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Essential Oils and Pregnancy: What Oils Are Safe?


There was no ancient civilization as advanced in the field of medicine as the Egyptians. The Egyptians were always looking for a way to alleviate a patient's symptoms, and cure whatever was ailing them. They were the first to use a version of aromatherapy in an effort to ease symptoms, as they burned herbs, spices, and aromatic woods which seemed to have a healing effect.

Centuries later, we are still using essential oils for aromatherapy, to improve our health and alleviate symptoms, but one question remains - is it safe during pregnancy? The answer to this question when you are expecting, isn’t so cut and dry. There are many doctors that are confident essential oils are fine to use when pregnant and even encourage it as an alternative to other medications. Others have their doubts since there hasn’t been extensive studies on the side effects.  

If you aren’t familiar with essential oils and how to use them, here’s a quick run down. Most people who use essential oils breathe them in, but you can also place them on the skin to be absorbed. When using oils topically, you should dilute them, and if you want to inhale them make sure you diffuse them. If you prefer to apply the oils, it’s recommended to apply them to the tops of feet, arms, wrists, neck or behind the ear. Do not directly digest any essential oils until you have cleared it with your doctor, some are toxic if consumed by mouth. 

natural oils being diffused from an oil diffuser

What essential oils should I not use during pregnancy?

We know that there are oils that you want to stay away from completely during pregnancy. These oils can cause complications, such as uterine contractions, bleeding, and increased risk of miscarriage. You will want to stay way from oils such as:

  • camphor
  • basil fennel
  • clary sage
  • marjoram
  • mugwort
  • tarragon
  • caraway
  • cinnamon
  • thuja
  • pennyroyal
  • birch
  • wintergreen
  • nutmeg
  • juniper berry
  • hyssop
  • aniseed
  • sage
  • tansy
  • wormwood
  • parsley

If you have had any complications during your pregnancy such as diabetes, history of miscarriage, or heart problems; it’s best to stay away from aromatherapy completely.  

basil, fennel and lavender oils being produced in mason jars

What essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy?

During your first trimester, it’s a wise idea to hold off on the oils completely, but if you are in your second or third trimester there are some oils that are generally considered safe and can help you relax, sleep better, soothe muscles, treat hemorrhoids, and relieve nausea. It’s important to talk to your doctor first, but here’s a quick list of essential oils that are generally considered safe during pregnancy, and how they can help:

  • Peppermint can ease nausea and headaches. 
  • Lavender may help decrease anxiety levels and is known to help you relax and sleep well. 
  • Neroli lowers blood pressure and can help ease anxiety. 
  • Eucalyptus is great for relieving congestion.
  • Orange can help brighten your day by making you feel happy and calm.
  • Tea Tree oil shouldn’t be used during labor, but it’s an anti fungal and has antiviral properties.

When purchasing essential oils, it’s important to remember that they are not regulated by the FDA, so you will want to select carefully. Your doctor is a great resource and can not only help you to know what oils are ok to use, but also can guide you in the best place to purchase them. If the company you are looking to buy your oils from is clear on where the oils come from, can site studies done on their oils, and clearly list the ingredients (it should only include the oil itself and maybe a carrier oil), then it’s likely a reputable company. 

You will also want to look at the packaging of the oils, they should be sold in an amber colored glass bottle.  Never purchase oils sold in plastic bottles or clear glass. The oils are pretty potent and can break down plastic if it’s stored in a plastic bottle. The amber colored bottles will also help to protect the oils from possible UV light damage. 

As always, before trying any type of essential oils, give your doctor a call so they can help you evaluate if it’s a product that is safe for you.  

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