There is often some concern about the use of aromatherapy during pregnancy. A wide variety of misinformation and conflicting advice has lead to confusion and often women choosing not to use essential oils at all. However, although some caution is advisable, aromatherapy can be of great benefit in relieving many discomforts of pregnancy. It is also a valuable tool for use during birth and to enhance wellbeing during the postnatal period.
Aromatherapy can be useful in the following ways during pregnancy:-
- May help to alleviate common discomforts such as nausea,
muscular complaints, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, pruritis (itch), fatigue, insomnia and emotional upsets.
- To help maintain good general health through regular use of essential oils; prevention and early treatment of infection.
- Support your pregnancy through reduction of stress/fear and ensuring good sleep patterns.
- Any aromatherapy treatment, whether given by a professional, partner or the woman herself is
an act of nurturing, essential for all pregnancies.
- Preparation for labour, both physically and psychologically.
There are some essential oils which should not be used, or used with caution, during pregnancy. Many of these oils are not readily available so it’s easy to avoid them.
|Essential oils which should be avoided throughout pregnancy|
Buchu (diosphenol CT)
Buchu (pulegone CT)
Dill seed (indian)
Ho leaf (camphor CT)
Mugwort (common, great,camphor/thujone / chrysanthenylCT)
Sage (Dalmation & Spanish)
Western red cedar
Wormwood (all chemotypes)
Wormwood (sea, white)
Essential oils which should be restricted throughout pregnancy
Champaca (orange) absolute
Lemon Balm (Australian)
Tea Tree (Lemon scented)
The majority of basic essential oils that are readily available are safe to use. It is more about the method of application and dosages used. Consider the following general guidelines:
- Ensure you are using good quality essential oils.
- Never take essential oils via oral, rectal or vaginal route.
- The essential oils listed above need to be avoided or restricted throughout pregnancy, not just during the first trimester.
- Dilute essential oils before applying to the skin. For massage over large areas of the body use a maximum concentration of 2% essential oil (i.e. 4 – 6 drops per 10mls carrier oil). Appropriate carrier oils are cold pressed vegetable, nut or seed oils such as sweet almond, macadamia or sesame oil.
- When adding essential oils to the bath always blend in a dispersant before adding to the water. If you don’t have a dispersant mix the essential oils into 2 teaspoons vegetable oil or unscented shower gel and then disperse into the water.
- Inhalation of essential oils, such as in a vaporiser or on a tissue, carries much less risk but still err on the side of caution regarding how much you use. Also remember a woman’s sense of smell is often much more acute during pregnancy.
- It is preferable to consult a professional aromatherapist for advice and guidance, especially if you have chronic health issues, a history of miscarriage or any pregnancy related concerns.
- Let your health practitioner, doctor, midwife or obstetrician know about anything you are using or proposing to use.
Some suggestions for essential oil use during pregnancy
Useful essential oils
Method of application
Morning sickness/ nausea
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
2 drops on a tissue and inhale regularly
True Lavender (Lavandula angustifiolia)
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Dilute 6 drops in total in 10mls of carrier oil, massage gently into affected areas.
Oedema (swelling)of feet and legs
(Note: oedema should always be reviewed by your midwife or doctor)
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
Disperse 4-6 drops of chosen essential oil (as above); add to foot bath and soak.
Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var bergamia)
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
2 drops on a tissue and inhale regularly
Battaglia, S. (1997). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Queensland: The Perfect Potion.
Guba, R. (2000). Aromatherapy for Mother and Child seminar notes. (Available from The Centre for Aromatic Medicine).
McCabe, P. (Ed) (2001) Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery. Melbourne: Ausmed Publications
Tisserand, R., Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety-A Guide for Health care Professionals (2nd Ed). London: Churchill Livingstone.
Tiran, D. (2005). Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth (2nd Ed). London: Churchill Livingstone.
Williams, W. (2005). Preconception Care and Aromatherapy in Pregnancy. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy 2(1): 15-19
Yavari kia, P., Safajou, F., Shahnazi, M., Nazemiyeh, H. (2014). The Effect of Lemon Inhalation Aromatherapy on Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy: A Double Blinded, Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 16(3): e14360. PubMed PMCID: PMC4005434