Essential Oils 101: What You Need to Know About Using Essential Oils During Pregnancy and Postpartum
There is no hiding that this pregnancy is 100% different than with Andrew: from our lifestyle (no chickens and garden back then!) and diet, to our beliefs, concerns, and wishes through the pregnancy. We’re choosing to home birth in the comfort of our home (more info on that soon), making sure we don’t clamp the cord until it stops pulsing, and a few other things you might be interested in.
Amongst all of that, another significant difference is the fact that I had NO idea what essential oils were during my pregnancy with Andrew 5 years ago. Even now that I’m in my second trimester, I still don’t feel like I know enough information about essential oils to use them safely through my pregnancy and postpartum. All I know is that they have therapeutic qualities I could be taking advantage of but I have heard some essential oils aren’t safe for pregnancy.
So, I turned to my favorite aromatherapist, Retha Nesmith of Plant Therapy to answer some questions I had (and probably you have)about using essential oils safely during pregnancy and postpartum with your new bundle of joy. It has helped clear up a lot of confusion for me and has given me the confidence to use essential oils safely. I hope it does the same for you!
Retha and I have worked together closely over the past year to bring great DIY’s and informational posts about essential oils on Naturally Loriel. A few months ago, she helped answer some questions I had in regards to the general overview of essential oils; including the safety, terms, and other aspects you may not hear too much about. You can read that post here.
Loriel: What type of oils can’t be used in the first trimester?
Retha: In Essential Oil Safety, Robert Tisserand lists oils that should not be used by any route during pregnancy and nursing. Some of these oils (and the more popular ones) are Anise, Birch (Sweet), Carrot Seed, Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Cypress (blue), Fennel (Sweet), Ho leaf (camphor CT), Hyssop (pinocamphone CT), Lavender (Spanish), Myrrh, Oregano, Sage (Dalmation & Spanish), Tansy (NOT to be confused with Blue Tansy), and Wintergreen. *Note: CT means chemotype. If you see one of the oils above and it doesn’t list what chemotype it is, please ask the seller of the oil.
In Essential Oil Safety, you can also find a list of essential oils that should be restricted during pregnancy and nursing. Some of the oils included in this list are Lemon balm, Lemongrass, May Chang (Litsea), and Melissa.
I personally do not recommend using essential oils topically in the first trimester. Essential oils can be great to help with nausea during the first trimester, but I recommend they be used only when needed and I recommend they be used through inhalation. You can make up a personal inhaler with oils such as Peppermint, Ginger, Dill Weed, Spearmint, Pink Grapefruit or Lemon, or you can diffuse these oils in the air when needed.
Loriel: Are there any concerns with using essential oils in the first trimester?
Retha: A developing baby is very vulnerable throughout pregnancy but especially during the first three months. One of the biggest concerns is toxicity. It is believed that some chemicals constituents found in some essential oils will cross over into the placenta. The amount that is needed to cause any damage is unknown in most cases.
So although there is some concern with the oils listed above and others not listed, how much of a concern is not really known at this time. I always say, I would rather be safe than sorry! Especially with my babies!
Loriel: I’m dealing with serious nausea — what and how can I use it?
Retha: Some oils that are safe to use while pregnant that also help with nausea are Peppermint, Ginger, Dill Weed, Spearmint, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, etc. My favorite ways to use these essential oils during pregnancy to help with nausea, is in a personal aromatherapy inhaler. This way, you can control exactly when you are inhaling these oils. You could also diffuse the oils using your favorite diffuser or in the second and third trimester, you could apply them diluted to your chest or wrist.
Loriel: I feel exhausted in my first trimester — what is safe for me to use and what is the best way to use it?
Retha: Lemon and Peppermint are my two personal favorite essential oils to give me that extra boost during the day. I like to use these oils in a personal inhaler also. It makes it convenient to carry the inhalers around with me wherever I go.
Whenever I needed an extra boost of energy, I would simply get out my personal inhaler and inhale the oils.
Loriel: I feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride with my emotions — are there any essential oils that I can use throughout my whole pregnancy to help?
Retha: Some oils that can help with these mood swings are Bergamot, Geranium (Bourbon or Egyptian), Lavender, Mandarin, Petitgrain and Rose Absolute.
Loriel: My belly is starting to get itchy — what oils are best to help with dry, itchy skin?
Retha: I would recommend carrier oils and body butters with a very small dilution of essential oils. Some essential oils that can help with skin issues while pregnant are Cedarwood Atlantica, Copaiba, Lavender, Palmarosa, Patchouli, and Helichrysum italicum. Here’s a post with 3 anti-stretch mark remedies for growing pregnant bellies.
Loriel: My libido is low — are there any oils that can help me in this area?
Retha: Patchouli and Lavender can sometimes help in this area. I also recommend getting plenty of rest, nobody feels like doing anything when they are extra tired, using essential oils to help give you energy, and overall just taking extra good care of yourself and the little one growing inside of you!
Loriel: What type of oils should be avoided throughout my whole pregnancy?
Retha: I mentioned some of these oils in the first question but here is a summary of that:
Essential oils that should not be used by any route during pregnancy and nursing: Some of these oils (and the more popular ones) are Anise, Birch (Sweet), Carrot Seed, Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Cypress (blue), Fennel (Sweet), Ho leaf (camphor CT), Hyssop (pinocamphone CT), Lavender (Spanish), Myrrh, Oregano, Sage (Dalmation & Spanish), Tansy (NOT to be confused with Blue Tansy), and Wintergreen.
Essential oils that should be restricted during pregnancy and nursing: Some of the oils included in this list are Lemon balm, Lemongrass, May Chang (Litsea), and Melissa.
Loriel: What are some typical oils used for keeping laboring moms relaxed and comfortable?
Retha: Lavender is always the most popular! Clary Sage, although not recommended while pregnant, can be used during labor and delivery to help ease stress and to help with the pain.
Some people even say that Clary Sage is a more effective anti-stress oil than Lavender! Find Plant Therapy essential oils here.
Loriel: Now that I’m nursing, what oils are not safe to have around baby?
Retha: There are many oils that I would not recommend you use around your baby. It will be easier to list oils that you can use around your baby. When using essential oils around a baby, I recommend you stick with essential oils that have been shown to be the safest for young children.
Plant Therapy makes this very easy for mothers. We have a full line of KidSafe synergies which were formulated by THE essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand. We also brand each single oil with a KidSafe stamp if that individual oil is safe to use around children.
When using essential oils around young children, it is also important to keep a couple things in mind.
- When diffusing essential oils with a baby in the home, I recommend you diffuse when the baby is not in the room. Babies cannot tell us if they do not like the scent or if the scent is too overwhelming. So, I just recommend you diffuse in a room where the baby is not in at that time. I also recommend you follow the diffusion guideline of 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off.
- Dilute, dilute, dilute! Babies and young children can get the many benefits of essential oils when the mother dilutes the oils correctly and uses them topically on herself.
*Note: I do not recommend you use essential oils ON a newborn baby. It is not needed very often and I never recommend you use oils just because you have them. We have to remember that essential oils are made up of very powerful chemical constituents. Babies are still developing and we don’t want to take any chances with messing with that development. If you want to use essential oils to help your baby, I recommend you use the oils topically on the mother and the correct dilution. The baby can then get the benefits of the oils through inhalation when the mother is holding the baby and/or nursing.
Loriel: What is the harm that can be done with essential oils that are not meant to be around babies?
Retha: The two most obvious concerns are using essential oils that are hot and can burn the baby. Some of these hot oils include Peppermint, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Bark and Leaf, Cassia, Oregano, etc. Another concern is that there are some essential oils that are high in menthol and cineole that have been shown to cause breathing problems in young children. These two chemical constituents stimulate cold receptors in the lungs which triggers a reflex in young children and can slow breathing significantly, sometimes dangerously.
“Great caution is necessary for infants. Since neonatal skin does not mature until three months of age, it is more sensitive and more permeable to essential oils. A newborn is also less equipped to deal with any adverse effects than an adult because of a lower metabolic captacity…These cautions apply even more to premature babies, and here it would be prudent to avoid all use of essential oils.”- Essential Oil Safety
Loriel: I seem to always forget about using essential oils as a natural remedy for stress, reenergizing, and relaxation. Any tips on how to remember?
Retha: Peppermint and Rosemary help with memory loss 😉 I just recommend starting slowly. Pick a couple of your major concerns and learn everything you can about using essential oils safely and most effectively for those concerns.
As you learn, it would be easier for you to remember because you will have that knowledge base to go off of!
Retha: One last thing I want to end with…
This post is not meant to scare people away from essential oils. I strongly believe that knowledge is power. The more you learn, the more you can get out of these amazing, powerful oils!
I grew up using essential oils. Since the time I was very young, my mother was a certified aromatherapist and we used essential oils on a regular basis in our home. I LOVE essential oils. I RESPECT essential oils. They are always my first choice to help with concerns I have in my home. I have three young children and I use essential oils to help them too!
Don’t be afraid to use essential oils. Don’t be afraid to take that first step. Essential oils are amazing! But with any powerful thing, there can also be concerns. Learn as much as you can. Do what YOU feel most comfortable doing. Do what YOU feel is best for yourself and your family. And ENJOY these amazing essential oils!
Awesome & informative post, Loriel 🙂
Thanks Faith! I have to give major kudos to Retha though. She did all the hard work. 🙂
Great post! It’s so important to talk about EO safety– I know a lot of people just use them without much thought, since they are natural, but they are so powerful that safety should definitely be a concern! Wishing you well through the rest of your pregnancy.
You’re right. I think that’s where people forget to think that even these natural products should be used with safety in mind. Education, education, education!
Thank you for this detailed interview Loriel! This is so great! I will be sharing this everywhere! One question – the lavender mentioned – is that pretty much all lavender? Like there are different kinds correct? Or no?
LOVE THIS! I am so happy to see safe EO useage being shared. LOVE!
🙂 Thank you!
I will pass this info on to my baby bearing girls!
Thank you Linda.
Wow, this is fantastic. I pinned the chart. I didn’t know just how cautious to be, nor which EOs to avoid. What a wonderful and helpful interview!!
Thank you for pinning. And hooray for learning something new.
Great post! It’s so important for us to be safe when using EOs and using proper dilution too. Thanks for the helpful insight, especially for the EOs that are important to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
So important. Thanks Emily!
I did a science experiment with middle schoolers and gave them a memory test before and after smelling rosemary. Their memories showed improvement in a majority of cases. I love essential oils!
That is so cool!
Great post! I think it’s super important to be properly informed about the use of essential oils during and after pregnancy!
Absolutely! Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they should be used without proper education about them.
I hope things are going well for you with your pregnancy and all your intentions for how you want to welcome this next one will be realized. Delayed cord clamping is certainly an easy and obvious one. Putting the baby on mom’s belly right away and leaving him/her there for a long while makes such a big difference. Babies are so alert in that first hour! An exam can be done with baby still on mom, and weighing and washing can be delayed.
So it is safe to use lavender oil during first trimester of pregnancy? I am new to the oils but I have loved using them in my diffuser for the past couple of months. I have trouble sleeping at night so use lavender at night. But I also suffer from migraines, so is it safe to use peppermint in my diffuser as well? Thanks in advance.
I think it is best to stay away from oils all together but I don’t think diffusing lavender every once in a while would hurt. Congratulations on your pregnancy!