Are Essential Oils Safe During Pregnancy?
Many women are curious about using essential oils in pregnancy. With the rising popularity of Aromatherapy, it seems there is an increase in misinformation on the use of essential oils. Pregnancy and lactation are critical times in the development of a baby, so knowing the proper use of essential oils in pregnancy is best. I cover their safety in this video. Below are my notes from the live video recording I did on Periscope. Download the Periscope App to get notifications of my live broadcasts!
11 Guidelines to Follow
1. A woman’s chemistry and hormonal balance is very different during pregnancy
Because of the tremendous feat she is accomplishing, it makes sense that her physiology would differ greatly from the “average non-pregnant person.” And all of the theory presented about the safe and effective uses of essential oils pertains to the “average non-pregnant person.” Given this fact, caution is warranted.
2. Eating for two
The growing fetus receives all of its nutrition from the mother, through the placenta. Medical professionals are very careful to be aware of what “crosses the placenta.”
- This means determining what transfers to the developing fetus’s system and what doesn’t. Food, water and oxygen, as well as drugs, herbs and essential oil constituents can cross the placenta.
- Unfortunately, there is little to no human research about essential oil constituents crossing the placenta. The safest path is to just assume that essential oil constituents will cross the placenta.
3. The first trimester of pregnancy is generally considered the most delicate time
Since we’re assuming that essential oil constituents cross the placenta, it is generally suggested that the mother use very little essential oil during the first trimester, and only as needed at a 1% dilution. For anyone concerned about the use of essential oils: avoid their use completely during the first trimester.
4. Consider the routes of absorption
As you know by now, different routes of absorption introduce different doses of essential oil into the blood.
- Internal use offers the highest dose and is never recommended during pregnancy.
- Even though we are not teaching these methods, we want to mention that oral, rectal, and vaginal uses of essential oils are inappropriate during pregnancy.
- Skin application offers a smaller dose over a longer period of time, since the oil stays on the skin for a long time.
- Steam inhalation offers a pretty high dose, but for only a very short period of time. (When the person stops steaming, no more essential oil is introduced to the system.)
- Diffusion offers a small dose via inhalation. This will be much smaller than steam inhalation.
- An inhaler offers a dose somewhere between a steam inhalation and room diffusion.
5. Consider the frequency of use
The more you use, the more you absorb… so don’t use essential oils every day during pregnancy.
Reserve essential oil use for health support, such as relieving nausea, calming anxiety, or supporting sleep. By minimizing use, essential oils can be safely used in times of need.
6. Consider the dilution
If essential oils are to be used at any stage during pregnancy, the concentrations administered should be a maximum of 1% dilution. Application of neat (undiluted) essential oils is not advised during pregnancy.
7. Consider your scope of practice
A pregnant woman should use essential oils with guidance from her midwife (trained in the use of essential oils) and/or an aromatherapist. If you’re not confident in your knowledge of essential oils and pregnancy, don’t offer your services to pregnant women.
8. The minimal dose
We’re aiming for the minimal dose of essential oils in order to stay out of nature’s way. Enormous changes are occurring in the mother’s physical structure and physiology, as well as in the developing embryo or fetus.
We are assuming that essential oil constituents will cross the placenta. To respect that, we offer the smallest possible dose that will relieve the mother’s symptoms in order to minimize any effect essential oil components may have on the embryo or fetus.
9. Consider the quality of essential oils
Avoid the use of all solvent extracts (absolutes) and any poor quality oils, as well as perfumes.
10. Consider which oils are safest to use
The choice of essential oils used should be limited to those with a history of low toxicity. When choosing an essential oil, look for oils that are tested for purity through chromatography.
11. Consider which oils are regarded unsafe to use during pregnancy
In general, a 1% dilution is my personal suggestion as an appropriate safe dose for the use of essential oils in pregnancy.
Essential Oils to Avoid in Pregnancy
Avoid any essential oils that have these actions:
- Stimulate the uterus
- Affect the blood
Sage – all types
Restricted Essential Oils During Lactation
These are in addition to the above essential oils
Consolidated guidelines for using Aromatherapy during pregnancy
- As the embryonic stages of the first trimester are the most crucial in terms of fetal development, it is suggested that essential oils be used only on occasion, such as inhaling for morning sickness.
- Pregnant women should only use essential oils with guidance from a midwife and Aromatherapist.
- If essential oils are used at any stage during pregnancy, the concentrations administered should be a maximum of 1% dilution (five to six total drops essential oil to 1 oz/30 ml carrier oil).
- Application of neat essential oils is not advised at all during pregnancy.
- Oral, rectal, and vaginal uses of essential oils are inappropriate during pregnancy.
- The regular, daily use of essential oils while pregnant is not advised.
- The choice of essential oils used should be limited to those with a history of low toxicity. There is no “accepted” or “authoritative” list of oils that are safe or unsafe, as all information is based on common sense rather than proven hazards during pregnancy.
- Avoid the use of all solvent extracts (absolutes) and any poor quality oils, as well as perfumes.
- It should also be noted that essential oils that affect blood coagulation (Birch, Wintergreen, Garlic, Onion) should not be used on breastfeeding mothers.
Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Second Edition. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.