Safe Essential Oils For Pregnancy | Herbal Academy | What makes an essential oil safe during pregnancy? In this article we will explore important aspects of safe essential oils for pregnancy.
27 Apr 2021

Safe Essential Oils For Pregnancy

What makes an essential oil safe to use during pregnancy? Essential oils are potent extractions of the most volatile components found in plant matter. Thus, each botanical species should be carefully considered before use. Furthermore, essential oils should be more heavily diluted during this time—one important aspect of safe essential oils for pregnancy.  

Plants containing certain strong chemical constituents should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Essential oils and pregnancy don’t always mix! 

Some experts say the main concern with using lipophilic substances like essential oils during pregnancy is exposing the baby via absorption into the placenta. For this reason, many doctors advise against using essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy.

After the first trimester, certain essential oils can be used during pregnancy. Properly diluted, there is much less risk of toxicity or harm (Tisserand & Balacs, 1995). In fact, aromatherapy expert Jane Buckle (2003) aptly points out that essential oils have been used safely by countless pregnant women for hundreds of years in perfume and bath products (Buckle, 2003). 

essential oil bottles on a shelf with a wicker basket and bottles of herbs

What Essential Oils Are Safe to Use After the First Trimester?

Used in moderation, many essential oils are generally safe during pregnancy. Dilution is important. While professional aromatherapists suggest diluting most essential oils to 2% for general use, it is suggested that for use in pregnancy essential oils be diluted to 1% or less (Christie et al., 2013).  

Unique medical conditions should also be considered. Ask your doctor or another health professional if you have questions about using essential oils safely.

Here are some essential oils to reserve until after the first trimester.

Gentle Essential Oils  

  • Bergamot FCF (furocoumarin free) (Citrus bergamia)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • Cedarwood, red (Juniperus virginiana)
  • Chamomile, German (Chamomilla recutita)
  • Chamomile, Roman (Anthemis nobilis)
  • Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium)
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
  • Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
  • Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Rose (Rosa damascene)
  • Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

essential oil bottles on a shelf

Are There Certain Essential Oils That Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, babies may be exposed to essential oils via inhalation by the parent, or by topical, or internal use. While the internal use of essential oils is not advised without a doctor’s advisement, absorption can also occur when using diffusers or skincare products.  

Some chemical components found commonly in many essential oils, such as a range of phenolic constituents, are too strong and risk the safety of the baby and health of the parent. A few particular essential oils contain constituents that may have a potential estrogenic effect. Below is a list of some essential oils to avoid during pregnancy (Christie et al., 2021).

Essential Oils to Avoid in Pregnancy

  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
  • Basil CT estragol (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Bay (Pimento racemosa)
  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Clove (Syzgium aromaticum)
  • Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)kc 
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum sativum)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris CT thymol)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Please note: This is not an all-encompassing list, and there may be additional essential oils to avoid. Contact your doctor if you have any questions before use.

It is also important to consider that a heightened sense of smell is common during the first trimester of pregnancy. Hyperosmia, or increased olfactory sensitivity, might be a special ability of pregnancy to help protect developing babies from dangerously strong chemicals found naturally or synthetically, or sources of pathogens. Research has suggested that this especially acute perception of odor is most sensitive during the first trimester of pregnancy (Cameron, 2014).

Here is a list of some of the essential oils with strong aromas that one may want to avoid during pregnancy. 

essential oil bottles laying on wooden table

Essential Oils with Strong Aromas to Avoid In Pregnancy

  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale, J. sambac, or J. grandiflorum)
  • Lemon, expressed (Citrus limon)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogan citratus)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
  • Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)

Another thing to note is that the skin becomes more delicate and sensitive during pregnancy. In fact, more than 90% of pregnant individuals experience significant skin changes. A host of major endocrine, immunologic, metabolic, and vascular modifications that take place during pregnancy can affect the skin (Vora, et al., 2014). 

This can include increased photosensitivity and a propensity to burn more easily. Here is a list of additional essential oils to avoid topically with sun exposure or sensitive skin (NAHA, 2021).  

Additional Essential Oils to Avoid Topically During Pregnancy 

  • Angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) except FCF furocoumarin free
  • Bitter orange, expressed (Citrus aurantium)
  • Grapefruit, distilled or expressed (Citrus paradisi)
  • Lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) 
  • Lemon, expressed (Citrus limon)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogan citratus)
  • Lime, expressed (Citrus medica)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Please note: This is not an all-encompassing list, and there may be additional essential oils to avoid. Contact your doctor if you have any questions before use.

essential oil bottles next to a wicker basket

Essential Oils During Breastfeeding & Around Young Children

Newborn babies should not be exposed to essential oils. Avoid using essential oils in a diffuser or topically near babies three months or younger.  

Young children under the age of 12 years can be sensitive to aroma and affected by chemicals found in certain essential oils. Avoid using all essential oils that should be avoided during pregnancy around young children as well. Dilute essential oils more heavily both in diffusers and topically, in proportion to a young person’s size compared to an adult.

Additionally, avoid essential oils containing 1,8-cineole, menthol, and methyl salicylate content, as children are susceptible to negative reactions (Tisserand & Young, 2014). Below is a list of additional essential oils to avoid around children.

Essential Oils To Avoid While Breastfeeding

  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
  • Ho leaf (Cinnamomum camphora CT linalool)
  • Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Lavandid (Lavandula x intermedia)
  • Madagascan Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
  • Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens)
  • Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia CT cineole)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Spanish Marjoram (Thymus mastichina)
  • Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
  • Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Please note: This is not an all-encompassing list, and there may be additional essential oils to consider.

In Closing,

After the first trimester, certain essential oils can be enjoyed in moderation during pregnancy. Some essential oils are not advised for use during pregnancy and lactation, and essential oils should be used with caution around children. 

Avoid essential oils around babies under three months of age and be aware of contraindications of essential oils around children. If you have questions, ask your doctor for advice.

Safe Essential Oils For Pregnancy | Herbal Academy | What makes an essential oil safe during pregnancy? In this article we will explore important aspects of safe essential oils for pregnancy.

REFERENCES

Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical aromatherapy. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Science.

Cameron, E. L. (2014). Pregnancy and olfaction: a review. Frontiers in Psychology5, 67.

Christie, L. Deacon, S., Pickard, S., & Price, P. (2013). Pregnancy guidelines: Guidelines for aromatherapists working with pregnant clients. Retrieved from https://naha.org/assets/uploads/PregnancyGuidelines-Oct11.pdf

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). (2021). Safety information.  Retrieved from https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety#other

Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety (2nd ed.).  Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Tisserand, R., and Balacs, T. (1995). Essential oil safety. New York, NY: Churchill Livingston.

Vora, R. V., Gupta, R., Mehta, M. J., Chaudhari, A. H., Pilani, A. P., & Patel, N. (2014). Pregnancy and skin. Journal of family medicine and primary care3(4), 318.