Pregnancy and Aromatherapy

As women when we fall pregnant we naturally look at the way that we can look after not only ourselves but most importantly our growing bump. To help ease the pregnancy pain and stress that can occur, many mums turn to Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils to offer a natural relief.

“Let us make pregnancy an occasion when we appreciate our female bodies.” – Merete Leonhardt-Lupa


Pregnancy is a miraculous time (you’re growing a little person inside of you!), but between the achy back and swollen feet there’s no denying that it can also trigger anxiety and some physical discomfort. If you’re feeling less glow and more pain and stress these days, you’re probably seeking a safe form of relief (or wanting your husband or partner to now be the one that is pregnant, I sure did this). And if you’re a natural-minded mama-to-be, you may be considering aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a technique featuring essential oils which are extracted from plants (different parts of plants) to boost your health and overall well-being. Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Romans to alleviate aches and ailments and inspire relaxation. Scented oils are typically diluted with a carrier oil for massage, dropped sparingly into a warm bath, or put into a vaporizer so the aroma can be diffused and breathed in. The effects of aromatherapy can be wide-ranging, from helping alleviate insomnia to easing nausea.

But before you book an aromatherapy massage, note that the use of essential oils during pregnancy is controversial, as experts don’t have clear data on the safety. These plant oils contain chemicals that can be absorbed by your body — which means they have the potential to cross the placenta and reach your growing baby.  There are no records of birth defects or miscarriages due to the “normal” use of aromatherapy during pregnancy, however it’s still very important to proceed with caution. It’s also safest to hold off any aromatherapy during the first three months of pregnancy, when your developing baby is most vulnerable.

If you’re interested in giving aromatherapy a try, be sure to check with your medical practitioner first, and follow these safety precautions:

  • Never put an essential oil directly on your body; instead, mix it with a carrier oil at a concentration that’s half the standard usage (or what’s recommended on the bottle).
  • Avoid using any one particular oil over a long period of time — for instance, every day for several weeks.
  • Keep oils away from your eyes and out of the reach of young children and pets.
  • When using a vaporizer with an essential oil, don’t leave it on for longer than 15 minutes per hour, and make sure the room has good ventilation, otherwise the scent can become overpowering and may lead to nausea ( all ready enough of this with morning sickness!).
  • Choose your essential oils carefully — and never use an oil if you don’t know what it is for.

These essential oils are generally considered beneficial during pregnancy — but still make sure to check with your practitioner before using any:

  • Neroli (may lower blood pressure and anxiety levels)
  • German and Roman chamomile (may help calm, relax and soothe)
  • Lavender (may help alleviate stress, insomnia and depression)
  • Ylang-ylang (promotes calm and may help alleviate insomnia)
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Tangerine

These essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can trigger uterine contractions (not something you want if you’re not in labor!):

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Juniper
  • Thyme
  • Pennyroyal
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint

You may also find that your beauty products and lotions contain some essential oils — but don’t worry; the concentration is very low, so they’re almost always safe to use. But if you’re concerned, as always talk to your doctor.

The key to using aromatherapy safely during pregnancy is to research the essential oil you’re considering and clear it with your doctor or midwife before using it. When the oil/s are used correctly, it can be quite soothing, relaxing and provide some much-needed stress relief.

Application of Oils

The use of oils and how you apply firstly depends on what you are looking at treating, here are a few suggestions:

  • A cold is best treated with inhalant or vaporizer.
  • Lower back pain or treating stress and anxiety would benefit from aromatherapy massage
  • When using oils in labour, ultimately it is best to have oils vaporizing to help with calmness, though to help with lower back pain/ contractions a partner massage can help.
  • An important factor is the preference of the client/ yourself. How you like to use the oils. Some people don’t like massage so a bath or vaporizer would be better

How to administer essential oils for a massage when pregnant

In massage and using essential oils, the oils have to be diluted into a carrier oil, and some popular massage oils are almond oil, jojoba, or a water soluble massage oil.

The dilution of the oil depends on how strong you would like it. The common dilution of essential oils in the carrier oil/cream can be 1, 2 or 2.5% dilution. Below is a guide to the dilution ratio

DILUTION% 5ml Bottle 10ml Bottle 15ml Bottle 30ml Bottle
0.5% less than 1 E.O drop 1 E.O drop 2 E.O drops 4 E.O drops
1% 1 E.O drop 3 E.O drops 4 E.O drops 9 E.O drops
2% 3 E.O drops 6 E.O drops 9 E.O drops 18 E.O drops
3% 4 E.O drops 9 E.O drops 13 E.O drops 27 E.O drops
4% 6 E.O drops 12 E.O drops 18 E.O drops 36 E.O drops
5% 7 E.O drops 15 E.O drops 22 E.O drops 45 E.O drops



0.5% for infants from 6months - 24months old

1% for elderly and face application

2% for body creams, lotions, massage oils, shampoos and general beauty products

5% plus topical ointments, insect repellent and concentrated perfumes

The benefits of massage during pregnancy



Muscle relaxation

Mental relaxation

Sudorific or promotes sweat


Lowers blood pressure

Releases and balances emotions

Stimulates circulation

Facilitates communication

Increases diuresis

Aids sleep

Stimulates lymphatic drainage

Time for oneself

Reduces edema or swelling

 Promotes creativity

Pain relieving

 Connects mind, body, spirit awareness


Contraindications and precautions of massage


Infection or contagious diseases

Skin problems, inflammation, open wounds, burns, or severe bruising

Varicose veins


Recent fractures, scars


Recent immunisations

Not after heavy meal/drink


Preference of client

Pregnancy: specific

Sacral and suprapubic massage in first trimester

Deep massage of calves - history of thrombosis

Brisk heel massage - reflexology zone of pelvis

Shiatsu points

Hypotension or fainting episodes

Abdominal massage

Preference of client


How to administer essential oil inhalants when pregnant

Best way to inhale essential oils when pregnant is to use an inhalant device or simply put your head over a bowl filled with hot water and essential oils. The steam will rise up bringing with it the aroma from the essential oils, breathe it in to open up the nasal passages and clear the mind.

Another popular inhalant is a vaporize, oil burner or electric vaporize. This is really good for the maternity ward or delivery suite if you are allowed, however you may have to ask for permission from doctors or nursing staff. Burning/vaporising essential oils can really help with relaxing the metal state when giving birth and is beneficial pre-labour and post-labour.  

Oils for the delivery room


  • Uterine relaxant
  • Helps ligaments soften
  • Natural antiseptic
  • Slight analgesic effect
  • Good cardiac tonic


  • Works on nervous system easy breathing
  • Antiseptic disinfectant
  • Grounding
  • Natural anti-depressant


  • Circulation
  • Slight analgesic effect
  • Calming
  • Antibiotic disinfectant
  • Promotes healing
  • Good for headaches and fainting


  • Analgesic
  • Calms central nervous system
  • Increase circulation

Clary sage:

  • Helps respiratory system, muscular and urine system
  • Mild analgesic
  • Facilitates birth
  • Euphoric
  • Helps calm breathing


  • Stimulates circulation
  • Good for uterus
  • Contractive effect excellent for after birth
  • Good for reproductive system
  • Antidepressant

Taking a bath with essential oils when pregnant

Make sure you run yourself a nice warm/ not too hot bath with a few drops of essential oils to help prepare for labor, lower back pain, insomnia, relaxation/de-stress, fluid retention. We have a nurturing and gentle mum and bub shower and body range - view here.

Using an essential oil compress when pregnant

Compresses are made by adding 2-3 drops of essential oils to a clothe/face-washer and wetting it with water. Wrap the wet compress around the area of concern. Really good for fluid retention, neck and shoulder pain, hot and cold flushes and de-stressing.

Reflexology or foot massage with essential oils when pregnant

If you are lucky sweet talk your partner or husband to do this for you. Make up a 2% essential oil dilution using a carrier oil or moisturising cream. Relax and enjoy.

Give your unborn baby a massage with essential oils

A baby massage can be done after a bath using a moisturiser cream with one or 2 drops of essential oils. Gently rub your belly while you talk to your baby - a great way to spend some quality bonding time together. A belly massage this can also help relax and calm baby.  

Benefits and precautions of essential oils whilst pregnant

Now that we have looked at administration of essential oils whilst pregnant, below is a list of essential oils along with their benefits and  precautions

Essential oil

Uses in pregnancy and child birth



Pain relief in labor

Congestion infection, sinus congestion

Postnatal blues


Sensitive skin



Cystitis urinary tract infection

Ingestion for colic/flatulence

Viral infections


Pain relief in labour


Black pepper

Pain relief in labour

Bruising constipation

Renal disease

Women on diuretics

Sensitive skin


Cystitis urinary tract infection

Wound healing

Sore nipples

Pain relief in labour

Back pain, headaches after pain

Inducing rest and sleep

Sensitive skin

Clary Sage

Respiratory infection

Pain relief in labour

Stress depression


Care if driving





Sensitive skin








Anxiety in labour or postnatally




Pain relief

Sore nipples




Nausea and vomiting





Depression stress anxiety

Nausea vomitting

Citrus allergy


Pain  relief

Postnatal depression


Juniper berry

 Postnatal oedema



Pain relief


Poor urine action

Wound healing


Early pregnancy




Hypertension gastric acidity





Pain relief

Inadequate lactation ‘loss of appetite



Depression anxiety

Loss of appetite




Aids relaxation

Citrus allergy


Constipation colic’

Pain relief colds influenza

Early pregnancy


Stress anxiety depression 

Reduced libido


Care if driving



Insomnia stress nausea vomiting constipation colic oedema

Citrus allergy


Poor libido

Wound healing



Mood swings stress

Transition in labor

 Gastric discomfort

Skin sensitive


Enhance contractions

Depression insomnia





Mood enhancer relaxant


Stimulates concentration

Pain in labour


Hair care

Early pregnancy



Cystitis urinary tract infection

Genital infection


Poor libido

Clinical depression

Tea tree

Vaginal infections wound infections respiratory infections

Skin irritation

Ylang YLang

Relaxation stress Hypertension    








Guest written by Elicia Brennan

Elicia is a myotherapist, remedial massage therapist, sports massage therapist,  sports trainer, and reflexologist. She has worked in this profession since 2003, working in day spas, nursing homes, chiropractic clinics, osteopathic clinics, physiotherapist clinics and sports medicine clinics . She has also worked with professional sporting teams from local, state, national and international in areas such as AFL (Essendon Football Club), Rugby Union (Melbourne Rebels), Triathlon Australia and Victoria, Gymnastic Australia and Victoria and Lacrosse Australia. Elicia is a professional member with Myotherapy, Massage Association and Sport Medicine Australia. Visit her webpage here.

Most importantly, Elicia's greatest achievement is being a mum to a 10 month old boy.

Bach of Health science  Adv. a dip of Myotherapy, Dip of Remedial Massage, Cert 4 Of Sports Massage. Cert in Pregnancy massage. A dip of Reflexology, Dip of Aromatherapy, Cert in Lymphatic Drainage, Sports Trainer Dip of Football Medicine, Certificate in Sports Nutrition, Diploma of Practice Management (HLT57715) + Business Administration (BSB50415) qualification.