Bringing a new life into this world is quite possibly the most miraculous and joyous thing you could ever experience. It is a time of wonder, excitement and many changes. As your body grows and develops into a home for this little being, you may begin to have physical ailments that stem from that. You know that you need to be extremely careful while in this state, so treating these ailments in the safest way possible is a priority. Essential oils are wonderful natural tools that you can use for so many physical, mental and emotional conditions, but are they safe for pregnancy? And what about using aromatherapy during labour and breastfeeding, is that safe? These are all great questions, with a lot of details to know, so let’s get started.
The first trimester of pregnancy is a very fragile time. The baby is just beginning to develop and is still very small. We know that the constituents in essential oils can cross into the placenta, so we need to be very careful during this timeframe. The use of aromatherapy is generally not advised during the first trimester. If you choose to use essential oils, inhalation is the safest option. For topical use, it is recommended you stick to a 1% dilution. The more you use, the more that gets to the baby, so we also suggest to only use aromatherapy as needed for physical issues and not every day. Some therapeutic uses might include combatting morning sickness, calming stress or sleep support.
During the second and third trimester, you may start to experience more physical issues like back pain, swollen feet and tight skin. At this point, the topical application of essential oils is considered safe and a dilution of only 1% is recommended. Most experts agree that aromatherapy should only be used as needed and not on a daily basis. Keep in mind that less is more when it comes to this delicate time and we always need to put the baby’s health first.
*Some essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy, see the list below.
- Essential oils are not recommended during the first trimester, but the safest use is inhalation.
- If you choose to use safe essential oils topically during pregnancy, a 1% dilution is recommended.
- Do not use essential oils every day.
- Do not diffuse for long periods.
Essential oils to avoid entirely during pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding: Rue, Wormwood, Hyssop, Sage, Parsley, Anise, Tansy, Camphor, Mugwort, Birch, Wintergreen, Pennyroyal, Thuja, Tarragon, and Basil (safe for breastfeeding).
Essential oils considered safe during pregnancy per NAHA (not a complete list, always consult your doctor): Bergamot, Benzoin, Black Pepper, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Mandarin, Marjoram, Neroli, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood, Orange, Tea Tree, and Ylang Ylang. Peppermint is safe for pregnancy but not for nursing.
On of our favourite oils to use during pregnancy is Geranium as it can help minimise swelling in the legs and feet because it has a stimulating effect on the lymphatic system which can help to reduce fluid retention. Geranium has been referred to as a “women’s oil” because it can help to balance hormones and reduce the symptoms of mood swings. Create a relaxing foot soak by adding 2 drops of geranium to 1/3 cup of Epson salts. Combine the oil and salts, mix well and add to a warm foot bath. Total bliss!
Being in labour can be a very stressful and painful time, so naturally, it is another opportunity to utilise your essential oils to help ease the conditions. If your doctor or hospital allows the use of a diffuser in the delivery room, this is a great time to inhale a calming blend to help soothe your mind. Another option would be to massage a labour blend on to your stomach to encourage steady contractions and relieve discomfort. A clinical study showed that women who smelled Lavender oil during labour reported a lower intensity in pain. In addition, a separate study proved that women who inhaled Lavender at night improved their sleep quality postpartum.
- Make sure your doctor approves the use of essential oils during labour.
- Ginger oil is a great option for nausea.
- Lavender oil can help with stress and pain.
- Frankincense oil may help regulate breathing and keep you grounded.
- Jasmine and Clary Sage may stimulate uterine contractions.
- Peppermint is great for creating a fresh aroma in your birthing room/area.
To a baby, your care and feeding is the most important thing for their health and growth. It is pertinent to make sure that nothing interferes with that. Essential oils continue to be a great option for holistic therapy when you are nursing, but you need to know a few details. There are a couple of essential oils that may increase or decrease your milk supply. Also, you want to be careful as not to overwhelm the baby as this may discourage feeding.
- Do not use essential oils topically or diffuse them when baby is nursing.
- Nighttime diffusion of a calming blend (in a separate room from the baby) can be a wonderful sleep aid for mum and dad.
- Topical use of a 1% dilution can help a new mum with physical issues like varicose veins, stretch marks, and muscle pain.
- Tea Tree oil may be useful in treating mastitis.
- Basil and Fennel oil can boost milk supply when used topically on the breast after feeding. Make sure no oil is present at the next feeding.
- Peppermint oil is known to stop milk production. If you are ready to cease breastfeeding, you can apply diluted Peppermint oil topically to breasts.
In general, essential oils can be a perfect natural aid during this very special time. Just make sure to be careful as to which oils you use and how you are using them so that you and baby stay healthy and happy!