Are essential oils and aromatherapy safe in pregnancy?

Lavender, tea tree, lemon, fennel - are all of these essential oils safe in pregnancy, and how much is safe to use?

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In a nutshell

It’s complicated – some oils are perfectly safe, while others should be avoided.

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The expert view

Our midwife Anne Richley says: “It’s well-known that massaging with essential oils, which come from plant extracts, is great for the mind and body. The scent of the oils creates a soothing, relaxing atmosphere, which is particularly beneficial for women in labour. However, not all oils are suitable.”

Aromatherapy oils that are not safe when you’re pregnant include:

  • Sassafras
  • Wormwood
  • Cassia
  • Pennyroyal
  • Mustard
  • Elecampane

However, these are not usually available from any therapeutic supplier.

The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, IFPA, recommends that care should be taken with the following oils when you’re pregnant, as they can irritate your skin:

  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Savoury
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Aniseed
  • Fennel
  • Anise star
  • Sweet Birch
  • Wintergreen

Also, you may want to avoid sage and hyssop as they contain compounds that can be stored in the body if used daily for a lengthy period.

Aromatherapy oils that are safe for use in pregnancy:

  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Clary
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Marjoram Sweet
  • Neroli
  • Petitgrain
  • Rose Otto
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang

How to use aromatherapy oils in pregnancy

“You need to dilute the essential oil with a light carrier oil, such as grape seed,” explains midwife Anne. “So, for example, mix five drops of essential oil with 25ml of the carrier. Test a small amount on your skin first to check for any reaction.”

The IFPA’s pregnancy guidelines recommend a dilution of 1% blend with the carrier oil for skin applications, and that no more than 4 drops should be used in the bath.

Essential oils should not be used in birthing pools, as they could irritate your baby’s eyes when he’s born.

Mums in our forum say

“It says on the front of the bottle Pure Essential Oils of Lavender, Ylang Ylang, & Patchouli. I can’t believe how stupid I have been as I just didn’t even think!!

“It was only yesterday when I was speaking with my sister that she said she did not use anything with essential oils in even shower gel……[UPDATE]: “I saw my midwife today and she confirmed that it is fine and I can continue to use the shower gel. I felt awful earlier but feel a lot happier now!!” – stardust23

Read more about pregnancy safety:

Is it safe to use henna during pregnancy?

Is electrolysis safe when pregnant?

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What are the rules on massage in pregnancy?

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