essential oils2It used to be we were told to avoid aromatherapy oils during pregnancy. Thankfully, those days are gone, with some hospitals (Cedars Sinai, for one) adopting the use of essential oils for their laboring mamas. Used responsibly, aromatherapy oils are a natural way to help alleviate all those pregnancy symptoms and can help mama’s-to-be enjoy a calm, relaxed and positive pregnancy.

So, here are some things you need to know…

What are aromatherapy essential oils?

Essential oils are extracted from plants, trees and flowers through the stem, petal, roots and body. The oils are rich in nutrients and highly concentrated which means one or two drops is often enough to create a noticeable effect.

What can essential oils be used for in pregnancy?

Not only do essential oils make us smell and feel edibly delicious, but they can have an uplifting/calming/relaxing/energizing effect on the mind and body. It’s also been said that aromatherapy has the ability to help balance the raging hormones of pregnancy and help us feel calmer, more balanced and in tune with our expanding body/growing baby.

Essential oil usage for pregnancy

It’s recommended to avoid oils during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but in the second and third trimester there are many oils that are safe to use. The key to essential oils is to use them in small amounts – just a couple of drops is usually enough to help you relax and if you find you need more, try diluting them with water, carrier oil or using them in a diffuser. A diffuser is the safest and easiest way to enjoy aromatherapy in pregnancy.

Massage is a great way to incorporate aromatherapy. Since pregnancy can cause some aches and pains, aromatherapy is a great addition to increase the benefits of massage. For massage, always dilute with a carrier oil to make the concentration less intense and more delicate on the skin and body. And if you have a history of allergies in the family, do a patch test first to make sure your skin reacts well to the oil.

***Just a tip*** Don’t buy the cheapest oils you can find as these are most probably fragranced oils and are more likely to be mixed with other ingredients undesirable for pregnancy. Instead, opt for good quality pure essential oils and pure vegetable carrier oils, such as sweet almond or olive oil.

The best oils for pregnancy

Anything that makes us feel good during pregnancy has got to be worth a try – especially if you’re in the third trimester and struggling to haul your ever-increasing bump around! Pregnancy puts a lot of stresses and strains on the body but fortunately there are lots of different oils to help ease aching backs/shoulders and encourage a sense of relaxation throughout the last few months. In addition to buying and mixing your own oils, you can also look at pre-blended oils that contain certain oils suitable for pregnancy but take away the time required to blend and prepare by hand.

Bergamot: this light, refreshing citrusy oil can help relieve pain, lift spirits and aid both antenatal/postnatal depression and sadness. It’s also an effective indigestion reliever – another common pregnancy complaint.

Lavender: This multi-purpose oil relieves pain, relaxes the body and mind, and helps to install a sense of calm/tranquility, eases headaches and muscle pain.

Lemon: Useful in the diffuser for morning sickness and in massage for varicose veins.

Neroli: This beautiful oil can relieve all manner of aches and pains during pregnancy, but also helps digestive problems, anxiety for the birth/parenthood, depression, fluctuating emotions and sleep difficulties. It also helps to promote healthy skin cell regeneration and keep that pregnant skin glowing.

Rosewood: This deliciously scented oil has a mild sedative effect to aid sleep-deprived mamas to be.

Sandalwood: This lovely oil has anti-depressant properties and is helpful for cystitis during pregnancy.

Tangerine: This oil is a great treatment for stretch-marks and aiding sleep.

Chamomile: Soothes muscle pain, headaches and indigestion, while having a calming effect on the mind and body.

Eucalyptus: This antiviral oil can help ease coughs and colds during pregnancy.

Frankincense: Great for use during labor, this oil helps to relieve pain, encourage steady controlled breathing and help women to stay focused. Grapefruit: Aids digestion and helps ease water retention.

Ylang Ylang: Calms, brightens and helps to restore focus in stressful situations.

Now, let’s talk oils that should be AVOIDED during pregnancy. There are specific concoctions that should be entirely avoided during pregnancy because they contain oils unsuitable for pregnancy or their concentration levels are too high. Please note, if you have any questions about using an oil during your pregnancy, it’s better to air on the side of caution and confirm it’s safe to use with your doctor.

The following oils should be avoided during pregnancy:

Basil

Cedarwood

Cinnamon

Clove

Cypress

Fennel

Hyssop

Jasmine

Juniper

Lemongrass

Myrrh

Parsley

Pennyroyal

Peppermint

Rosemary

Sweet marjoram

Thyme

Oils for Labor

Many mamas to be are hoping for a more natural labor and birth, so essential oils are more commonplace now in their birth plan. In addition to helping laboring moms relax, stay calm and remain focused on their breathing, aromatherapy oils can also help create a more positive state of mind, while helping to relieve painful contractions and cramps.  Prepare a good massage oil beforehand for labor (give it to your partner to have at the ready!).

Here’s a useful labor massage mixture:

30mls carrier oil (such as sunflower or sweet almond oil)

4 drops lavender

2 drops roman chamomile

2 drops frankincense

Aromatherapy is really useful for post-partum moms as well…anything that helps you relax, feel calm and at your best is an essential tool when you’re embarking on the sometimes chaotic journey that can be motherhood. And you’ll smell good too! So, play around with oils and find some blends that help you feel your best.

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