Essential Oils for Pregnancy: Are They Safe?

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

essential oil drip
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While popular, essential oils may not always be safe to use during pregnancy. 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 are essential oils safe for pregnancy? The fact is that there's simply not much research on the effect of the substances on developing fetuses.

Here's what you need to know before sniffing your favorite aromatherapy scent or slathering on an essential oil during each trimester of your pregnancy. (And remember, 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 their 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 people 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 quality essentials oils from a reputable brand unadulterated, advises the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA).
  • Only use essential oils externally because ingesting them may cause miscarriage, lead to preterm labor, or negatively affect your fetus.
  • Dilute essential oils with a carrier oil—like olive oil or coconut oil—before applying to the skin.

The following essential oils are generally considered safe in pregnancy, according to the IFPA. That said, you should ask your doctor before using them, and you might want to avoid them until the second trimester. Also remember that this list isn't exhaustive.

  • Benzoin
  • Bergamot
  • Black pepper
  • Chamomile German
  • Chamomile Roman
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Marjoram Sweet
  • Neroli
  • Petitgrain
  • Rose Otto
  • 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 some of the essentials oils you should skip until your baby arrives, and remember to ask your doctor if you're unsure.

  • Aniseed
  • Arnica
  • 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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