Pregnancy can be the most joyful time of a mother’s life, and we want the best for our babies at this most critical, vulnerable stage in their development. Over roughly 40 weeks, they grow from a single cell to a little person, and it is this rapid growth and their small size that makes many herbal products risky where they are otherwise safe for adults. So what are the safe essential oils during this time, and what do we need to avoid the most?

During preconception

Most women do not know they are pregnant for the first few weeks after conception. Therefore, it is important to avoid all herbal remedies classified as emmenagogues as soon as you start trying for a baby. Emmenagogues promote menstruation, and may prevent a new embryo from implanting itself in the uterine lining. Herbs traditionally used to end a pregnancy should also be avoided, such as pennyroyal, tansy and juniper. Many of the essential oils on our To Avoid list are uterine stimulants that fall into one or both of these categories, so if there is a chance you are already pregnant, stop using them. It’s also helpful to consult with your doctor before you start using essential oils while pregnant. 

Which Essential Oils Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Thankfully, there are some essential oils that may safely relieve the negative effects of pregnancy, particularly digestive complaints: 

  • Bitter orange, mandarin, black pepper and ginger essential oils can help relieve constipation.
  • As for diarrhoea, lemon and geranium oils may bring relief. 
  • Bitter orange, lemon, mandarin, peppermint and marjoram can be effective in soothing heartburn. 
  • Lemon, neroli, grapefruit and patchouli can help relieve haemorrhoids and varicose veins when used topically. 
  • Essential oils that may calm morning sickness, one of the first and most common complaints of pregnancy, include lemon balm, German chamomile, peppermint (avoid large doses), spearmint, ginger and lemon.
  • During the last six weeks, aniseed and fennel are potential uterine tonics that could help make birth easier. Once labour starts, inhaling clary sage can be very relaxing during contractions. It is best to avoid clary sage until 37 weeks of pregnancy as the oil can overstimulate the uterus.

For massage, a general rule is to use a total of 20-40 drops for each half-ounce of carrier oil. It is best to use one type of essential oil at a time, to prevent appearance of unexpected reactions.

What Essential Oils Can I Use When Breastfeeding? 

Breast milk is best for your baby, and the time you spend breastfeeding can be a wonderful bonding experience. However, many women complain of painful, swollen breasts or poor milk production, but there are a few remedies that could be of use.

  • In cases of mastitis (inflammation of the breasts), lavender, geranium and Roman chamomile essential oils can aid healing if used topically. 
  • Lavender and oregano can relieve pain associated with swollen breasts. 
  • Fennel oil may increase breast milk supply in cases of insufficient lactation, but jasmine absolute acts as a suppressant. 
  • If your baby has trouble with digestion, fennel, caraway and aniseed are aromatic digestives that may help if enough passes through to the breast milk.

Essential Oils To Avoid 

During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, the following essential oils should be avoided according to Robert Tisserand’s work. He is regarded as a top expert in aromatherapy, and has devoted years of research to the safe and effective use of essential oils:

  • Basil
  • Birch
  • Certain species of frankincense (Boswellia papyrifera)
  • Camphor
  • Champaca (orange) absolute, (Michelia champaca)
  • Hyssop
  • Australian Lemon balm (Eucalyptus staigeriana) 
  • Lemon leaf 
  • Lemongrass 
  • May Chang 
  • Mugwort
  • Lemon balm in high doses (limit to a dilution of 11 drops in four tablespoons of carrier oil) 
  • Honey Myrtle
  • Lemon Myrtle 
  • Nasturtium absolute 
  • Oakmoss
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint in high doses.
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Lemon-scented Tea tree
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Verbena  
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

These oils are uterine stimulants that should be avoided until 37 weeks or until labour starts. 

  • Aniseed
  • Clary sage 
  • Fennel  
  • Holy Basil
  • Juniper should only be used during labour. 
  • Marjoram in high doses. 
  • Myrrh 
  • Parsley  
  • Tansy

Pregnancy is a special yet critical time in the life of your child, but fortunately there are some natural remedies that can safety relieve common discomforts. Of course, everyone is different, and you must always consult your doctor before trying anything if you have a high-risk pregnancy or history of miscarriage. If you are currently pregnant, we wish you all the best.