Relaxation, peace and quiet. Although this might be the ideal state in which all moms-to-be should exist, concerns about the impending childbirth process, the health of their baby and everyday stressors can dispel that tranquil state of mind. But massage enhanced with aromatherapy during pregnancy could help restore bliss.
Know the Guidelines
The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) provides guidelines for using aromatherapy with pregnant clients and cites the safety of this practice. The guidelines point out that expectant moms metabolize and excrete the essential oils. A small amount of essential oil may cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus. However, if proper dilutions are used—recommended dilution is 1 percent or less—the amount of oil will be miniscule. Undiluted oils in any proportion are never permitted for use on expectant women.
Additionally, pregnant women develop a thicker layer of fat underneath the skin. The oils reside in this fatty layer where they dissolve and release slowly into the tissues so the fetus is not exposed to concentrated doses of the oils. The IFPA reports there are no recorded instances of fetal harm from essential oils used in aromatherapy.
Ann Lohr, a private practitioner in Glastonbury, Connecticut, trained with Andrea Butje, internationally known aromatherapist and owner of Aromahead Institute. Her 400-plus hours of training qualify Lohr as a clinical aromatherapist. She reports that aromatherapy can relieve tension, stress and minor ailments, induce relaxation and serve as good practice for breathing during labor.
“Pregnant women feel heavy and tired. They may not be sleeping right and are anxious about delivery and life in general,” she says. “Aromatherapy enhances relaxation. It’s a fantastic way to enhance wellness and health.”
Lohr emphasizes the importance of using the highest quality essential and carrier oils. She cautions that products should be purchased from a reputable company.
“You should check out the GC/MS report,” she says. GC/MS refers to gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. GS separates volatile compounds in the essential oils into individual components and produces a linear graph that charts the components. MS identifies the components and their percentages. These reports are important because they provide key information related to therapeutic benefits and safety issues, which chemical composition can influence.
Lohr also notes that you should look for distillation dates listed on the packaging. “Oils have a shelf life. You should make sure you have fresh ones,” she says. “Aromatherapy is a big buzz word, but there’s not a lot of education out there. Many people selling oils are not knowledgeable. There are a lot of synthetic products out there on the market. If you are going to use oils, make sure you are educated or consult an expert.”
Many oils are safe to use on your pregnant clients. A complete list of both safe and contraindicated oils can be found at the IFPA website. Lohr prefers to use a combination of uplifting orange, analgesic lavender and vanilla infused with jojoba oil to induce a sense of relaxation and peace. “I’m not out to relieve sore muscles,” she says. “The calming effect helps the woman focus and opens the breath.”
In addition to the IFPA, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy features credible information on aromatherapy.
Julie Chen, M.D., an integrative practitioner, cites aromatherapy as a healing modality that can provoke a mind-body reaction. By using specific essential oils, you have the power to gently lead your expectant clients to a stress-free state of mind.