The use of aromatherapy during pregnancy has long been a controversial topic. Let’s take a look at both sides of the debate so you can make a more informed decision. First of all, let’s take a look at the benefits of aromatherapy.

The benefits of aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to bring about balance to mind, body and soul. These essential oils are derived from plants. They are basically a super-concentrated form of the beneficial parts of the plant. These extracts have really useful properties. So much so, the hashtag #aromatherapy has 5.8 million posts on Insta! 

Some of the amazing benefits include:

  • Pain relief
  • Stress relief
  • Cheaper than medications
  • Boosts energy
  • Reduces headaches
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Regulates sleep

But can pregnant women take advantage of these unbelievable benefits?

Aromatherapy safety during pregnancy

Essential oils are highly concentrated and powerful. From inhalation or topical application, they travel into the body and through the blood. During pregnancy, whatever chemicals are present in the mother’s blood pass to the developing baby via the placenta. Because of this, it is often recommended that expectant mothers should not use essential oils during pregnancy.

Having said that, essential oils could be considered to be much safer than many personal care products. These products, such as lotions, hair dyes and fragrances, often include artificial ingredients and chemicals that can disrupt hormone balance. Using personal care products during pregnancy is more risky due to this impact on the hormone system

Essential oils safe for use during pregnancy

Some oils that are considered safe to use are:

  • Geranium 
  • Sandalwood 
  • Lavender
  • Rosewood
  • Chamomile
  • Neroli
  • Ylang ylang

Although these essential oils have been used by pregnant women, it is always recommended that you check with an experienced aromatherapy practitioner. Due to changes during pregnancy, sensitivities to certain ingredients can develop. Seeking expert advice about aromatherapy during pregnancy is always the best strategy.

Essential oils to avoid during pregnancy

The reason some essential oils are not safe during pregnancy is that they could cause uterine contractions. They also have the potential to affect oestrogen levels. Until further research has confirmed these claims, it is best to avoid certain oils to protect your baby.

Oils that are not safe to use include:

  • Basil
  • Clary sage
  • Fennel
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

These oils should be avoided throughout pregnancy to reduce any risks to the unborn baby. For more information, check the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapist pregnancy guidelines.

How can aromatherapy help during pregnancy?

Some studies have shown the positive impact essential oils can have on pregnant women. One study focused on lavender essential oil. It looked at the effect of lavender cream on anxiety, stress and depression during pregnancy. This study concluded that using lavender oil in a cream is effective for improving the quality of life for pregnant women experiencing anxiety or depression. 

Another research study looked at lemon oil and symptoms of nausea or vomiting. In this study, one group of pregnant women were asked to inhale lemon essential oil when they felt nauseous. The other group inhaled a placebo. The results confirmed that inhaling lemon essential oil was effective at reducing symptoms.

Aromatherapy can offer a safer natural alternative to synthetic chemicals. That said, it is important to check the essential oils you buy are of a high therapeutic quality containing only pure oil. This can be confirmed by fully researching the ingredients and the company you purchase them from. 

Generally speaking, the aromatic use of essential oils through inhalation is considered the safest method during pregnancy. For example, by using an aromatherapy diffuser. Topical use - applying to the skin - should be used with extreme caution and oils should be highly diluted in a carrier oil. 

The benefits of aromatherapy during pregnancy

Many women have taken advantage of the healing properties of essential oils during pregnancy. So, what are the benefits of aromatherapy during pregnancy?

Eases sickness

The dreaded morning sickness is common - especially during the difficult first trimester. When feeling nauseous, inhaling the citrusy scent of lemon essential oil or the fresh scent of peppermint oil can help ease the feelings of sickness.

Helps with sleep disturbances

During pregnancy, missing out on precious shut-eye can leave you feeling groggy and exhausted. Lavender oil has a long history of helping people relax and drift off. A few drops can be added to a bath or simply on a pillow. 

Improves energy

Even if you’ve had a great night’s sleep, your body is undergoing intense changes during pregnancy. This can make you feel incredibly worn out. If your zest for life has got up and gone, try adding some citrusy scents like lemon and orange to get that zest back.

To relax and ease stress

Getting comfy when pregnant - particularly during the later stages - can be tricky. Some essential oils can help put you in a relaxed state and ease stress. Ylang ylang and chamomile both have wonderfully relaxing qualities that can take your mind off all those aches and pains.

During labor

A research study looked at the use of aromatherapy during labor. It was discovered to be an effective treatment for managing pain in the early stages of labor. Essential oils, such as lavender, can be used in a diffuser or added to a compress.  

Final thoughts

As research regarding essential oils and pregnancy is limited, it is important to exercise caution. Some medical practitioners advise against the use of aromatherapy during the delicate first trimester of pregnancy. 

If you do decide to use essential oils during pregnancy, they should be highly diluted and used in moderation. Consult with a qualified aromatherapy practitioner to discuss any concerns regarding aromatherapy in pregnancy.