Aromatherapy can be a tool that works for many pregnant women to help relieve pain, stress and anxiety. Knowing how to use these tools appropriately lets you offer added value during pregnancy massage sessions—and that means learning vital essential-oil safety information before working with pregnant clients.
Oils Unsafe for General Use
Many essential oils are not safe to use on anyone, including Spanish broom, brown camphor, deertongue, elemi, garlic, horseradish, jaborandi, may chang, melilotus, mugwort, mustard, onion, pennyroyal, rue, sassafras, wormseed, wormwood and yarrow.
Additionally, check the label of any essential oil to make sure it is safe for the purpose for which you intend to use it.
Which Oils Are Unsafe for Pregnancy Massage Clients?
Many essential oils may be safe for most clients, but unsafe for pregnant women because they are not healthy for the mother or baby; cause specific issues, such as blood pressure effects or uterine contractions; or are not proven to be safe in pregnancy. These include:
- Blue Tansy
- Dalmatian sage
- Geranium rose
- Holy basil
- Linden blossom
- Palo santo
- Peru balsam
- Saro or mandravasarotra
- Spanish sage
Clear the use of every essential oil with a pregnant client, every session. Tell her about the oil and its potential benefits. If it’s an oil you’ve used with her in a previous session, remind her of what it is and let her smell it to be sure she still likes it—the same oil may make her feel relaxed during one session and nauseous at the next.
Make sure you can remove or lessen the effect if an oil starts to cause a reaction, either by clearing the air with a diffuser blend or removing a massage oil. Using mists can be ideal, as they dissipate quickly if you need to discontinue use.
If a client has sensitive skin, you can suggest a patch test, or further dilute any formulas you normally use.
More safety guidelines:
- Less is more. If three drops will work for your client, there’s no need to use five.
- Make sure the client approves of every oil being used. Conduct an intake to record the client’s current health and document any allergies to essential oils.
- Do not ever use essential oils directly—always use a carrier oil, cream or water to dilute them for application.
- Do not use oils that are listed as not being safe for pregnant women.
4 Essential Oil Recipes for Common Pregnancy Issues
1. Backache Massage Oil
- 2 ounces St. John’s Wort-infused oil
- 5 drops vetiver essential oil
- 4 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops sandalwood essential oil
Place all oils in a 2- or 3-ounce jar, add a lid and shake well. Shake well before each use.
2. Room Mist for Anxiety
- 5 ounces spring water or rainwater
- 10 drops grapefruit essential oil
- 10 drops sweet orange essential oil
- 10 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 1 ounce 80-proof vodka or brandy (Note: The alcohol is safe to use as part of a mist at this concentration and acts as a preservative; you can substitute plain water, but the blend will have a shortened shelf life.)
Place all ingredients in an 8-ounce spritzer bottle and shake well before each use.
3. Aromatherapy for Pregnancy-Related Nausea
Inhaling lemon or peppermint essential oil—just a few drops on a cotton ball—can be very effective in helping relieve nausea.
4. Leg Cramp Oil
- 2 ounces St. John’s Wort-infused oil
- 5 drops neroli essential oil
- 5 drops grapefruit essential oil
Place all ingredients in a container; cover and shake well. Use in a sweeping motion on sore legs to soothe and relax tired muscles, or help with varicose veins, varicosities and sore backs.
Help Your Pregnant Clients
Aromatherapy can be a fun and safe way to assist clients in dealing with some of the bumps of pregnancy. As long as safety guidelines are followed, side effects and reactions are rare.
Demetria Clark is the director of Heart of Herbs Herbal School and Birth Arts International. She has written several books, including Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding and Herbal Healing for Children. She lives with her family in Bokeelia, Florida, an area that is home to many manatees.