By Ali Weatherford

Essential oils are available all over the place! You used to have to buy them at health food stores, pharmacies, or from special distributors. Now I see them at my local grocery stores. You can even buy them on Amazon or from Target and other big retailers. Many hospitals now have diffusers for essential oils in the labor and delivery rooms. So why do we hear so much fear and negativity about using them during pregnancy?

What are Essential Oils

Essential oils are substances extracted from plants through a couple of different methods, but however they are extracted, what is produced can be very potent. Depending on the extraction method and how it’s delivered to the patient, they can be used medicinally, because they have a biochemical effect on the body.

Supplements and even many pharmaceuticals come from plant compounds. There are some plants and essential oils that are insecticidal, fungicidal, antioxidant, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, or antibacterial. Some are known to kill cancer cells, treat acne, improve immune function, lower blood pressure, help with stress and pain, and they are finding out more all the time. Of course, some of these compounds can have a negative impact on your body, so it’s important to learn how to use them wisely and choose carefully.

Essential Oils During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant and want to know more about how to use oils safely, I can hopefully provide all the information you need here. I was lucky to be able to interview Tiffany Carole, MS, L.Ac, EAMP, LMP about using essential oils safely and effectively in pregnancy and birth. Tiffany is an international speaker, teacher, coach, professional trainer, massage therapist, and acupuncturist. She travels the world hosting retreats and trainings for bodyworkers and health care providers and has a HUGE library of online courses related to essential oils. Tiffany is a published author of Chinese and Energetic Medicine articles, previous adjunct faculty at Bastyr University, and practiced the art and science of energetic medicine professionally for 20 years at her clinic outside Seattle, WA. Additionally, Tiffany co-created a potent system of pairing key essential oils with acupoints and body zones, facilitating extraordinary shifts in body-mind-soul. This collection of works is called Aroma Point Therapy. And Tiffany even has her own line of essential oils including some new ones for supporting pregnancy.

Tiffany is one of the world’s leading experts in using essential oils for healing and health. She makes the following recommendations if you’re considering using essential oils during your pregnancy and birth.

How to Use them Safely

It’s true that there are unsafe essential oils AND unsafe ways to use them. It’s important to learn a little about that, because these are not the same as perfumes or scented candles.

  • Choose high quality oils. It’s important to buy oils from a reliable source. There are quicker, cheaper extraction methods and lower quality plants which can lead to inferior products. A lot of essential oils are made to be food flavoring or to add fragrance to cosmetics and skin care products. These oils usually need to be made in higher volume and created to be less expensive, so the quality is not as critical. Sometimes these are also sold as essential oils. How can you tell if you’re looking at a high quality oil?
    • You might be able to tell by how it smells. A high quality oil will smell good and make you feel good. Tiffany says it shouldn’t “stick” in your nose for too long.
    • Some oils might smell “artificial” to you. This might be one that is mass-produced to flavor a common food or cosmetic product and so it might smell familiar or “artificial”.
    • You might be able to tell by the price tag. You probably want to stay away from the ones that cost significantly less than the others. Make sure you’re comparing the same oils though. Certain oils are much more expensive than others depending on the availability of the plant or difficulty of the oil extraction. Compare peppermint vs peppermint, spearmint vs spearmint, helichrysum vs helichrysum, etc.
    • Does the label provide the Latin name of the plant species?
    • Does the label tell you the country of origin?
    • The label should also tell you if it is diluted with something else.
  • Do not take oils internally. You shouldn’t drink the oil, or put the oil into a capsule to take as a supplement. The oils should not go into your mouth. There are certain oils and certain situations where that might be appropriate, but it’s best not to do that while you’re pregnant and generally not unless you’re directed by a trusted care provider.
  • Dilute! Do not apply full-strength oils directly onto your skin. It’s true that some oils are safe to put directly onto the skin, but it’s recommended that you don’t do that in pregnancy. A good general rule is that oils used during pregnancy should be diluted at approximately 25%. That means that you will fill a bottle or container ¼ of the way with the essential oil, and then fill it the rest of the way with a carrier oil. Tiffany recommends using fractionated coconut oil or clear and deodorized jojoba oil. You should also avoid using lime oil on the skin, especially if you plan to be in the direct sun. Lime oil can enhance the effect of the sun and will cause skin darkening.
  • Do not use the following essential oils at all during pregnancy:
    • Anise (using the actual spice in cooking is OK)
    • Birch
    • Carrot Seed
    • Cinnamon Bark (It’s OK to just smell it, but don’t apply it of diffuse it)
    • Fennel
    • Myrrh
    • Spanish Sage
    • Tansy (BLUE Tansy is OK)
    • Wintergreen
    • Green Yarrow (BLUE Yarrow is OK)

How Essential Oils can Help

Because essential oils can be very potent healing compounds, they can be useful for many things during pregnancy and at any time of your life. They can actually help with some pregnancy discomforts. For example, lemon oil is shown to help reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Bergamot oil, especially when applied to a spot in the ear (watch the video to see how!), can provide stress relief during pregnancy and pain relief during labor.

Tiffany suggests that the way essential oils can be most helpful during pregnancy and birth is by reducing stress and anxiety. There is significant evidence that stress can cause problems in pregnancy including premature birth and low birth weight babies. Stress hormones can inhibit the progress of labor and even increase pain. She suggests using Bergamot or orange or other citrus oils in particular for this purpose, but also says that it’s most important that the aroma works for you. If you don’t prefer the smell, or you know there are others that you like better, use those!

Take a field trip to the grocery store or wherever you can buy essential oils and start using the testers. Open the bottle and smell it. If you like the smell, and like the way it makes you feel, it might be a good one to try. Some fragrances will make you feel relaxed, calm, or peaceful. Others might make you feel very awake, energized, motivated, or focused. Different scents will have different effects on your body, so it’s important to pay attention to that. During labor and birth you might have a need for all of those benefits at different times, so it can be great to have a few different oils with you.

There are a lot of different ways to use essential oils. You might consider starting slowly by just smelling it in the bottle. As you start to recognize which oils you really like and offer benefits for you, you might move on to using them in a number of additional ways.

  • Just open the bottle and smell it!
  • Put a drop of oil on a tissue and tuck it into a bra strap. That makes it easy to change the fragrance if you want to try something different. During labor especially, people can feel very indecisive. You might love something one minute and hate it the next.
  • Put a drop of oil on a pillow case if you’re lying down. You can always turn it over if you want to try another oil!
  • If you watch the video, you’ll see Tiffany demonstrate applying pressure to a spot in the ear that can be helpful. There are also other acupressure points to try.
  • You might give some focus especially to the hands and feet during labor.
  • Add your favorite essential oil to a massage oil or plain lotion to increase the benefit of massage.
  • Add some oil to a diffuser. Some hospitals even have these in the room for you already, so you might check before you pack your own.
  • Rub the diluted oil into your hands and cup your hands around your nose to breathe it in deeply.
  • You can even blend a couple of different oils to create your own favorite fragrance.
  • Add a few drops to homemade hand sanitizer for a boost every time you clean your hands!
  • Add a few drops to your unscented dish soap, hand soap, cleaning products, shampoo, or conditioner.

When you use them appropriately, essential oils can be powerful medicine or simply a helpful tool to help you find more comfort and ease during your pregnancy and birth experience. You might like to sniff test some of these oils that are more commonly used during pregnancy. Many of these oils have also been studied for their effectiveness in reducing pain and anxiety during labor.

  • Lemon, wild orange, sweet orange, bitter orange, mandarin orange, or bergamot can be great for improving moods and lowering stress. Citrus oils in general are helpful here.
  • Lemon for nausea and vomiting
  • Cardamom
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • German or Roman chamomile
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Petitgrain
  • Rose and rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Jasmine
  • Peppermint
  • Clove
  • Cedarwood
  • Laurel
  • May Chang
  • Blue Tansy
  • Siam Wood
  • Vetiver
  • Coriander Seed
  • Mimosa


Tiffany Carole’s Resources

Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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