Lavender, Ginger, Ylang ylang, Sweet Orange and Grapefruit essential oils are five specific essential oils that can be extremely useful for a healthy, happy pregnancy. Essential oil use in pregnancy is rather controversial, but experts, and we, agree that the use of a few select oils in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can be very helpful pregnancy-support tools for moms-to-be.
Essential Oils That Can Be Considered During Pregnancy
Here are a few of my favorite essential oils to consider during pregnancy (after the first trimester), and suggestions on how to use them for the best results.
Note: For a partial list of oils to avoid during pregnancy, please refer to this video.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia): Fantastic news: The quintessential anti-stress oil is safe for pregnancy used as suggested after the first trimester. True lavender is not a uterine stimulant according the Aromatherapy expert, educator and author Robert Tisserand. In fact, animal research shows it reduces contractions. Diluted lavender oil can be added to a weekly bath or used in a diffuser once or twice a week to help ease pregnancy stress and anxiety. After the baby is born, lavender can be used in an herbal spritz (diluted) to refresh the room, and help keep the mood calm and serene.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Ginger oil is a warm, spicy essential oil that has been used in aromatherapy for centuries. For relief of mild nausea (after the first trimester), diluted ginger essential oil can be added to a diffuser. Ginger blends with lavender can also be helpful. As a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic, ginger oil helps ease the aches and pain of pregnancy used in a mild massage oil. Syrups and teas made from whole ginger root (not the oil) are also effective and have a proven safety record for pregnancy when used appropriately.
Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata): Ylang ylang is the ultimate nervous system oil for mild anxiety and depression. It’s a mood elevator and stress reliever with a sweet, fruity smell that most people like. Ylang ylang can be used to ease pregnancy stress, anxiety and insomnia when used in a diffuser or bath. It can also be used from time to time to combat pregnancy sadness and induce a more happy, joyful mood in times of stress.
Sweet Orange (Orange cinensis): Sweet orange is a citrusy oil that can be used to re-energize the body and lighten mood during pregnancy. Clinical aromatherapists sometimes blend sweet orange with ginger to relieve mild nausea or indigestion. I like to use sweet orange in a diffuser with grapefruit for better mood and energy. For pregnancy, this can be done once or twice a week and can also help gently open the sinuses. Note: Avoid topical use if you’re planning to be out in the sun.
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi): Unlike other citrus oils, grapefruit essential oil has a low risk of phototoxicity if the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, it does oxidize quickly and, therefore, should be used quickly. Grapefruit essential oil is great to use in a diffuser or bath to reduce fatigue and heighten the senses. Some research suggests grapefruit essential oil can even fight infections. However, it should only be used diluted and in moderation during pregnancy.
How to use essential oils in pregnancy:
According to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, during pregnancy, use recommended oils at only 1% dilution – meaning 5-6 drops of essential oil per 1 oz. carrier oil like almond, grapeseed, olive or coconut oil. For pregnancy, essential oils are best used for short periods of time (10-15 minutes) in a diffuser, in a bath or in a very gentle massage oil.
During pregnancy, the female body is delicately tuned and sensitive to imbalance. Every choice of the mother affects the baby. High doses of supplements or herbs aren’t good for the baby’s developing, unprotected system. Even the approach to aromatherapy must be considered differently for pregnancy. While testing is not available on most oils, for safety reasons, always assume that essential oils will cross the placental barrier and have the potential to affect the developing baby.
Keep in mind that while they are natural substances, essential oils are extremely potent. One example: It takes more than 150 pounds of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender essential oil!
A few things to avoid:
- daily use of essential oils
- undiluted essential oils applied directly to skin (NEAT)
- strong steam inhalations, or inhalers
- oral, rectal or vaginal use of oils
- internal use of essential oils
- essential oils from plants that move or affect the blood
- essential oils from plants that stimulate the uterus or have abortifacient (causing abortion) activity.
- during the first trimester, avoid essential oils altogether.
Essential oils play an important role in addressing the challenges of pregnancy. Still, they should be used with care and wisdom. For the best quality, look for essential oils that have undergone chromatography testing. Always read ingredients very carefully to make sure you have the right oil. Avoid oils that contain synthetic ingredients, which could be harmful to the baby and worsen pregnancy symptoms like headaches or insomnia. If you are unsure, always consult with an experienced midwife or clinical aromatherapist for support.
Editor’s Note: Two reputable sources for high-quality, therapeutic-grade and pure essential oils are Aromatics International and Ananda Apothecary.
- Essential Oils. (2016) Fit Pregnancy. Retrieved from: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/pregnancy-health/essential-oils-during-pregnancy-whats-safe-and-what-to-avoid/
- Tiran, D. (2016). Is It Safe To Use Essential Oils While I’m Pregnant. Baby Centre UK. Retrieved from: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/x536449/is-it-safe-to-use-essential-oils-while-im-pregnant
- Tisserand, R., and Balacs, T. (1995). Essential Oil Safety. New York: Churchill Livingstone.
- Pregnancy Guidelines: Guidelines for Aromatherapists working with pregnant clients (2013). International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists. Retrieved from: https://www.naha.org/assets/uploads/PregnancyGuidelines-Oct11.pdf
- “What Essential Oils Should I Avoid In Pregnancy?” (2013). Modern Alternative Mama. Retrieved from: https://modernalternativemama.com/2013/02/16/what-essential-oils-should-i-avoid-in-pregnancy-and-weekend-links/
- How lavender oil is made (2016). Aura Cacia. Retrieved from: https://www.auracacia.com/community/essential-oil/understanding-the-basics
- Rodriguez, H. (2016) Video: Are Essential Oils Safe During Pregnancy?” Retrieved from: https://natural-fertility-info.com/essential-oils-during-pregnancy.html
- Tisserand, R. (2016) Lavender oil and pregnancy. Retrieved from: https://roberttisserand.com/2011/07/lavender-oil-and-pregnancy/