Aromatherapy During Pregnancy
There's a lot of conflicting information about aromatherapy and pregnancy, and about natural health and pregnancy all together. The most dangerous fallacy doing the rounds is that, if it’s natural, it must be safe. This simply isn’t true - if something is sufficiently powerful to have an effect on a person, then it stands to reason that it has the power and potential to have both a positive and negative effect. Nicotine and morphine are entirely naturally-occurring alkaloids within plants, but we don’t consider those to be harmless. Alcohol occurs naturally, yet these three are some of the most potent chemicals on the planet. The same goes for some poisons: Cyanide and ricin originate in plants, and foxgloves, deadly nightshade, hemlock, jimson weed and similar plants kill people and animals every year.
On this basis, we all should be aware of what we put into, and onto our bodies. Our skin is not impermeable, and much of what we put on our bodies will end up in our bodies, too. When the substance in question is poisonous, this is called dermal poisoning. This is partly why people should wear gloves when handling poisonous materials like pesticides and weed killer - to prevent absorption of the toxic ingredients through the skin. If what we put on our skin didn't end up in our bodies, then HRT and nicotine patches wouldn't work.
Essential oils are not just ‘perfumes', they are highly concentrated extracts of plants. As such, certain precautions should be taken when pregnant. The health of you and your baby is the most important thing, so the general advice should be “if in doubt, don’t”. If you are in any way unsure, please talk to your GP, midwife, or a qualified aromatherapist. However, having given the negative side of the story, aromatherapy can also be incredibly useful for ladies during pregnancy, provided suitable precautions are taken, as we will explain here:
Emmenagogue is an effect which helps promote menstruation. Many emmenagogue herbs have been used as abortifacients (although they are not the same thing). For this reason use of these should be avoided in the first four months of pregnancy:
Angelica, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, cypress, Fennel, Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary.
Some essential oils are poisonous, and should not be used on anyone’s skin, not just pregnant people (you won’t find any of these in any of our products, but in case you're experimenting with other oils, here's a list of some of the most common toxic ones):
Bitter almond, Boldo leaf, Buchu, Calamus, Mustard, Mugwort, Nightshade, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sassafras, Tansy, Thuja, Wormseed, Wormwood.
Stimulants and Other Effects
Some oils which are perfectly safe normally can either have effects on the body which, in pregnancy, are not a good idea. In addition, some oils which are perfectly safe for adults and even children, may have an adverse effect on your unborn baby. These include:
Aniseed, Angelica, Basil, Black Pepper, Camphor, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Horseradish, Hyssop, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Parsley Seed, Rosemary, Spanish Sage, Wintergreen, Thyme.
An added note on Clary Sage - this is often used just prior to delivery to bring on labour. That's absolutely fine, but should only be done once you are at the point of preparing to deliver.
Using Aromatherapy in Pregnancy
The guidelines apply to any products which come into contact with the skin, including bathing as well as massage. It is recommended to ensure products are well diluted, so use half the bath products you would normally use. If making your own massage oil, 4 drops of essential oil in 15ml (a tablespoon) of carrier oil should be more than sufficient. If using one of our (or another company’s) pre-blended oils, then adding a little extra carrier oil, such as grapeseed, olive or sweet almond - just olive oil from your kitchen cupboards is perfectly fine. The easiest and safest way to enjoy aromatherapy in pregnancy is via an oil burner or vapouriser.
Useful Oils in Pregnancy
Finally, having devoted a page to a list of ‘don’ts’, here are some oils which you may find very beneficial during pregnancy:
Citrus oils: Orange, mandarin, Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Grapefruit. Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, Pettigrain, Lavender, Patchouli, Neroli, Geranium, Sandalwood, Rosewood, Eucalyptus,Chamomile (Later Pregnancy).