Safety first – Essential Oils During Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Labor
Updated: Mar 2
A woman’s body goes through many changes in pregnancy and it's tempting to try holistic remedies to ease some discomfort. Essential oils can be useful but they must be used with extreme caution during pregnancy, breastfeeding and especially labor.
This article talks about what to avoid during this tender time in a mom’s life. Please always check with your doctor before using any essential oils. This includes the use of essential oils in steamers or diffusers. If you do choose to use any essential oils during pregnancy or lactation, you should dilute them to half strength. Diffuses are great too but should be used for short periods of time only. The first trimester in a pregnancy is when pregnancy is the most vulnerable. This is when women should practice the most caution when using oils.
There are some oils that can be beneficial in a pregnancy and even help with the pain during labor. Again however, check with your midwife or doctor first. Some oils are safe to use in a diffuser during labor to help with pain management. Oils should never be added to a birthing pool.
Always check first before using a natural remedy during this time. We all have different health portfolios that may make the use of essential oils either forgiving, beneficial or harmful. So at the risk of sounding like a stuck gramophone (old timey record players), please research your desired oils first.
I’m sure that by now you might be asking what the big deal is. I mean, they are just aromatic oils right? Essential oils are super concentrated plant extracts. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) claim that when the oils are absorbed into the skin they may cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus. The concentration would be very small but an obvious concern. This is one of the main reasons why oils are avoided completely during the first trimester of any pregnancy. Some oils could initiate uterine contractions. Clary Sage is one oil with that potential. Cinnamon, clove and rosemary could also initiate contractions. There are others that may thin the blood and cause bleeding.
When safe oils are blended to half strength this risk drops significantly. The safer oils are recommended in the second and third trimesters when the pregnancy is more mature and the baby is more developed. Safer oils such as lavender and chamomile can help with sleep and relaxation.
A registered aromatherapist or naturopath is your best resource when you need information about safe dilutions and concentrations of blended oils for use during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. They will make sure to ask all the right questions. Always tell them about any allergies or health issues so that they can choose oils that won’t affect any of those conditions. Consider doing a patch test to make sure that you are not allergic to any oils or their blends.
Since it is unethical to do any clinical trials on pregnant women, the information compiled about safe use of essential oils is based on documented experiences and known properties for each oil.
Please don’t ever:
- Do not use undiluted essential oils.
- Do not eat or drink essential oils.
- Do not use essential oils in steam inhalation during pregnancy.
- Do not use essential oils topically during the first trimester.
- Do not use essential oils when breastfeeding before asking your doctor.
- Do not add essential oils to the bath or birthing pool.
A 'safety first' list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy, breastfeeding and labor. These oils have been identified as unsafe during pregnancy and lactation because of their specific chemical properties. Please note that some of these oils may be safe later in pregnancy when used in a diffuser in a very diluted state. Lavender is an example.
· Anise, Star
· Sweet Birch
· Black Pepper
· Black Seed
· Carrot Seed
· Chaste Tea
· Cinnamon Bark
· Clary Sage
· Cypress, blue
· Dill Seed, Indian
· Fennel, bitter and sweet
· Ho Leaf
· Lemon Balm, Australian
· Marjoram, sweet
· May Chang
· Myrtle, honey, lemon and aniseed
· Parsley, leaf and seed
· Sage, Dalmation and Spanish
· Tea Tree, lemon scented
· Thyme, lemon
· Verbena, lemon
· Western Red Cedar
A 'safety first' list of essential oils that may be beneficial during pregnancy, breastfeeding and labor if your doctor or midwife clears you to use them. These oils have been identified as safe during pregnancy and lactation if used sparingly at low dilutions. Remember to do your own research. Many of these oils are only safe to use after the first trimester and some are only safe to use toward the third trimester. I highly recommend consulting with a registered and certified aromatherapist or naturopath first. If you don’t feel good after using any oils or their blends, please stop use immediately.
When used in an inhaler, lavender, chamomile, peppermint or ginger can help relieve nausea.
Lavender, ylang ylang and frankincense can help with muscle aches. Massage the diluted oil into the affected area. Spritz a lavender, mandarin, frankincense or ylang ylang on your pillow to improve sleep.
· Roman Chamomile
· Rose Otto
· Sweet Orange
· Tea Tree
· Ylang Ylang
(If you or someone you know may have been exposed to a dangerous substance, contact poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222 or go to poisonhelp.org for assistance.)