10 Essential Oils to That Might Ease Pregnancy Symptoms
From nausea and indigestion to anxiety and sleeplessness, there's an oil to alleviate just about every pregnancy ailment.
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but as beautiful as it is, the physical changes can be hard. From bloating and nausea to insomnia and achiness, the uncomfortable symptoms that pregnant women experience are no joke. For natural-minded mamas, there are holistic remedies out there that can offer relief from ailments commonly experienced while growing a baby. One especially popular treatment is aromatherapy. (Related: 5 Aromatherapy Benefits That Will Change Your Life)
Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are distilled from plants, flowers, and seeds—and its history runs deep. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to improve ailments and relax the body. With many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications deemed dangerous to use when you're expecting, many women have turned to plant medicine as a natural remedy for treating common pregnancy-related symptoms. (Related: What Are Essential Oils and Are They Legit?)
The use of essential oils during pregnancy can be seen as somewhat controversial. While some medical professionals don't recommend it due to the lack of extensive research showing it to be an effective treatment for pregnancy symptoms, other experts embrace it.
"I consider essential oils, whether they're used for nausea, relaxation, or any other common ailment, to be a welcome remedy," says Angela Jones, M.D., an ob-gyn at Healthy Woman in Monmouth County, NJ. "I'm open to anything safe that will make the mom feel better and ease her pregnancy."
Here, a few important tips to keep in mind for safe essential oil use during pregnancy.
1. Look for quality.
Not all oils are created equal, and some contain synthetic ingredients. Make sure to use 100 percent pure, unadulterated essential oils. Be sure to do your research to find reputable brands that have strict internal certification processes and use wild-crafted, indigenously sourced crops. (Related: The Best Essential Oils You Can Buy On Amazon)
2. Avoid undiluted direct skin use.
Experts recommend making your own roller bottle filled with fractionated coconut oil with essential oils. Since essential oils are concentrated and potent, a rule of thumb to follow is 10 drops of essential oil for every 1 oz of diluted coconut oil. (See: You're Using Essential Oils All Wrong—Here's What You Should Be Doing)
3. Don't use essential oils during the first trimester.
While the risk is minimal and there are no studies to date that show evidence of adverse effects due to normal essential oil use during pregnancy, many health care providers advise against using essential oils in the first trimester to be on the safe side during this delicate state. (Related: Shop Everything That Got Me Through My First Trimester of Pregnancy)
4. Avoid these specific EOs.
There are some oils that pregnant women are cautioned against using altogether, including oregano, thyme, fennel, and clove. Check out The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists' (IFPA) guide to safe essential oil use for pregnancy for more info. You can also learn more from the book Essential Oil Safety.
5. Avoid using oils internally.
"During pregnancy, I strongly urge mothers to not use oils internally, especially for the first 12 weeks," says Amy Kirbow, a certified professional midwife, of Kona Birth and Midwifery Services. "I rarely recommend that oils be taken internally throughout the course of pregnancy, since it may affect the development of the baby and cause a potential risk of miscarriage and preterm labor." This includes drinking oils within beverages, putting them in veggie capsules to swallow, or cooking with essential oils.
Here, 10 essential oils that are gaining popularity among expecting women for their ability to soothe common pregnancy ailments:
1. Wild/Sweet Orange
Many expectant mothers will tell you that pregnancy zaps their energy levels. (See: Why Your Energy Tanks During Pregnancy—and How to Get It Back) Citrus oils, in general, are known for having an uplifting, energizing effect, and one recommended oil is wild orange.
According to Eric Zielinski, D.C., author of The Healing Power of Essential Oils, orange oils are like a 'liquid antidepressant.' "Few natural remedies can boost the mood and lift the spirits like orange essential oil," he says.
Another citrus oil that can be used during pregnancy is neroli, which is made from steam distilling bitter orange blossoms.
"Neroli has a long history of use as an antidepressant, aphrodisiac, and antiseptic, but it's also neroli oil is exceptionally helpful for reducing labor pain," Zielinski explains. (He points to one study conducted in Iran, in which women in labor reported significantly less labor pain when inhaling neroli essential oil versus a control group.)
Zielinski recommends putting a few drops each of orange and neroli in a diffuser at the onset of labor.
One of the most gentle and mild essential oils, lavender can be used for a myriad of pregnancy symptoms, including easing stress and anxiety. In fact, research conducted in hospitals in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which studied over 10,000 patients receiving nurse-delivered aromatherapy, found that patients reported a significant improvement in anxiety after lavender aromatherapy. (Related: 7 Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress Relief)
For this reason, it's often used during labor. "I see a lot of essential oil use in the labor setting. For those of my patients that have 'birth plans,' essential oils are often a part of them. Lavender is very popular for being calming, centering and relaxing," says Dr. Jones.
Kirbow recommends adding a few drops to a cool washcloth and inhaling, or mixing with a carrier oil for a belly or back massage during late labor. And if you've been experiencing pregnancy insomnia, consider diffusing a few drops of lavender oil to help you drift off to sleep. (Related: Pregnancy Sleep Tips to Help You Finally Get a Solid Night's Rest)
Digestive issues plaguing your pregnancy? You might want to try chamomile oil, which has been used since ancient times for digestive ailments. This gut-soothing oil is commonly relied on for upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. Remember to avoid ingesting any essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy, especially, and always consult your doctor before starting any new homeopathic treatment.
Like lavender, it can also be effective during labor. Additionally, chamomile oil, combined with clary sage, was found to be one of the most promising aromatic techniques in reducing labor pain per a study of over 8,000 mothers published in Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery.
This warm, spicy essential oil can be used to relieve nausea, dizziness, indigestion, and stomach aches. A study of women with abdominal cramping found that ginger aromatherapy massages resulted in positive effects. It can also be used as a massage oil (mixed with a carrier oil) to help ease aches and pains.
6. Ylang Ylang
Known as an ultimate nervous system oil for mild anxiety and depression, this sweet, fruity oil is a mood elevator and stress reliever. "Ylang ylang has the uncanny ability to be a harmonizer that decreases blood pressure while increasing attentiveness and alertness," says Zielinski.
Try placing a few drops in your diffuser to uplift your mood.
Many women experience chronic congestion or stuffy nose while pregnant. Called pregnancy rhinitis, it's one of the many symptoms caused by hormonal changes in the body. Since many over-the-counter congestion treatments are off-limits during pregnancy, one natural remedy that could help alleviate sinus and respiratory congestion is eucalyptus essential oil. Extracted from evergreen trees, eucalyptus has been shown to be effective at clearing airways of mucus, suppressing a cough, and killing airborne microbes. (Related: People Are Hanging Eucalyptus In Their Showers for This Surprising Reason)
Many pregnant women soothe their aching muscles with frankincense oil. It also promotes relaxation and supports skin health, and can be used in homemade body butter to reduce stretch marks. For pain relief, Zielinski recommends making a roller bottle of fractionated coconut oil mixed with 15 drops of the following 'No More Pain' blend: 25 drops copaiba essential oil, 25 drops frankincense essential oil, 25 drops sweet marjoram essential oil.
Frankincense is also a go-to oil that Kirbow recommends to her patients. She suggests mixing with a carrier oil, geranium, and myrrh to help reduce vagina and perineum swelling post-labor.
9. Tea tree
With hormones raging, many women deal with dreaded pregnancy acne. Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca, offers powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
"Tea tree is a wound healer with a rich history of use as a local antiseptic for a wide spectrum of ailments, including acne, sinus congestion, hemorrhoids, and insect bites," Zielinski explains.
To treat acne, try mixing tea tree oil with a mild toner or fractionated coconut oil to rub on the face with a cotton ball at night after cleansing and before moisturizing.
Experiencing frequent morning sickness? With about 50 lemons per 15mL bottle, lemon essential oil packs a citrusy punch and can be used to treat morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting. In fact, a clinical study found that half of the pregnant participants enjoyed a significant decrease in symptoms of nausea and vomiting after deeply inhaling drops of lemon essential oil on cotton balls.