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How to use aromatherapy safely during pregnancy

Aromatherapy essential oils contain aromatic compounds distilled from the roots, bark, leaves, seeds, flowers or fruit of a plant. These oils are highly concentrated and volatile (meaning they have the capacity to evaporate). Although one of nature’s kindest gifts, they are potent and must be used with caution.

Precautions for using aromatherapy during pregnancy

The body is in a sensitive state of balance during pregnancy and you may have reactions to aromatic compounds you have previously tolerated. It is therefore essential that pregnant women consult a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oils.

Some aromatherapy essential oils should be avoided in the first trimester (up to 15 weeks) as this is a vital time for a baby’s development. Aromatherapy oils that should be avoided include basil, juniper, marjoram, parsley, peppermint, rose and rosemary oils. Some essential oils are emmenagogues (from herbs that encourage menstruation) and may cause spotting or miscarriage. Also avoid fennel, jasmine and lemongrass — galactagogues that increase breastmilk flow.

This is not a complete list, so it’s vital that you consult a qualified aromatherapist or herbalist before using essential oils during any stage of your pregnancy.

Another precaution when it comes to using aromatherapy during pregnancy involves dosage. Dosage is important and it is recommended you use only one drop of a given essential oil in 100ml of carrier oil during the first three months. Aromatherapy can be used safely during this period with oils from geranium, bergamot, neroli, orange, mandarin, tangerine, frankincense and Roman chamomile. Essential oils work well synergistically and up to three can be used in one blend. Other oils may be used in a limited way; for example, a drop of eucalyptus or lemon to treat a cold.

At 15 weeks, increase the strength of the dosage to two drops and introduce lavender. Lavender is used for, among other things, easing aches and pains, treating skin irritations and balancing the emotions.
When choosing oils, you should consider your physical and emotional needs and your personal preferences. Your aromatherapist will prepare a personalised blend for you.

How to use aromatherapy and essential oils
Aromatherapy essential oils may be used in baths and vaporisers and during massage. Some specific treatments will require a steam inhalation, compress or sitz (low water level) bath.

Here are some examples of how aromatherapy can be beneficially used during pregnancy:

Aromatherapy for nausea
Most nausea-relieving oils are too strong for use during pregnancy, although essential oil of spearmint is safe and may be used as a compress on the upper abdomen if the aroma is tolerated.
Aromatherapy for emotions

Pregnancy takes you on an emotional roller-coaster. For emotional balance, aromatherapy oils such as bergamot and frankincense are beneficial. From the second trimester, use a blend of petitgrain, orange and neroli and then grapefruit oil in the third trimester.

Aromatherapy for sleep problems
A soak in the bath with tangerine, mandarin, lavender, ylang-ylang, orange, neroli or Roman chamomile soothes aches and pains to allow a good night’s sleep.

Aromatherapy and fluid retention
An aromatherapy footbath with two drops each of sandalwood and cypress and one drop of geranium can assist with fluid retention. Dampen a small towel in this mix to apply as a compress around your ankles.

Aromatherapy can also be used for other ailments that come with pregnancy, including constipation, stretch marks, varicose veins and lower back pain, and to prepare for birth and labour itself. Aromatherapy offers a gentle, natural way to soothe aches and pains as well as relax the body. Be sure to consult a qualified practitioner before using any aromatherapy oils while pregnant.

Find a practitioner that specialises in aromatherapy