What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is an alternative treatment that uses essential oils taken from plants to improve health. It is used for many conditions, both mental and physical.
The oils reach the blood stream by being breathed in or rubbed into the skin. They contain strong chemicals and act like medicines, so it’s important to know which ones are safe in pregnancy and how much to use.
Aromatherapy’s pregnancy and labour benefits
Some mums-to-be swear by essential oils to help ease pregnancy niggles like back pain, swollen ankles and nausea. They are also used in massage to help mums-to-be relax and de-stress. Massaging the oils into your skin with a mild carrier oil can also help with itchy pregnancy skin and temporarily relief the symptoms of sciatica.
Aromatherapy during labour
Some essential oils have properties that may aid labour. Jasmine, for example, helps physically by toning the muscles of the uterus and mentally by giving confidence. Aromatherapy is increasingly allowed in hospitals for labour but you’ll probably have other things on your mind so make sure your birth partner knows what you want.
Essential oils safety
Aniseed, arnica, basil, clary sage, cypress, fennel, jasmine, juniper, nutmeg, sage, juniper berry, marjoram and rosemary oils should all be avoided entirely during pregnancy.
Although aromatherapy can help mums-to-be enjoy pregnancy, there are times when they shouldn’t be used and some essential oils are not safe in pregnancy.
Health conditions If you have a history of miscarriage or vaginal bleeding in this pregnancy, it’s best to steer clear of essential oils altogether. Similarly avoid if you have epilepsy, heart or blood problems, diabetes or a thyroid, liver or kidney disease
First trimester All essential oils are best avoided in the first 14-16 weeks of pregnancy when your baby is starting to develop. If you would like to use them in massage this is sometimes possible but only in tiny amounts and when recommended by a professional
Dilute The chemicals in essential oils are very strong and as the molecules are small they can pass through the placenta to your baby. For this reason, the oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond or olive oil. You only need to use 2 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil
Safe essential oils to use
- Bergamot is uplifting, and refreshing and can be helpful for cystitis
- Chamomile is an anti-inflamatory and good for digestion so it helps aching muscles and headaches as well as soothing indigestion
- Grapefruit helps with water retention
- Lavender is another antiseptic but also an antidepressant that helps you relax and also reduces fluid retention
- Lemon is stimulating scent, good for reducing morning sickness and recommended to massage into varicose veins.
Many other oils are antiseptic or antibiotic inluding Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Madarin, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rosewood, SandalWool, Tangerine, Tea Tree and Ylang Ylang.
Helpful for mood are Neroli which calms nerves, Patchouli which eases confusion, Petitgrain, Ylang Ylang and Sandalwood for depression.