Does Aromatherapy Help During Pregnancy?

Aromatherapy Before, During and After Pregnancy

The old adage, “if a little is good, a lot is better” does not apply to aromatherapy. Rather, a little goes a long way is a better philosophy when using essential oils. Essential oils during childbirth are a safe, natural and beautiful way to help you feel calm and confident while going through one of the most empowering experiences of your life as a woman.

When buying essential oils always look for labels that state “pure essential oils”. Price is usually a good indicator of quality so buy the most expensive oils you can afford. Although an oil might smell nice, if it isn’t pure it will not have the therapeutic qualities you might expect. Essential oils will last longer if stored in a dark glass container. Never buy or store oils in plastic.

As a pregnant woman there are certain precautions that you must consider when using essential oils. Never apply essential oils directly to the skin without first diluting them in a carrier oil or bath water or mixing them with a cream or lotion. Essential oils should only be used externally and never taken by mouth. As a rule of thumb, pregnant women should only use essential oils that are derived from flowers, rather than herbs.

One final caution, if you have experienced a miscarriage in the past, it is best not to use any essential oils for at least the first three months of pregnancy.

Massage is especially good for a woman during pregnancy to help relax the body and ease discomforts.

Scenting the air can also relax or rejuvenate you, and it’s easy to do. Add 2 to 6 drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water, or 2 to 4 drops of essential oils to a diffuser to add a soft fragrance to the air.

You can also add 2 to 6 drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place it behind a radiator or, with a gentle oil such as lavender, place it under your pillow.

Where Aromatherapy Helps Most

Some of the most important ways in which Aromatherapy can help you enjoy your pregnancy and your new baby are:

It can help you deal with stress.
It will aid relaxation, help develop a more positive outlook, and, therefore, help with the birth. A happy, relaxed mother is one who is more likely to cope well with labor and to relax and bond with her baby afterward.
It can help with tiredness, aches, and pains, and it can provide relief from all kinds of minor ailments that result during pregnancy. It can back up and complement what is learned at relaxation and prenatal classes.
It can help prevent stretch marks by keeping the skin well nourished, and it can aid in helping the mother feel good about herself during her pregnancy.
Mothers-to-be who experience the benefits of aromatherapy are more likely to be in touch with their bodies and their pregnancies, which benefits both mother and baby.
The caring touch of a massage, either from a qualified aromatherapist or from a partner, is highly therapeutic. A woman who can appreciate the touch and care she receives while being massaged is more likely to bond well with her baby using her own tactile sense.
Mothers-to-be often report a feeling of extreme peace and well being after an aromatherapy massage. The massage can also help relieve the tensions in her life; her face may take on a look of tranquility. Aromatherapy cannot remove day-to-day problems, but someone who is relaxed can deal with them much better.

How To Use Essential Oils

Essential oils can be worked into the body in several different ways. The most common and safe way is:


Massage is helpful for relieving stress and tension, for aiding relaxation, for easing aching muscles, and for general pain relief as well as for improving skin tone and general well-being. For an aromatherapy massage, essential oils are added to a carrier oil, such as almond or jojoba before applying to the skin. Pour a small amount of prepared massage oil in the palms of the hands (1/2 to 1 teaspoon will do a back or leg adequately). Massage gently and always massage toward the heart. Do not massage near varicose veins (glide around them), on hot, swollen joints, or when a fever is present.

Foot Massage:

A foot massage is excellent for relieving tension and to revive and re-energize a tired body. It’s complete bliss for swollen or aching feet. Spread the prepared oil all over one foot and around the ankle. With hands cupped around the foot and fingers steadying the front of the foot, use the thumbs to make circular pressures on the sole. Gently squeeze and press the foot as though you were trying to make it into a pliable piece of dough. Repeat with the other foot.

Facial Massage:

Facial massages will help care for any type of skin in every condition, both during and after pregnancy.

Apply the prepared oil very sparingly to the face and neck at night after cleansing. Always use gentle upward movements to apply the oil (to reverse the effects of gravity). Try not to drag the skin.

Aromatic Baths:

For an aromatic bath during pregnancy, add 2 to 4 drops of the chosen essential oils to a warm bath (never too hot). Swish the water around to disperse the oil. Relax and soak in the bath for ten to fifteen minutes to enjoy the aroma and let the oils to their work.

Sitz Bath or Bidet

Both a sitz bath and a bidet are used for washing and soothing the hips and genital area (particularly useful for just after childbirth). A sitz bath can be improvised by filling an ordinary bath with enough warm water to just cover the lower abdomen. Add 2 drops of the chosen essential oil to a sitz bath or bidet. Mix the water well before stepping in. Soak for five to ten minutes.


Add 2 to 3 drops of the chosen essential oil to a bowl of hot water. Soak the feet for ten to twenty minutes.


Essential oils can be used in the shower. They are best used by washing as normal, then add 2 to 3 drops of your chosen essential oil to a sponge or washcloth and rub it over the body while standing under the water and breathing the vapors.


Compresses are wonderful for treating labor pain. They are useful for muscular aches and pains, sprains or bruises and to help reduce pain in general. For headaches, swellings, sprains, wounds, etc. use a cold compress. For chronic pain such as backache, muscular pain, labor pain, earache, etc. use a hot compress.

Add 2 to 4 drops of essential oil to ½ pint (300 ml) of water (either hot or cold according to what is needed). Agitate to mix the oils. Take a small cloth, washcloth or towel and lay it on top of the water so that the oils are picked up on the underside. Lay the cloth on the affected part. Cover with a small dry towel and leave in place until the cold compress has warmed to body temperature or the hot compress has lost heat. Repeat as required.


Inhalations are used to clear congestion that comes with colds and sinusitis. They can be extremely effective in unblocking the nose and helping relieve the nasal passages. Steam inhalations are not suitable for asthmatics (essential oils may be used in the bath) or for children under ten years of age. It is also very difficult to get a small child to sit over a bowl of water. Children over ten should be supervised at all times and they should only inhale steam for a few minutes. In fact, if they have a cold, it is better to sniff the oils on a tissue or have the oil vaporized in a room near them. Smaller children can have the same oils in the bath in a low dilution (1 to 2 drops only). For sniffly babies, the oils can be used in a special room vaporizer.

Steam Inhalations:

To a bowl of very hot (but not boiling) water, add 2 to 4 drops of the chosen essential oil.

Cover your head with a small dry towel (if you so choose), lean over the bowl and breathe in the vapor for about 1 to 5 minutes.

Using a Tissue or Handkerchief

Add 1 drop of essential oil to a tissue or handkerchief and sniff when needed. This is a very handy method of using essential oils if you have a cold, but it is also quite comforting postnatally if you can’t have essential oils beside the bed in hospital. It’s also very useful during labor.

Cotton Balls

Cotton balls can be used in the rooms of babies or small children, but take great care and make sure the cotton ball is placed where it cannot possibly be reached. If in doubt, don’t use this method. Add 2 to 6 drops of the chosen essential oil to a cotton ball and place in a very safe area of the room.

Guide To Essential Oils During Pregnancy

There is a vast range of essential oils available but only certain ones should be used during pregnancy; those that are gentle and soothing. Stimulating oils should never be used because their effects are not particularly desirable during pregnancy.

Essential Oils of Greatest Use During Pregnancy

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) from the lavender flower

Lavender oil is known as the great all rounder as it has many uses. It is antibiotic and antiseptic and good for pimples, grazes and minor burns. Used in skin creams it can help cell renewal and minimize scarring. It soothes insect bites, fights off infections, relieves headaches and eases muscular aches and pains.

In pregnancy lavender oil is useful for soothing aching backs, legs and ligaments. Lavender has relaxing and antidepressant properties. It has a mild sedative action so it helps insomnia. It is one of two oils (the other being Tea Tree) that are gentle enough to be used directly on the skin.

Lavender essential oil is excellent for baths, massages, room fresheners and facial oils.

Mandarin (Citrus nobilis) from the rind of the mandarin

Mandarin has similar properties to that of tangerine essential oil – calming, gentle and cheery – but has a slightly fresher smell.

In leg and ankle massages, mandarin can ease fluid retention. When used in the bath it helps relieve fatigue.

Mandarin essential oil is excellent for baths, massages and room fresheners. 

Neroli (Citrus aurantium) from the flowers of the bitter orange tree

Neroli essential oil is absolutely heavenly, but expensive and worth every penny just for the exquisite aroma.

It is wonderful as a facial oil, good for dry or sensitive skin and will aid in regenerating skin cells. It is one of the best oils for nervous tension (known also as the “anti panic” oil) because it is so calming and relaxing.

During pregnancy, neroli essential oil is excellent for its ability to promote healthy skin cells.

Neroli essential oil is excellent for baths, massages, room fresheners and facial oils.

Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium) from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree

Petitgrain has similar properties as Neroli –calming and soothing – but is slightly less sedating with a fresher scent. It can be used as a cheaper alternative to neroli.

Petitgrain is particularly helpful for dealing with depression, either prenatal or postnatal.

A very special massage mix can be made using all three oils from the orange tree (mandarin, neroli and petitgrain). When blended together they make a “total balance” oil – a complete blend for treating depression.

It is excellent oil for baths, massages and room fresheners.

Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) from the rind of the tangerine

Tangerine has a wonderfully uplifting smell. It is a nice, happy oil. It prevents stretch marks and is excellent to use in massage during pregnancy.

It is also calming, gentle and good for the nerves and skin. Because it is so mild, it is also a good oil to use for children and the elderly.

Tangerine is excellent to use in baths, massages and room fresheners.

Ylang Ylang (Canaga odorata) from the flowers of the tropical ylang-ylang tree.

A very exotic oil that is famed for its perfume. It has relaxing, restoring and aphrodisiac properties and can even help lower high blood pressure. It can also be used to help those who are tense and worried.

Ylang Ylang is excellent to use in baths, massage and room fresheners.

Essential Oils for Limited Use During Pregnancy

Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) from the evergreen tree

Cypress oil may be used AFTER the fifth month of pregnancy, as it is particularly helpful, when mixed with a cooling lotion or gel, for varicose veins. It is a gentle diuretic that can assist in decongesting fluid retention in heavy, aching legs and swollen ankles.

Use AFTER the fifth month of pregnancy, in local applications only (lotion/gel).

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) from the geranium plant

Geranium oil is known as an all around balancing oil because it puts the body back in balance. It is a very strong oil and is best avoided as a body massage during pregnancy.

Geranium is astringent, refreshing and relaxing with a lovely aroma. Geranium may be used AFTER the fifth month of pregnancy for the wonderful relief it gives to tired and aching legs – it is good for poor circulation.

Use in room fresheners and AFTER the fifth month of pregnancy in local massage gels, footbaths and carrier oils.

Lemon (Citrus limonum) from the rind of the lemon

Lemon essential oil has a sharp, fresh citrus scent. It is refreshing, cooling and antiseptic and aids in circulation.

During pregnancy it can be used in a burner (lamp ring/diffuser) for morning sickness and mixed with lotion or gel for varicose veins.

Sandalwood (Santalum album) from the sandalwood tree

Sandalwood is very exotic, relaxing and is excellent for dry or sensitive skin. It can be particularly helpful for urinary tract infections during pregnancy.

Use in baths and for skin care.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) from the tropical tea tree

Tea Tree is incredibly useful (along with lavender) and mild enough to be used in small quantities directly on the skin. It can be used to deal with thrush during pregnancy. Use in local applications, mixed with lotion or carrier oil.

Essential Oils To Be Avoided During Pregnancy

Spanish Marjoram
Clary Sage
Sweet Marjoram

A Word Of Caution

If you suffer from epilepsy or any sensitivity of the nervous system, always consult an Aromatherapist for advise about your choice of essential oils. Some oils, if used indiscriminately or without case, could aggravate your condition or even trigger an attack. DO NOT USE FENNEL, HYSSOP, SAGE AND ROSEMARY.

If you suffer from asthma, eczema, dermatitis or any other allergies, aromatherapy can certainly be of help, but ask the advice of an Aromatherapist BEFORE buying essential oils.

Consult a physician prior to using any essential oil.

Safety and Storage Tips

Please remember:

Never use essential oils internally. They can damage the lining of the digestive tract.

Some citrus oils are “photo toxic”, meaning they increase skin pigmentation when used prior to sun exposure. Avoid the use of lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime at least 6 hours before exposure to sun.

Pregnancy: Refrain from using the following essential oils while pregnant: basil, camphor, clary sage, cypress, fennel, hyssop, juniper, marjoram and rosemary.

If you have epilepsy or high blood pressure avoid peppermint, fennel and rosemary due to the stimulating action these oils have on the nervous system.

Babies and children’s skin is more sensitive than adults. Any oil used on a baby or child should be diluted with sweet almond oil (available at most health food stores). The table below can be used as a guideline:

0 to 6 months: lavender, roman chamomile: 1 drop oil; 2 tsp. sweet almond oil

6 to 12 months: lavender, roman chamomile, rose: 1 drop oil; 2 tsp. sweet almond oil

1 to 6 years: roman chamomile, lavender, orange, rose, tea tree: 2 drops oil; 2 tsp. sweet almond oil

7 to 12 years: all essential oils. Use 1/4 strength as used for adults.

Keep essential oils away from heat, direct sunlight and oxygen as they will deteriorate and their therapeutic value will be reduced.

Store essential oils in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children.