Aromatherapy during pregnancy and childbirth

Aromatherapy has its roots in the most ancient healing practices of mankind using essential oils for their therapeutic properties on mind, body and emotion. Essential oils are distilled capturing the “vital’ force and healing properties of the organic plant material. As far back as 3000bc, the Egyptians were using essential oils for every day use and for embalming their deceased.

Aromatherapy in pregnancy - German Chamomile

Pregnant women are aware that pregnancy and childbirth is a natural process and want to steer away from the use of drugs and medical intervention whenever possible. Aromatherapy can be used very successfully in a number of ways, alleviating minor disorders of pregnancy, easing stress, pain and discomfort and preparing your body for the ultimate experience of labour and birth.

Blending for pregnancy:

  • Half strength blends are recommended during pregnancy, therefore 2 drops of essential oils in 10 mls of a carrier oil = 1%
  • The molecules of essential oils are small and may cross the placental barrier
  • A woman’s sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy therefore, less is best

Methods of application

There are many ways of applying aromatherapy and one of the most popular must be massage. Not only is the skin a fantastic medium for absorbing oils, the actual touch of massage is beneficial physically and mentally by inducing deep relaxation. Bathing is another popular method.

  • Massage – 2 drops of essential oils in 10mls of a carrier oil, such as organic sunflower oil
  • Baths – maximum of 3 drops dispersed in full fat milk or a carrier oil
  • Vaporisers – use a few drops in a burner but don’t leave it burning for more than 15-20 minutes

Guidelines for use of essential oils

  • Don’t use during the first trimester of pregnancy
  • Don’t use essential oils neat on the skin
  • Don’t take essential oils orally
  • Keep essential oils in a safe, cool, dark place
  • Use a dropper to measure out oils accurately

Safe oils to use during pregnancy include:

  • Bergamot
  • Citrus oils such as mandarin and grapefruit
  • German chamomile
  • Lavender after the first trimester
  • Neroli
  • petitgrain
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet orange
  • Tea tree
  • Ylang ylang

Some oils, not suitable for use during pregnancy due to their tonic action on the uterus, may then be used at term, to relieve discomfort and assist with contractions during labour. These include:

  • Clary sage
  • Jasmine
  • Palmarosa
  • Rose

There are many oils, which are not safe to use during pregnancy due to their interaction with other medication or for their toxic effects. Therefore, it is always advisable to refer to an aromatherapist before experimenting yourself.


Aromatherapy has a beneficial part to play during pregnancy and childbirth if used safely. However, like any other drug essential oils have a great potency therefore, caution must be used in their use. If you have a medical condition or you are unsure about using essential oils it is advisable to check with your midwife or visit a qualified aromatherapist for advice.

Photography: Takashi Hososhima @Flickr

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