Make sure your favorite essential oils are safe for your baby during pregnancy.

Updated July 30, 2019
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For thousands of years, people have used essential oils as a natural, holistic treatment for ailments. These substances can also relieve pregnancy aches and pains, but they aren’t always recommended for moms-to-be. There’s simply not much research on the effect of essential oils— which give plants their distinctive smells—on developing fetuses. Here’s what you need to know before sniffing your favorite aromatherapy scent or slathering on an essential oil. (You can always ask your doctor if you aren't sure.)

Essential Oils in the First Trimester

You shouldn't use essential oils in early pregnancy because they could potentially cause uterine contractions or adversely affect your baby in his early developmental stages, explains Jill Edwards, N.D., an Oregon-based doctor of naturopathic medicine who specializes in prenatal care. More research needs to be conducted on the topic, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Pregnant women should also avoid aromatherapy products and treatments in the first trimester, since essential oils are the key ingredients used in aromatherapy. 

Essential Oils in the Second and Third Trimesters 

"In the second and third trimesters, some essential oils are safe to use, as your baby is more developed," Edwards adds. These include lavender, chamomile, and ylang ylang—all of which calm, relax, and aid sleep. Here are some tips: Stick with essentials oils from a reputable brand that are “100 percent pure and unadulterated,” according to a July 2019 article from SHAPE. Only use essential oils externally because ingesting them may cause miscarriage, lead to preterm labor, or negatively affect your fetus. Finally, you should always dilute essential oils with olive oil or coconut oil before applying to the skin. 

You can try all of these once you hit your second trimester: 

  • Bergamot 
  • Roman chamomile 
  • Eucalyptus 
  • Geranium 
  • Ginger 
  • Grapefruit 
  • Lavender 
  • Lemon 
  • Lemongrass 
  • Lime 
  • Mandarin 
  • Neroli 
  • Patchouli 
  • Petitgrain 
  • Rose Otto 
  • Rosewood 
  • Sandalwood 
  • Sweet orange 
  • Tea tree 
  • Ylang ylang

Essential Oils to Avoid During Pregnancy

Oils that can cause contractions are a definite no-no—and that includes cinnamon, clove, rosemary, and clary sage. Here are the oils you should skip until your baby arrives:

  • Arnica (homeopathic is fine) 
  • Basil 
  • Birch (sweet) 
  • Bitter almond 
  • Boldo leaf 
  • Broom
  • Buchu 
  • Calamus 
  • Camphor (brown or yellow)
  • Cassia 
  • Cedarwood/thuja 
  • Chervil 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Clary sage 
  • Clove (bud, leaf or stem) 
  • Coriander 
  • Costus 
  • Deertongue 
  • Elecampane 
  • Fennel 
  • Horseradish 
  • Hyssop 
  • Jaborandi leaf 
  • Juniper berry 
  • Melilotus 
  • Mugwort 
  • Mustard 
  • Nutmeg 
  • Origanum 
  • Parsley (large doses)
  • Pennyroyal 
  • Pine (dwarf) 
  • Rosemary 
  • Rue 
  • Sassafras 
  • Savin 
  • Savory (summer) 
  • Tansy 
  • Thyme red (large doses) 
  • Tonka 
  • Wintergreen 
  • Wormwood
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