Essential Oils are a relatively new love of mine. Since I discovered them a little over a year ago, I have used them for everything from cleaning the house, to healing sicknesses, to aromatherapy (all day, every day, thanks to my handy dandy diffuser!), to healing cavities, to easing aches and pains… the list is endless.
But I also have a special soft spot in my heart for pregnancy and babies, and for my precious friends who are either pregnant or nursing right now – so I thought I’d combine the two passions and help you navigate how to use essential oils safely during pregnancy and nursing!
(And now that I’ve discovered Eden’s Garden as a very affordable, effective, charitable, and faith-based alternative to the more popular MLM companies, I am thrilled to be able to use my essential oils more often and not worry about the cost, or worry about sacrificing quality.)
To start with, some practitioners suggest avoiding ALL essential oils during your first trimester since they have strong medicinal properties. Some oils should not be used at any point during pregnancy. With that in mind, let’s sort through how to use essential oils safely during pregnancy and nursing:
Roman & German Chamomile
Safe for Pregnancy? No. These oils are often used to combat emotional imbalances as they have very soothing, calming properties. They are both excellent at treating skin conditions such as eczema, rashes, burns, bites, stings, and itching. However, both German and Roman Chamomile are uterine stimulants (meaning, they can cause contractions or trigger menstrual flow) and therefore should not be used during pregnancy.
Safe for Lactation? Probably. Both Roman and German Chamomile are considered safe during breastfeeding – and they can actually be used to soothe sore breasts and nipples.
Safe for Pregnancy? No. Clary Sage often promotes feelings of joy, well-being, and elation, which also makes it a prime candidate for combatting emotional imbalances. However, it is also NOT for use during pregnancy since it, too, is a uterine stimulant and can increase blood pressure.
Safe for Lactation? Probably not. This oil is debated for safety of use during lactation, and so is best to avoid.
Safe for Pregnancy? No. Among other reasons, Peppermint can increase blood pressure and so should be avoided during pregnancy.
Safe for Lactation? Depends. Peppermint can be used to dry up or decrease your milk supply – therefore, use peppermint only when this is the goal you would like to achieve.
Safe for Pregnancy? No. According to Eden’s Garden, “Wintergreen may have negative effects on young children, nursing women, pregnant and those suffering with liver or kidney disease.” Wintergreen should not be used on your skin or taken internally, unless in small quantities occurring naturally in the foods you are eating.
Safe for Lactation? No. See above. Wintergreen may be toxic to nursing infants.
Safe for Pregnancy? No. Eucalyptus is known to increase blood pressure as well and should be avoided during pregnancy. It’s also considered toxic when taken internally.
Safe for Lactation? Generally not considered safe for lactation either.
Safe for Pregnancy? No. Also known as a uterine stimulant. It is also considered unsafe for even dietary use except in small, infrequent quantities.
Safe for Lactation? Generally not considered safe in essential oil form. Cinnamon is safe for dietary use during nursing, but some babies may object to the way it flavors a mother’s milk!
Other oils considered UNSAFE for pregnancy and lactation include Aloe, Anise, Basil, Bay, Bergamot, Cassia, Cedarwood, Dandelion, Clove, Cypress, Elemi, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Juniper, Lemongrass, Marjoram (uterine stimulant), Nutmeg, Parsley (except in small amounts naturally found in food), Pine, Red Clover, Sweet Basil, Thyme, Yarrow, and Ylang Ylang. Talk to your healthcare provider if you wish to use a specific essential oil during your pregnancy!
How Essential Oils Can Help Nursing Mamas
Word to the wise: when using any oil directly on the nipple or breast, it’s wise to wash it off before your next feeding.
Mastitis (Breast Infection) and Clogged Breast Ducts – Lavender works miracles for clogged milk ducts! Apply 1-2 drops to the affected breast, avoiding the nipple, and massage gently. Repeat use until you get relief. For Mastitis, Melaleuca (Tea Tree) and Oregano oils are recommended. Use with alternating hot and cold compresses multiple times a day for short periods of time (5-10 minutes). Raw cabbage leaves are also a popular remedy for clogged ducts! Simply place a cabbage leaf inside of your bra, directly against your breast. Replace with a new leaf when it becomes wilted and warm.
Sore, Cracked, Dry, Painful Nipples – Lavender wins again! It is wonderfully effective in treating most skin conditions. Simply rub directly on the nipple after nursing, then make sure to wash your nipple off before nursing baby. Calendula and Roman or German Chamomile can also be used to heal nipples.
Increasing Milk Supply – In addition to getting adequate rest, nutrition, and hydration, essential oils such as Fennel, Basil and Nettles are widely known to increase a lacking breastmilk supply. Fennel should not be used more than 10 days in a row! Basil and Nettles (not stinging nettles) can be used more regularly. These oils can be rubbed (1-2 drops) directly onto breast tissue (avoid the nipple).
Oversupply / Engorgement – Peppermint can be used directly on the breast tissue to help decrease milk supply. Sage, Jasmine, Parsley, Stinging Nettles (not nettles), and Yarrow can also decrease breastmilk supply.
How to Use Essential Oils for Specific Pregnancy Complaints and Concerns
In general, oils that are considered safe for use during pregnancy AFTER the first trimester include citrus oils (Orange, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine and Grapefruit – however, Bergamot’s safety is debated), Lavender, Patchouli, Tea Tree (Melaleuca), and Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Rosewood, Neroli, and Geranium.
But what to use when you have a specific complaint or concern?
Early Labor – Lavender can be used to calm an over-stimulated uterus, or simply to ease a tired mama. For early labor, rub Lavender directly on the belly or place 1-4 drops Lavender essential oil in a tub of bath water and soak.
Aches and Pains – Lavender can also soothe those pregnancy aches and pains! Rub directly on the problem area. Use in conjunction with rest, stretching, icing, and/or soothing baths to help create long-lasting ache relief.
Headaches – Frankincense should be rubbed directly on the temples. You may experience relief in 5 minutes or less!
Heartburn and Nausea – Lemon can be rubbed directly on your belly or throat/upper chest area to help calm these common pregnancy symptoms.
Sadness, Depression, Anxiety – Lavender and Ylang Ylang.
Fatigue – Grapefruit and Lime are known to be energy boosters! Apply to the back of the neck or use in aromatherapy.
High Blood Pressure – You may have guessed it this time – Lavender again!
Swelling – Lavender directly on the swelling site can help reduce pregnancy-related swelling of hands, feet, ankles and even the face.
Breech Baby – It may be an old wives’ tale, but it certainly has helped some women – rubbing peppermint on the top of your belly may help “cool” that area of your belly down enough to encourage the baby to turn itself. Myrrh is also said to help align, balance and “righten”, and so could also be useful. Might as well try!
Stretch Marks – Lavender rubbed on the belly 1-2 times daily will help you avoid developing new stretch marks. If you have “old” stretch marks, Lavender can help lighten their appearance.
This may not be a complete list of safe and unsafe essential oils for pregnancy and nursing – so use wisdom and always check with your healthcare provider before using essential oils to treat any condition!
I wish you and your family well. May you be blessed on your journey in motherhood!