History indicates that man had long since been using plant extracts and oils for their beauty enhancing, aromatic, medicinal, spiritual, as well as therapeutic benefits. Aromatic plants and their essences have been used for religious events, food preparation, and preservation. They have also been the basis of botanical remedies for ages. Essential oils have also been credited for its benefits during pregnancy. Some might even found the best essential oil for pregnancy. The question however is, how safe are essential oils when one is pregnant?
Pregnancy and its challenges
Pregnancy brings in a lot of challenges to the physical, emotional, mental, and even social health of a soon-to-be-mom. Difficulties start to rock a woman’s world even a few days or weeks that she gets to confirm that she is having a baby. Concerns about the obvious as well as those that may not easily be seen bombard the pregnant woman as the fetus inside her womb begins its journey to childbirth.
Most of these issues are linked to the fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy. Hormones like the progesterone, testosterone, and the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), play much in the development of pregnancy-related symptoms like nausea, vomiting, swelling, exhaustion, oily or dry skin, and other skin issues like acne and other skin blemishes.
Precautionary Measures During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are most susceptible as the growing fetus receives much of what the mother consumes or applies on her skin. Anything that may have a detrimental effect on the development of the fetus as well as on childbirth is always considered. Hence constant communication with the primary health provider is a must to ensure that both the mother and the baby are assured of a healthy pregnancy and a safe delivery.
Using Essential Oils During Pregnancy
As mentioned earlier, essential oils have been proven to be safe. A crucial point to remember with essential oils is that they are concentrated. That means you only need a very small amount (just a couple or more drops) to enjoy its benefits. They must be used with caution. Any indication on product labels should be closely followed to ensure safety when using them.
There are several oils that are classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S Food and Drugs. Many are actually added as food ingredients.
As they contain very potent substances, they should be used sparingly. The fact that pregnant women are highly sensitive during pregnancy, care must be considered when choosing and using essential oils when pregnant.
Some studies have indicated that there are certain oils that may pose risks to the fetus. They also have a stimulating effect on the uterus and can even affect blood pressure levels. Some essential oils have not yet been fully studied, hence should not be used right away. Consulting a certified health expert is crucial to determine the efficiency or possible side effects if ever a particular essential oil is used.
Essential oils for aromatherapy
Essential oils are also used in aromatherapy. The oils contain substances that can be absorbed into the body. As they are concentrated, they need to be diluted with a base or carrier oil before using for massage, or placed in a vaporizer.
Essential oils work like any other drugs. There is a possibility that they may cross the placenta and be transferred to the fetus. However, there is a very limited number of studies that have already been conducted and as they have been tested on animals, we can’t really identify the effects of essential oils on the developing baby.
Benefits of essential oils to the pregnant woman
Aromatherapy has been reported to be beneficial for pregnant women who are experiencing pregnancy-related symptoms like a backache, nausea, and swollen ankles.
To get the best of aromatherapy when you are pregnant, it is best to take the following precautions:
- Only use one or two drops of essential oil at a time.
- Limit the use of an essential oil. If you need to use essential oils for a long period, use alternative oils, not just one oil for a long period and on consecutive days.
- Oils should be diluted before using. Mix a drop with about a teaspoon (5ml) of a base oil before adding it to a bath or slathering it over your skin. Grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil work well as base oils.
- You can add drops of the essential oil to a vaporizer, but don’t leave it longer than 10 minutes or 15 minutes within an hour. The smell can be overpowering and can make you feel nauseous.
- It’s best to start using essential oils after you’re past the first trimester. If you want to take advantage of their benefits during the early phase of pregnancy, always consult an aromatherapist who is certified in treating expecting women.
As long as you are not experiencing any serious problems with your pregnancy, you can get on and use the following essential oils:
- citrus oils, such as tangerine and neroli
- common lavender
- ylang ylang
- tea tree oil (not in labour)
For a complete list of essential oils that you can use during pregnancy, you may refer to this page.
Essential Oils that are not safe for you to use
These oils may cause some issues so it is important to remember that they are not intended for use by pregnant women.
- Using nutmeg essential oil may have hallucinogenic effects. It can also react with pain-relieving drugs in labor.
- This essential oil is thought to increase blood pressure. It can also cause contractions.
- Essential oil from basil is considered to contribute to abnormal cell development.
- Jasmine and clary sage. These essential oils are said to trigger contractions.
- Sage and rose. use of essential oils from sage and rose are said to cause bleeding in the uterus (womb).
- Juniper berry. Juniper essential oil is noted to cause problems with the kidneys.
For more information on the different essential oils that you need to avoid while you are pregnant, you may check this page.
Again, if you are suffering from other health problems, you will need to consult your primary health provider on the possible effect of using essential oils during pregnancy.