Essential oils have been used for universal maternal complaints such as morning sickness, swollen ankles and back pain, as well as during labor and breastfeeding. Discover the benefits of aromatherapy during pregnancy.

Science continues to reveal more about the nine months of pregnancy than earlier generations could have imagined.

To women and their doctors in the centuries prior to sonograms and amniocentesis, pregnancy was a paradox: Dramatic, visible changes in a woman’s body with each successive month of gestation masked many more complex processes, hidden deep within the uterine interior.

For this reason, pregnancy itself has long been masked with beliefs and concerns for the welfare of the mother and developing baby.

The use of essential oils while pregnant has inspired much discussion. For centuries, midwives, doulas and pregnant women have been known to use traditional botanical extracts and herbal treatments. Essential oils have been used for universal maternal complaints such as morning sickness, swollen ankles and back pain, as well as during labor and breastfeeding.

Essential Safety

Folkways often clash with modern science when it comes to the internal ingestion and topical application of essential oils during pregnancy, with regard to protecting the safety of the fetus.

A classic example is ginger. Ingested as tea, candy, ginger beer or ginger ale, ginger is well documented as a natural way to ease tummy trouble, first in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine, and more recently in the West. Today, however, the stimulant action of spicy ginger root is believed by some health practitioners to be irritating to the degree it may potentially trigger miscarriage when taken internally by a pregnant woman.

Experiencing essential oils via an aromatherapy diffuser, however, is generally accepted as a less intrusive method of using essential oils than ingesting them, or even applying undiluted oil to the skin. Essential oils experienced in this way may enrich an expectant mother’s experience of her pregnancy.

Note: A pregnant woman should consult with her medical care providers before using any essential oil, in order to protect her own health and the health of her growing baby.

The benefits of essential oils are primarily anecdotal; modern clinical research on botanicals and aromatherapy is in its infancy. With this in mind, certain essential oils are widely considered pregnancy-friendly:

  • Orange: Uplifting.
  • Lavender: Use in second and third trimesters; reduces fluid retention.
  • Ylang-ylang: Reduces blood pressure.
  • Neroli: Boosts skin cell generation; reported to be calming.
  • Eucalyptus: Anti-inflammatory, useful to ease swelling of face and feet.
  • Patchouli: Reputed to help offset confusion, indecisiveness and racing thoughts.
  • Geranium: Use in second and third trimesters; promotes circulation, and is especially refreshing to achy legs as body weight increases and center of gravity changes mid-pregnancy.

Pregnancy often sharpens a woman’s sense of smell, contributing to sudden waves of nausea. In addition to showering with these blends, medical practitioners generally agree it’s safe and soothing to take aromas with you when you’re expecting.

A few drops of any combination of the essential oils noted above, captured in a clean cloth, make a centering, portable sachet that can help ease feelings of fullness and reactions to environmental aromas.

The purity of essential oils is critical, especially when used during pregnancy. Whenever and in whatever form you use them, choose only 100-percent USDA-certified organic essential oils for the most radiant aromatherapy experience.

About the Author

Peter Friis founded ESSIO, a company that manufactures products that allow users to enjoy aromatherapy in the comfort of their own showers. Breathing in microparticles of vaporized botanical essential oils is the unique experience offered by ESSIO aromatherapy for the shower, a new system that releases ultrafine essential oil blends into the moving water of the shower.

To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Aromatherapy for Massage Therapists: Essential Oils for the Pregnant Massage Client,” by Liz Fulcher, in the March 2014 issue. Article summary: The addition of essential oils into a pregnancy massage session can help alleviate a host of conditions a client may present with, and result in a more powerful massage experience. Shown here are common issues your pregnant client may experience, along with the recommendation of an essential oil blend for each condition.