Oils that are safe for you to use
As long as your pregnancy is going well, it's fine for you to use:
- citrus oils, such as tangerine and neroli
- german camomile
- common lavender
- black pepper
- ylang ylang
- tea tree oil (not in labour)
• Oils that are not safe for you to use •
Don't use the following essential oils while you are pregnant:
- Nutmeg, which may have hallucinogenic effects and react with pain-relieving drugs in labour.
- Rosemary, which is thought to increase blood pressure, and may cause contractions.
- Basil, which is thought to contribute to abnormal cell development.
- Jasmine and Clary Sage, which may trigger contractions.
- Sage and Rose, which may cause bleeding in your uterus (womb).
- Juniper berry, which may affect your kidneys.
Laurel, angelica, thyme, cumin, aniseed, citronella and cinnamon leaf should also be avoided as they could stimulate contractions.
There is a lot of confusion over the safety of lavender essential oil in pregnancy. That's because lavender can be used to regulate periods. Rest assured that this does not mean using it in pregnancy raises the risk of miscarriage. However, for ease of mind, you may want to wait until your second trimester before using it.
The use of essential oils during pregnancy is a controversial topic and one that is yet to be fully understood. The main concern during pregnancy appears to be the risk of essential oil constituents crossing over into the placenta. According to Tisserand and Balacs, crossing the placenta does not necessarily mean that there is a risk of toxicity to the fetus; this will depend on the toxicity and the plasma concentration of the compound.9 It is probable that essential oil metabolites cross the placenta due to the intimate (but not direct) contact between maternal and embryonic or fetal blood. Tony Burfield goes on to say, “to my thinking the responsible attitude is to discourage the use of essential oils completely during the first few months of pregnancy”.10
Jane Buckle comments “the use of essential oils in pregnancy is a contentious subject, especially during the vital first 3-month period. It is extremely unlikely that a nightly bath containing a few drops of essential oils will cause any problems for the unborn child” and later states “there are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses due to the ‘normal’ use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application.”11
According to Wildwood, “A common myth in aromatherapy is that massage oils containing essential oils such as Clary sage, rose or even rosemary can cause a miscarriage and hence should be avoided throughout pregnancy. Authors such as Ron Guba, Kurt Schnaubelt, and Chrissie Wildwood have all pointed out that there have been ‘no recorded cases of miscarriage or birth defect resulting from aromatherapy massage using therapeutic applications of any essential oil.”12
Ron Guba points out that toxicity during pregnancy is almost exclusively due to pregnant women taking large, toxic doses of essential oils, notably pennyroyal (rich in the ketone, pulegone, which is metabolized to the highly toxic furan epoxide, menthofuron) and parsley seed (rich in the dimethyl ether, apiol) in an attempt to abort the fetus.13 And Battaglia shares this insight: “the judicious use of essential oils together with appropriate forms of massage by a skilled therapist can help ease the discomforts of pregnancy and provide a sense of nurturing that will comfort the mother at times she is likely to be feeling rather fragile.”14
Due to the lack of clear information regarding the toxicity of essential oils during pregnancy, it would be best to adhere to general safety guidelines. According to Tisserand and Balacs, the following essential oils should not be used during pregnancy: wormwood, rue, oak moss, Lavandula stoechas, camphor, parsley seed, sage, and hyssop.15
Essential oils that appear to be safe include cardamon, German and Roman chamomile, frankincense, geranium, ginger, neroli, patchouli, petitgrain, rosewood, rose, sandalwood, and other nontoxic essential oils.16 It would also be prudent to avoid the internal or undiluted application of essential oils throughout pregnancy.
Essential oils to Avoid throughout Pregnancy, Labor, and while Breastfeeding (Table 6)
|Essential Oil||Latin Name|
|Basil ct. estragole||Ocimum basilicum|
|Parsley seed or leaf||Petroselinum sativum|