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5 min read / 24 November 2023 / yasmin sharp

Are Essential Oils Safe During Pregnancy?

Examining the safety and effectiveness of essential oils for pregnant women.

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Many pregnant people are interested in using essential oils during pregnancy, although there are some safety issues to consider.

Essential oils can offer an array of potential health benefits during the latter stages of pregnancy, especially when delivered through aromatherapy.

We take a closer look at essential oils and pregnancy, covering all the important do’s and don’ts, so you can get the most of them whilst using them safely.

What are the benefits of using essential oils for pregnancy?

There are lots of ways you can benefit from using essential oils during pregnancy.

Scientific studies suggest that pregnant people can experience a variety of therapeutic benefits for the mind and body, if they are used correctly.

This includes:

  • Easing upset stomachs and feelings of nausea
  • Supporting better sleep
  • Improving skin health
  • Soothing aching and tired muscles
  • Reducing irritation and swelling associated with haemorrhoids
  • Minimising the appearance of stretch marks
  • Lowering anxiety levels during labour

Man and womans hands holding her pregnant belly

Can I use essential oils for pregnancy during the first trimester?

Experts advise that you should avoid using essential oils for pregnancy during the first trimester.

This is because they could potentially cause uterine contractions or impact the development of your baby in the early stages.

Uterine cramping or menstruation can be stimulated by some essential oils that have been extracted from abortifacient plants.

Whilst there is no conclusive evidence that confirms essential oils can be directly responsible for causing a miscarriage, it is not worth taking the chance.

Another major concern with essential oils is that their use could potentially interfere with reproductive hormones, which may affect the developmental process.

Certain types of essential oils could also disrupt the development of new blood cell formation, which could lead to:

  • Congenital disabilities
  • Foetal death
  • Growth restriction
  • Preeclampsia

Pregnant people should also avoid using aromatherapy products and treatments during the first trimester, as these are centred on essential oils.

Additional research is needed to fully understand how essential oils and pregnancy are connected, but given the risks involved it is better to be as cautious as possible.

Can I use essential oils for pregnancy during the second and third trimesters?

In the second and third trimesters, using essential oils for pregnancy is generally considered to be less risky.

Certain essential oils are safer to use as your baby is more developed and the tonicity of the oils pose less of a threat to their health and development.

According to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), the following essential oils are considered to be safe to use during pregnancy:

However, some scientific studies have noted that certain essential oils that are deemed to be safe for use during pregnancy can still produce side effects.

For example, a 2022 study found that the likes of orange, ylang ylang, tea tree and niaouli suppressed the function of some hormones.

If you are in the second and third trimester, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before using any type of essential oil, including those mentioned on this list.

This can help to allay any concerns you may have and you can receive advice based on your specific circumstances.

Pregnant lady holding her tumming standing by an open window and looking out of it.

What essential oils should you avoid during pregnancy?

The list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy includes:

  • Aniseed
  • Arnica
  • Basil
  • Bitter almond
  • Boldo leaf
  • Broom
  • Buchu
  • Calamus
  • Camphor (brown or yellow)
  • Cassia
  • Cedarwood/thuja
  • Chervil
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary sage
  • Clove (bud, leaf, or stem)
  • Coriander
  • Costus
  • Deertongue
  • Dwarf pine
  • Elecampane
  • Fennel
  • Horseradish
  • Hyssop
  • Jaborandi leaf
  • Juniper berry
  • Melilotus
  • Mugwort
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Origanum
  • Parsley
  • Pennyroyal
  • Red thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sassafras
  • Savin
  • Summer savory
  • Sweet birch
  • Tansy
  • Tonka
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

This list of essential oils applies to all stages of pregnancy, including the second and third trimester.

Even if the essential oil you want to try is not mentioned in the list above, you should speak with your doctor to ensure it is suitable.

Pregnant lady drinking from a glass standing by her kitchen counter

How to use essential oils for pregnancy safely

As we mentioned above, it is not considered safe to use essential oils for pregnancy during the first trimester.

If you decide to use essential oils during the second or third trimester, bear in mind the following when it comes to safety:

  • Avoid ingesting essential oils: Due to their toxicity, most essential oils are not safe to consume. You can buy some oils that are classed as ‘food grade’ and are safe to consume, although you should first speak with your doctor. Nikura does not sell any essential oils that are safe to consume.
  • Use the oils for aromatherapy: Most medical experts believe it is safer for pregnant people to use essential oils for aromatherapy, rather than topically. This means dispersing the oil through a diffuser or oil burner instead of diluting and applying to your skin.
  • Follow the dilution ratios: You should always use the correct dilution ratio, even if you are not pregnant. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause skin irritation and allergies if they are not diluted properly.

You can dilute essential oils using carrier oils such as jojoba oil, coconut oil or almond oil.

Applying carrier oils to your skin without any essential oils is another option, as they contain a variety of health benefits and are much less toxic.

Black and white botanical illustration

When used correctly, essential oils can help to reduce common pregnancy symptoms without the need for chemical-based treatments.

From easing an upset stomach and improving skin health to reducing the appearance of stretch marks and reducing labour anxiety, the aromatherapeutic application of essential oils provide a host of benefits.

Avoid using all oils during the first trimester and always speak with a doctor before using oils during the second and third trimester, just to be on the safe side.

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Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

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