By: Clinical Aromatherapist Amber Duncan

MBRN Member at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

The use of essential oils in pregnancy seems to be one area that, along with use around children, needs to have more care exercised. It is noted by Tisserand and Young that: “Few aspects of toxicology arouse such concerns as the effects of chemical substances on the female reproductive system and the development of the fetus. A principal reason for this is lack of information. Less is known about the effects of chemicals (from whatever source) on the reproductive system than in any other area of toxicology. As with carcinogens, there is no possibility of intentional human testing, and extrapolating from studies in pregnant animals is problematic.”1 It is for this reason that below is a list of essential oils to avoid in pregnancy. Please consider consulting a certified aromatherapist before using any essential oils during your pregnancy as essential oils truly are as potent as medication and can cause unintended harm. 

Essential Oils to Avoid in Pregnancy

The following oils should be avoided in pregnancy for a myriad of reasons, please triple check any essential oils or essential oil blends that you use as it is better for baby and mom to steer clear of the following: feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), ho leaf (Cinnamomum camphor ct. camphor), spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), sweet birch (Betula lenta), wintergreen (Gaultheria fragrantissima), spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), savin (Juniperus sabina), wormwood (all types- Artemisia absinthium), green yarrow (Achillea nobilis), lemon basil (Ocimum x citriodorum), lemon balm (Australian- Eucalyptus staigeriana), lemon leaf (Citrus x limon), lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), may chang (Litsea cubeba), melissa (Melissa officinals), honey myrtle (Melaleuca teretifolia), lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), lemon-scented tea tree (Leptospermum peteronii), lemon thyme (Thymus lanuginosus var. citriodorum), lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora), indian dill seed (Anethum sowa), parsley leaf (Petroselinum crispum), parsley seed (Petroselinum crispum), artemisia vestita (Artemisia vestita), genipi (Artemisia genepi), lanyana (Artemisia afra), mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris), dalmatian sage (Salvia officinalis), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), thuja (Thuja occidentalis), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), araucaria (Neocallitropsis pancheri), atractylis (Atractyllodes lancea), blue cypress (Callitris intratropica), anise (Pimpinella anisum), star anise (Illicium verum), bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) , sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and aniseed myrtle (Backhousia anisata).1

Pregnancy is truly an amazing time in a woman’s life but, as with many things in life, some annoying quirks can accompany this period and bring some unpleasant physiological complications. In this article two common issues are addressed with combinations that have the potential to help resolve those issues encountered by the expectant mommy to be. While none of what follows is intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any medical issues, these recipes, when used appropriately can complement traditional treatments. When creating a blend in pregnancy the recommended dilution ratio is one percent, this is simply 5-6 drops of essential oil in one ounce (2 tablespoons) of a carrier oil. 

 

Headaches/Migraines

While this is only the start of the lovely headaches you will get to enjoy throughout motherhood, these first pains are just a reminder that your body is going through some very drastic changes. One source of the migraines could be low magnesium, so it is worth checking with your doctor about a potential need for supplements. Some essential oils that could help are listed next along with a couple of hydrosol options for making compresses.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an essential oil that is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antirheumatic, CNS sedative, immunostimulant and tonic (restoring vitality). 

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) is an essential oil that is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and immune-stimulating. Emotionally this oil is known to support healing on many levels and helps to focus your attention and quiet the mind. 

A good alternative to essential oils for this would be the hydrosols of: lavender in a compress for your neck and forehead. Another option is a compress with a mix of roman chamomile hydrosol and peppermint hydrosol.2

Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. In pregnancy this uneasiness can manifest into worry not only for the pregnancy and baby related concerns, but excessive worry over every little thing. There are many essential oils that could tentatively help calm the mommy to be.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, CNS sedative, emotionally relaxing and calming while being uplifting. 

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, CNS sedative, immune-stimulating and emotionally is known to calm, nurture and reduce both anxiety and fear. 

Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) is an essential oil that is also antidepressant, a CNS sedative, and immune-stimulating. Emotionally this oil is known to help relax nerves and calm and sooth the body.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, a CNS sedative along with being hypotensive. This essential oil is also known to relax and help people experience true joy.

A quick item to make up and easy to have on hand is an aroma inhaler for a great anxiety blend combine the above - blend 5 drops bergamot (Citrus bergamia), 5 drops ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), 7 drops neroli (Citrus aurantium var. Amara) and 3 drops of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) on to your blank inhaler. 

While a far cry from an all-inclusive list of recipes the above does serve as a start and a great way to begin to look at complementary therapies. If you want more detailed information or have a specific aromatherapy question, please feel free to contact me via my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DuncanClanHealthHelpers) or my website (www.theapothecaryinstitute.com). Both of these have lists of great resources including places to purchase essential oils, hydrosols and carrier oils. 

References:

  1. Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingston Elsevier.
  2. Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols- The Next Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

This article was also shared in the Stars and Stripes Okinawa Community newspaper.


Amber Duncan is a Clinical Aromatherapist working in the Dayton Ohio and surrounding areas. She uses her knowledge of essential oils to teach the safe and appropriate use of them in many settings. These include full workshops, one on one consultations both in person and via Skype, and e-courses that are available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Her specialty in the field is the use of aromatherapy in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care along with the use of aromatherapy with children.