Are Essential Oils Safe for Pregnancy?
Are essential oils safe for pregnancy? We often get many concerned mamas-to-be asking questions about the safety of our foot soaks which incorporate essential oils and carrier oils into a handmade blissful session. We understand these concerns and reached out to Katie Vie, an aromatherapist and massage therapist here in Asheville, North Carolina.
How did you get into Aromatherapy?
In 1997 I moved from Asheville to Albuquerque, NM to study massage therapy. While attending the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics I was introduced to Aromatherapy. It was love at first sniff. I began collecting essential oils and blending my own massage oils to use on my clients. I found that my clients’ experience of the massage session was noticeably expanded when I used my aromatic massage oils. Within about a year decided to deepen my Aromatherapy knowledge and seek certification.
I completed a certification program offered by Jade Shutes, and have been in constant study and practice since then. I had a successful massage therapy practice for 17 years where I wove Aromatherapy in to each session. In 2009 I launched river island apothecary, my line of all-botanical hand blended perfume and body care. Currently, I blend from a studio in east Asheville, and offer Aromatherapy education with the Asheville School of Massage & Yoga and the East-West School of Herbal and Aromatic Studies.
What benefits does Aromatherapy offer that makes it unique from other therapies?
Aromatherapy engages the sense of smell, and connects us to the world of botanicals. The nature of essential oils, the product at the heart of Aromatherapy, is that they have a scent, and are comprised of very small, volatile molecules. This means a couple of things. First, the scent of essential oils gives us access to the Limbic System of the brain. This is where we experience emotion, learning behavior, memories (to name just a few). Having access to the Limbic brain means that we can address client’s emotional states by simply having them smell the essential oils. The small molecular structure of essential oils means that they absorb into the circulatory system immediately. This allows us to address things like inflammation, muscle spasm, and bacterial presence by applying essential oils to the skin or introducing them through inhalations.
So, working with Aromatherapy allows a practitioner to address many “levels” of their client all at once. For example, if your client is experiencing depression, back pain and digestive issues, you can create one synergy that will address each of these issues. You would then add the synergy to salts for a foot bath, or to carrier oils for a back massage, for example.
Aromatherapy has benefits beyond addressing “pathology” or “problems”. My experience has been that when you introduce beauty into people’s lives through aroma and plants, you are contributing to their wellbeing, too. Wellbeing includes your spirit, your creativity, your attitude and your reverence for your life. Connecting with beauty through scent and botanicals is not just “pampering” yourself or your clients. It is an efficient, honorable way to maintain health and wellbeing.
What advice would you give to women about the use of essential oils during pregnancy?
In general, it is always best to dilute essential oils. Essential oils are quite concentrated and can have an intense effect if not administered properly. The good news is that diluting essential oils extends their therapeutic value, and their enjoyableness! Essential oils can be diluted into baths via salts or milk. They are lovely when incorporated into body oils, butters and creams. They are very refreshing when blended into hydrosol and spritzed over the hair and skin. The vehicle of essential oil delivery is as therapeutic as the essential oils themselves. It would be a shame to miss out on that!
Expecting mothers need to use about a 2% dilution in all Aromatherapy preparations. This means that 2% of the total preparation is essential oil. For example, to 2 Tablespoons of carrier oil, you would add 10 drops of essential oil. Basically, this dilution is about half of what is used in general blending.
Determining which essential oils are “safe” or “harmful” during pregnancy can be tricky. For instance, Peppermint essential oil is considered “too stimulating”, but I would bet that most pregnant women brush their teeth with toothpaste containing Peppermint essential oil, or chew gum with Peppermint essential oil every day.
In general it is the stimulating essential oils that are “hot” or “strong” like oregano, thyme, ginger, black pepper, clove, and cypress that should be avoided. The concern here is that the baby would be aggravated or distressed (like if you had too much caffeine), or that the uterus could begin to contract and cause early labor.
Pregnant clients will benefit from gentle, soothing essential oils like geranium, lavender, roman chamomile, mandarin and grapefruit.
In my experience, these essential oils I’ve listed as “gentle” can be experienced at a slightly higher dilution. But the strong oils need to be avoided all together, or experienced in very, very low amounts and staggered over many days.
What are some issues pregnant women can run into if they interact with essential oils?
Pregnant Aromatherapy clients need to be aware of two main things: applying too much essential oil, and using essential oils that are strong, hot, or stimulating. Essential oils enter the circulation system almost instantly. This means that if you apply too much, or use essential oils that are too strong or too stimulating, it can aggravate or cause distress to the baby, or cause the uterus to contract causing early labor.
I really want to encourage clients to use Aromatherapy through all stages of child bearing: conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenthood. It is such an effective support in each of these phases. It’s a great addition to your Self Care Practice.
Also, I want to add that you can trust yourself when it comes to aroma. More often than not, we will “reject” aromas that are not congruent with our bodies. I encourage everyone to smell the essential oils they are going to use, and trust their body’s reaction to them. Perhaps you like the scent, but you would prefer it be not as strong. Perhaps there is an aspect to the scent that you don’t like, even though you can’t put your finger on why. Trust yourself, and follow your body’s reactions and responses.
We hope this answered your question, “are essential oils safe for pregnancy?” If you have any other questions about Aromatherapy, essential oils, or anything else that may have piqued your interest head over to Katie’s website, or you can email her at riverislandapothecary at gmail.com.