENTIAL OIL SAFETY FOR PREGNANCY
When it comes to using essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding there are a few basic rules to follow.
DON’T BUY THE CHEAP STUFF!
Quality matters when it comes to finding essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Essential oils are made of lots and lots of plant matter. If the plants are coming from a farm that sprays with pesticides, these are going to get into your body through your skin and respiratory system. So make sure your essential oils are from high quality sources that are toxin free!
DON’T INGEST THEM
A lot of people ingest essential oils (including me), but when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, I would stick with aromatherapy and topical use only. That’s because some of the oils are very potent and can easily cross over the placenta. A baby’s developing system is sensitive and can’t easily process substances like an adult can. This is why too much caffeine can be tricky, as a baby’s metabolism just can’t process it out very well.
ALWAYS DILUTE WITH A CARRIER OIL
When using essential oils for pregnancy and breastfeeding, I like to apply them to the body well-diluted. This means dropping them into fractionated coconut oil, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba or some other carrier oil. There’s not an exact science to it, but I typically stick to a 2% or less dilution which is 3 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil.
When it comes to using essential oils in pregnancy, I’m in the “less is more” camp. Oils are potent, effective and a little can really go a long way.
BE AWARE OF SENSITIVITY TO SMELL
If you don’t like the smell of an oil, don’t diffuse it – especially during labor and delivery. No one changes their mind like a woman in labor. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, she wants a massage and then can’t stand to be touched. The same tends to go for smells. While ylang ylang could be bringing her comfort one minute, it might tip her over the edge with nausea the next.
Diffusing essential oils keeps them lingering around. And a better way to get all the aromatherapy benefits is to have your partner or doula place a few drops on a tissue and wave it around so as soon as a smell hits you the wrong way, you can ask for something else. The other consideration here is that baby’s lungs are highly sensitive. If you have peppermint, eucalyptus or another volatile oil on blast in the diffuser, it could be irritating to the baby’s lungs after birth.
AVOID CERTAIN OILS THAT CAN INDUCE LABOR/NEGATIVELY IMPACT MILK SUPPLY
Clary sage and basil should be avoided while pregnant because they can kick start labor. They can be used at the very end of pregnancy when you’re full term, but not before. Some nursing moms sometimes see a reduction in milk supply with topical application of peppermint, so it is best to avoid peppermint during this time.
WHAT PREGNANCY & POSTPARTUM CHALLENGES CAN OILS HELP WITH?
Us women deal with tons of challenges during pregnancy, oils can help. This is not an exhaustive list but some of the most common concerns.
- Itchy Skin
- Postpartum recovery (perineum care)
- Incision care
- Stretch marks
- Baby Blues
- Muscle Tension
- Nursing Discomfort
AROMATHERAPY BENEFITS DURING PREGNANCY
We can’t talk about essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding without first emphasizing their benefits. Never underestimate the power of scent! In fact, researchers found that the smell of newborn babies’ heads actually fires off the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by drugs, sex, and delicious food. Our olfactory sense goes straight up into the brain where it can affect the nervous system, hormones, memory, and pleasure.
Having an essential oil diffuser for pregnancy around your home may be a good idea. You can start with just a drop and see how you feel with trying out different essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. And what are some pros of using essential oils during pregnancy?
- Stress relief
- Eases nausea and indigestion
- Improves focus
- Help relieve headaches
- Better sleep
These are just the aromatherapy benefits, some different ways to use essential oils during pregnancy are in a bath, on the skin or even around your home to clean, disinfect and freshen the air. So which essential oils offer the most benefits for pregnant women? Keep reading, because I’m going to share my favorite essential oils for pregnancy, labor and postpartum.
14 ESSENTIAL OILS FOR PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM
Have you ever wondered why restaurants give out after dinner mints? It’s not just because they keep your breath fresh. Mint is actually a great digestive herb and antispasmodic so it calms down any cramping in the stomach or gut, making it one of the best essential oils for pregnancy nausea.
Besides being good for digestive upset, it can also ease headaches, uplift mood and increase energy due to its stimulating effects. You can even clean your kitchen counters with it. Peppermint essential oil for pregnancy is a good one to have one hand for all sorts of reasons.
How to Use: For nausea and headaches, put 2 to 3 drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil and rub it onto the temples, base of neck or pulse points. Diffusing is another option, or to keep your kitchen fresh just place a drop onto your sponge before wiping down the counters. Avoid use during nursing because it can decrease milk supply.
One of the great calming essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can apply roman chamomile topically or in a diffuser to bring a sense of peace and relaxation when you’re feeling irritable.
How to Use: Chamomile is in all the sleepy-time teas for a reason, it’s a sedative. But it works great as an aromatherapy, too. Put 2 drops of this oil in a teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil and rub it in your feet after a long day (better yet get someone else to rub your feet!). If you want to give yourself a little extra soothing before bed, put a few drops in your diffuser and let the aroma fill your bedroom.
You can’t go wrong with orange’s sweet, familiar, and uplifting scent. It’s one of the essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding that everyone can get behind. Orange is a great choice for the diffuser to bring a little energy to your day when you’ve hit that afternoon slump.
How to Use: But my favorite way to use it is for cleaning. I don’t think people emphasize how important it is to stay away from toxic substances during pregnancy, and this is especially true of cleaning products. Orange can be used to clean anything from your bathrooms to your countertop as it cuts greasy substances and disinfects as well.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking for essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding you can count on florals. Geranium is healing for the skin, especially on scars and stretch marks. Geranium is also ideal for perineum support – as well as Helichrysum.
How to Use: Besides stretch marks, if you’re wondering how essential oils help you relax during pregnancy, geranium is your answer. It’s a great anti-anxiety. Diffuse a couple of drops mixed with rose or better yet, I love to add Geranium and Wild Orange into the bath to help de-stress and unwind.
The smell of lemon will brighten your mood and ease nausea too. It also kills germs in the air and on surfaces. Since your immune system naturally becomes more compromised during pregnancy you’ll want to avoid getting sick as much as possible. Lemon oil helps to remove pathogens from the air, which is why it’s a good idea to diffuse it.
How to Use: My favorite way to use lemon is by mixing it with vinegar and orange to make a non-toxic cleaning spray. Something I always encourage people to do during pregnancy is to make sure their homes are free of toxic chemicals. Think of this as additional baby-proofing!
Some people aren’t crazy about ylang-ylang because of its sweet floral scent, but I love it!
How to Use: Ylang ylang can be used in the bath or bedroom to help calm the nerves and prepare for sleep. It’s known as an antidepressant and can help you feel sensual in your body- something you may need a little help with during pregnancy!
Nausea is one of the most debilitating side effects of pregnancy and is most prevalent in the first trimester. But sometimes it can follow you all the way into the third trimester. Ginger is one of the best herbs for stomach discomfort and it’s also anti-inflammatory so it can be helpful for headaches and other aches and pains too.
How to Use: Use it topically by adding 2 to 3 drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil. Rub it onto your pulse points or any sore spots where you want to increase circulation and lower inflammation. You can also run it in the diffuser as an aromatherapy for nausea.
Wild Orange is one of my favorite oils for mood support. It’s also energizing and brightens my mood. I keep it by the bedside to inhale first thing in the morning after waking up to nurse a little one throughout the night. It helps to wake me up and start the day.
How to Use: Inhale in the palms or diffuse to start your day with energy and a great mood.
Adrenal fatigue is common in pregnancy. I have experienced it after each one of my children. Rosemary is a great essential oil for the mental heaviness and fatigue that can come with burned out adrenals. This is a great one to use during the mid to late afternoon when energy levels dip.
How to Use: Run this oil on it’s own in the diffuser or create a blend. One that I really like is 3 drops Rosemary, 2 drops Basil, 1 drop Peppermint. This is one that I’ll diffuse away from the baby because these oils can be a little strong for infants. *Don’t use basil oil while pregnant because it can start labor.
Frankincense is one of my favorite oils, and it’s incredible for postpartum healing for a few different reasons. For one thing, postpartum can be a very anxiety ridden time, especially if this is your first baby. There are just so many things to learn, so many things to monitor and keep track of. Frankincense is a very grounding and calming oil.
How to Use: Just two drops in a diffuser while you’re nursing or taking a moment to sit down and breathe can really bring you back into your body and calm your nerves.
Topically, it’s also very healing and anti-inflammatory. Giving birth is tough on the body, and your vaginal tissues may need some extra healing support. Frankincense, especially when mixed with rose is antibacterial and will help bring down swelling and encourage healing. I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes for padsicles below.
Clary sage can be helpful for labor to encourage uterine contractions and get things moving, which is why it should never be used during pregnancy. Postpartum on the other hand, is another story. One thing people don’t often realize is that the uterus also needs to shrink back down or its original size after birth. These contractions are inevitable but you can help them to be more effective and work their magic more quickly by inhaling a little clary sage. Put a few drops in a diffuser or add a couple of drops to a carrier oil and massage into your forearms and thighs.
If you’re one of the people who suffered from hormonal acne during pregnancy, tea tree oil can help you get your clear skin back.
How to Use: Add a drop to your favorite moisturizer or serum and apply to your skin to improve scarring and heal active breakouts. Because of its powerful anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it can heal acne like nothing else. And it’s one of the essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, so you don’t have to worry about harming your baby by using it.
This is one of those essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding and good for pretty much anything. Relaxation, stress, anxiety, sleep support, inflammation, pain, skin irritation, burns, lavender does it all.
It is amazing for skin healing, and can be safely used on vaginal tissues as well. If you’re suffering from mastitis or a plugged milk duct then you need something to ease the pain that’s also safe for the baby.
How to Use: Add a drop or two of lavender to a carrier oil and massage into the breasts, avoiding the area around the nipple. Add it to the bath or put a drop on your pillowcase to promote a restful night’s sleep (or at least to improve the few hours of sleep you are managing to get in between feedings.)
Maybe one of the side effects of pregnancy for you was stretch marks, which are so common. Or maybe you’re left with some sun spots or acne. Helichrysum is incredibly healing to the skin, stimulating cell turnover and helping to promote elasticity.
How to Use: Add a drop to jojoba oil and massage into the skin. Or if your face is a little more sensitive, add a drop to whatever skin cream you’re already using.
ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY
Now that you can see the variety of essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, what essential oils should not be used during pregnancy? Below is a list of oils that are not recommended in pregnancy. If you’re ever in doubt always do some research or check in with your care provider, an herbalist or aromatherapist. The wrong essential oils can cause harm during pregnancy, and it’s just not a risk worth taking.
Citrus oils (lemon, lime, wild orange, etc.) are photosensitive which means they increase skin sensitivity when in the sun. This can lead to sunburn so I recommend staying away from topical application of citrus oils unless the skin will not be exposed to the sun for the next 12 hours.
- Cinnamon or Cassia
- Parsley (seed or leaf)
The most important thing with using essential oils in pregnancy is to always dilute, use common sense, don’t ingest and avoid the oils that are not recommended.
How to Use Oils in Pregnancy and Postpartum
The number one thing we need to remember is that we must always choose the right dilution
- 1% is appropriate starting dose for expecting moms
- About 2 drops per tsp. Carrier oil = 1% dilution
- Many can handle a normal dose at 2% dilution
- Be aware of sensitivity to smell
Essential Oil Recipes for Pregnancy and Postpartum
DIY CLEANING MIX WITH ESSENTIAL OILS SAFE FOR PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING
- 16 oz glass spray bottle
- About 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar
- 10 drops of orange essential oil
- 10 drops of lemon essential oil
- 10 drops of tea tree essential oil
Combine all the ingredients and shake well. Use this mix in the kitchen, bathroom or other hard non-porous surfaces.
STRESS BUSTING BATH SALTS FOR PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM
- 1 cup of epsom salts
- 2 tablespoons bentonite or kaolin clay (optional)
- 3 drops of geranium essential oil
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
Add the ingredients together first in the pyrex before putting it into a hot bath. The essential oils get broken down with the epsom salts for better absorption in the bath.
NAUSEA AND MORNING SICKNESS DIFFUSER BLEND
- 2 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops of orange essential oil
- 2 drops of ginger essential oil
Add these to a diffuser when you’re feeling nauseous and head-achey.
POSTPARTUM PADSICLES WITH ESSENTIAL OILS SAFE FOR PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING
- ½ cup of alcohol-free witch hazel
- ¼ cup of alcohol-free pure aloe vera gel
- ¼ cup of rose water or rose hydrosol
- 10 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 10 drops of helichrysum essential oils
- 10 drops of geranium
Mix these all together in a pyrex and apply a few tablespoons to a maxi pad, right in the center. Then wrap it back up and place it in the freezer. These are incredibly soothing for vaginal healing post-birth and will help prevent infection.
UPLIFTING ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND FOR LABOR
- 3 drops of orange essential oil
- 3 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops of geranium essential oil
Place these into a diffuser and let the aroma give you the boost you need. Even in a short labor, this blend could be really helpful around transition where labor is most intense and pushing will come soon.
ESSENTIAL OIL MASSAGE BLEND FOR DELIVERY
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 2 oz olive oil or other moisturizing carrier oil of your choice
- 10 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 10 drops of lavender essential oil
Mix the ingredients together and store in a dark bottle in a cool place to keep the oils from degrading. Use this blend for perineum massage in the weeks prior to labor to prepare the area and soothe the skin.
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 10 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 10 drops of helichrysum essential oil
- 10 drops of geranium essential oil
- 1 tbsp of carrier oil (coconut, almond, avocado or olive)
- Purified water
Add the essential oils and carrier oil to the bottle and top with water. Spray as needed onto the vagina and perineum to promote healing and soothe irritated skin.
- Maxi pads
- Witch hazel
- 10-20 drops of lavender essential oil
- 10-20 drops of roman chamomile
This is a great make ahead recipe to keep in your freezer! Apply 10-20 drops of lavender and chamomile to a bottle of witch hazel and then saturate the pads with the mixture. Place them in the freezer and use as needed to cool down any inflammation and discomfort in the perineum. The maxi pads have an added benefit of absorbing postpartum bleeding.
C-SECTION INCISION GEL
- 1 oz aloe vera gel
- 5 drops of melaleuca
- 5 drops of frankincense
- 5 drops of lavender
Apply to the incision area and allow the gel to dry. Once it does, cover with a cotton pad to keep it dry and absorb any oozing that may be happening from the site. If your healthcare provider recommends that you stop dressing the wound, you can apply the gel and leave it uncovered. If your skin reacts negatively to the oils, stop using them.
POSTPARTUM ANXIETY AND MOOD BOOSTING BLEND
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
- 3 drops of bergamot essential oil
- 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
Place in a diffuser and take deep breaths while resting quietly (no phones or distractions if possible!) These essential oils should help you to relax as well as release any sadness or negative emotions you may be holding.
As you can see I’m all about using natural, plant based remedies to support whenever I can. And while there are some precautions to keep in mind, there are also a lot of essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Just do your research, check with your care provider and use your intuition when working with essential oils, herbs, supplements or anything else during this time.