First Things First
Always consult with your trusted physician BEFORE using any essential oils when pregnant. I am NOT a physician and do not have any trained medical knowledge, nor am I a trained aromatherapist. All information in this article has come from outside sources, which are posted at the end of this article for reference.
Although I do not have children, several family members and friends are expecting their first children and I felt it timely to post about essential oil safety. As well, I am passionate about essential oil safety, as I believe there is a TON of misinformation regarding EOs. I also believe there are better, more natural ways to handle many symptoms, instead of using commercial medicine as the first go-to.
Now, I also feel inclined to express how I do not believe essential oils can cure diseases, sicknesses, or other health related issues, but that essential oils can be helpful in alleviating, or helping our bodies to naturally handle certain conditions, such as headaches, muscle aches, stress, etc.
With all that being said, due to my research, I have created a list that I believe is a good starting point to help women understand which oils MAY be generally considered safe to use or not use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, nor should you take my word without researching and talking with your doctor yourself.
Why are some essential oils safe to use, while others are not?
It all comes down to the chemical composition of the essential oils. Keep in mind an essential oil is an extremely potent essence of the plant which it comes from. Therefore, lemon essential oil, for example, is several times stronger, and therefore more likely to cause irritation and possibly damage, than a single lemon by itself. Such chemical components as phenols (cinnamic aldehyde, eguenol) which are present in high levels in cinnamon, cassia, clove, aniseed, basil, and tarragon are known to be toxic to the liver in high levels and can easily be a skin irritant and harm the mucous membrane.
Another common chemical component in essential oils are aldehydes (cintronellal, citral). Although these oils tend to have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and disinfectant qualities, they tend to be known for skin irritation.
Ketones (thujone, pinochamphone), yet another common component in essential oils, can be highly toxic in high quantities. Many ketones do have mucolytic (mucus easing) properties such as eucalyptus, rosemary and camphor, as well as wound healing and reduction of old scar tissue. That being said, use of oils high in ketones during pregnancy are commonly discouraged.
According to Baby Centre “Don’t use any essential oils if you have a history of miscarriages, if you have had vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy, have epilepsy, have heart problems, have diabetes, blood clotting problems, or have thyroid, liver or kidney disease.”
Quality not Quantity
It is imperative to use the highest quality pure essential oils. Oils often found at grocery stores and pharmacies tend to be cheaper oils that contain cheap fillers, other oils, and even synthetic components. I would highly recommend researching quality essential oils to use for aromatherapy purposes. There are only a few brands I trust to use in a diffuser or dermal (skin) use.
Ways to Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy
There are several ways to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. The methods considered generally safest are inhalation through a heat-less diffuser and dilution in a carrier oil (sweet almond, grape seed, coconut) prior to skin application.
If using a diffuser it is best to place 1-2 drops of an oil or an oil blend into the diffuser with the proper amount of water. If diffusing for use directly on the skin or use in a skincare product dilute to .5-2.5% in a carrier oil or lotion, body butter, lip balm, etc. For adults with healthy immune systems it may be safe to dilute up to 5% for topical use. If using essential oils for topical use avoid application to spots where there are cuts, inflammation, disease to the skin, rashes, etc.
Keep allergies in mind during pregnancy and breastfeeding. “Though about a third of lucky expectant allergy sufferers find a temporary respite from their symptoms during pregnancy, another third find their symptoms get worse, while a final third find their symptoms stay about the same.” (What to Expect)
I never recommend ingesting essential oils. Most organizations, including the NAHA(National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy), do not recommend ingesting any essential oils. I would always suggest talking with your doctor before considering taking any essential oils orally. Now I do personally think it is okay to use peppermint essential oil in toothpaste, lip balm, or a diluted mouth rinse only if the levels apply to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) Standards.
Ingestion of essential oils is a specific action I truly do not recommend. I have met several people who work for certain EO companies that swear by placing a few drops of essential oils in a pill or a glass of water and swallowing them regularly. The research I have done warns of the damage essential oils can do to the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
“The safety of essential oils has been compromised by the information that’s been spread by poorly trained sales representatives,” Power says. (WebMD)
“And because the FDA does not test oils for safety before they’re sold, it’s critical for consumers to go with a trusted brand.”