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Pregnancy and Essential Oils. Is it safe to use essential oils while you’re pregnant?

aniseed aromatherapy cedarwood cinnamon cypress essential oils fennel marjoram mugwort not use in pregnancy parsley seed pennyroyal peppermint pregnancy rose rosemary rue sage tansy thuja thyme wormwood


Today I would like to discuss the use of essential oils during pregnancy. Is aromatherapy worth a shot during this time? Will it affect the baby? Are there known birth defects associated with aromatherapy? It will be hard to answer these questions directly since it’s hard to find studies regarding this matter. For studies to be conducted, a number of pregnant women should be subjected and risked of birth defects, so most of the related literature are of animal testings and tests on artificial skin.

There are terms that we need to be familiar with in order to safely use essential oils during pregnancy. Essential oils that are red flagged during pregnancy belong to 4 types of contra-indicated oils.

CONTRA-INDICATED essential oils are essential oils that have negative effects and should be avoided or used in limited amounts. Most of the reasons why these oils need to be avoided are related to physiological effects, known to cause cellular changes in the placental membrane. See list below for different types of contra-indicated essential oils:

  • Estrogenic - these oils increase estrogen production or enhance the action of it. There is a lot of natural occurring hormonal activity during pregnancy and least we would like to do is to induce hormonal imbalance during this time. Examples but are not limited to aniseed and fennel essential oils.
  • Emmenagogue – these oils are period inducer in non-pregnant women, though there is no evidence that it will do the same for pregnant women, it is still best to avoid it during this time. Examples but are not limited to jasmine, cedarwood, sage, cinnamon, cypress, peppermint, rosemary, rose, and thyme.
  • Teratogenic – this may affect cellular formation during pregnancy that causes birth defects. Examples are marjoram and sage
  • Abortifacient – these oils may induce abortion in pregnant women. Some of the examples are mugwort, parsley seed, pennyroyal, rue, thuja, tansy and wormwood.

It is important to read labels first, “NOT USE IN PREGNANCY” is a good label example of which essential oils to avoid.

So when in doubt with essential oils, please consult your physician before using, inhaling, or applying essential oils while you’re pregnant.  

Reference: Evaluate the safety of product formulation. Diploma of Personal Care Formulation, Module 1. Pages 62-63.



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