Essential Oil Safety Tips for Pregnant Women
Meghan is a birth doula, postpartum doula, herbalist and breathwork teacher who is passionate about supporting the transition into motherhood. She lives with her husband in Boulder, Colorado and offers virtual doula support for expecting parents anywhere in the world. For more about her services and blog posts about all things holistic birth- visit her website www.birthandbeing.com.
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 morning? Wait… are those stretch marks?!
It’s a lot. And often the most frustrating thing my clients deal with is the overwhelming amount of unsolicited advice. Everyone wants to touch the belly and everyone wants to let you know what they did, or what their grandmother says to do. And often the advice you get from well intentioned friends is overly conservative.
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.
So if essential oils are part of your self care routine or home maintenance, you don’t necessarily have to give them up! All you need to do is learn a little bit about which ones to avoid and how to use them wisely. So without further ado, let’s get into the essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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! DoTerra essential oils for pregnancy are a good choice – because they are the most trusted with backed scientific research.
Never Ingest Them
A lot of people ingest essential oils, but when it comes to using essential oils safe for 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 caffeine can be tricky, as baby’s metabolism just can’t process it out very well.
Just a little image to leave you with: even the safest of oils, like orange, can break down a styrofoam cup or plastic water bottle. You don’t want to be exposing a baby’s delicate tissues to such potent oils, and think about how it might that affect your throat and stomach lining over time?
Always Dilute with a Carrier Oil
When using essential oils safe 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 a general rule would be 2 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. Or around 12 drops per ounce.
When it comes to essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding I’m in the “less is more” camp. Essential oils are potent, effective and a little can really go a long way.
Be Careful Diffusing in Labor and Delivery
If you’re an essential oil lover like me you’re probably reading that rule again and wondering why this is a bad idea? Especially since most birth centers and even some hospitals have diffusers in the rooms now. But hear me out. For one thing, 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 baby’s lungs after birth.
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 (1). 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 drops in a few teaspoons of carrier oil and rub it onto the temples or pulse points. Diffusing a drop or two is another option, or to keep your kitchen fresh just place a drop onto your sponge before wiping down the counters.
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 bright blue oil in a tablespoon of sesame 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 drop 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. But make sure it’s well diluted by putting a couple of drops into a nice carrier oil, like jojoba or even into something more solid like shea butter or coconut oil.
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, put a drop into a bath to help you de-stress and unwind.
The smell of lemon will brighten your mood and ease nausea too. This makes it one of the great essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also kills germs in the air and on surfaces. Since your immune system becomes naturally more compromised during pregnancy you’ll want to avoid getting sick at all costs. You could diffuse it or make a refreshing room spray that is also disinfecting for cold and flu season.
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 clients 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 just a drop to a few tablespoons 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. Just a drop of ginger goes a long way, so keep it minimal.
Maybe you’re used to having a little energy drop in the late afternoon, but now that you’re pregnant it seems to come even earlier and unfortunately caffeine isn’t an option. When it comes to energy boosting essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, rosemary is an ally.
How to Use: Diffuse just a drop of rosemary essential oil at your desk or place a drop on some diffuser jewelry. It will lift your mood, improve focus and boost mental clarity.
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 drop or two in a diffuser or add a couple of drops to a carrier oil and place it onto your pulse points.
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.
“Just put some lavender on it” says every doula I know to every soon-to-be and new mom. This is one of those essential oils safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding and good for pretty much anything. Stress, 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 (diluted of course!) If you’re suffering from mastitis or a plugged milk duct then you need something to ease the pain that’s also safe for 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 or two to a handful of shea butter or a tablespoon of vitamin E 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.
Rose is one of my absolute favorite essential oils. I like to use it to help moms feel more relaxed during labor, and to help promote feelings of love and well being during postpartum.
How to Use: Everyone feels good when they smell rose, so putting a drop in your diffuser will make your home or bedroom more inviting.
Because of its skin healing and anti inflammatory properties It’s also a great addition to padsicles, a sitz bath or perineum healing spray.
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? I’ll share my basic list of absolute no’s, but when 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.
- Cinnamon or Cassia
- Parsley (seed or leaf)
Some people wonder if eucalyptus is safe during pregnancy, since it’s one of the great decongesting herbs and stuffy noses are often big complaint during pregnancy. It’s not my go to, but it is considered safe in very small amounts. Just a drop in the diffuser will do.
But again I can’t emphasize enough to be aware of how you’re using them. There are essential oils that cause miscarriage like parlsey and pennyroyal. And there are also some methods of using essential oils you should avoid during pregnancy, like ingesting them or putting them on the skin without being well diluted with carrier oil.
Essential Oil Recipes
DIY Cleaning Mix with Essential Oils Safe for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- 8 oz glass spray bottle
- ½ cup of water
- ½ cup of distilled white vinegar
- 5 drops of orange essential oil
- 5 drops of lemon essential oil
- 3 drops of peppermint essential oil
Combine all the ingredients and shake well. Use this mix in the kitchen, bathroom or other hard non-porous surfaces. This wouldn’t be a good choice on wood as the vinegar could strip it!
Stress Busting Bath Salts for Pregnancy and Postpartum
- 1 cup of epsom salts
- ⅛ cup of baking soda
- 2 drops of geranium essential oil
- 2 drops of rose 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 Support
- 2 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops of orange 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
- 2 drops of frankincense essential oil
- 2 drops of helichrysum essential oils
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 the vagina post-birth and will help prevent infection and promote healing.
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.
Have you used essential oils during pregnancy? What was your experience? Share your story below, I’d love to hear about it.
- Nuwer, Rachel (2013). “The Smell of Newborn Babies Triggers the Same Reward Centers as Drugs.” Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-smell-of-newborn-babies-triggers-the-same-reward-centers-as-drugs-58482/