Essential Oil Guidelines for Pregnancy & Childbirth

I found it very difficult to put a list together of oils to avoid during pregnancy. As I searched various sources, I found that each author held his own opinion, and depending on the frame of reference, the list changed.

Carrying an unborn child is an incredible responsibility, and it is strongly recommended that you use authentic, high-quality oils and use them in moderation. Many long-time essential oil users feel that high quality oils that are appropriately diluted, applied topically and in moderation should not cause a problem. Using any oil improperly or outside the realm of moderation may be unsafe.

These comments from well-respected people in the aromatherapy field of service may be helpful:

Clinical aromatherapist Jane Buckle RN, PhD writes: “The use of essential oils in pregnancy is a contentious subject, especially during the vital first 3-month period. . . . To put the [warnings] in context, remember that perfume does not carry a warning not to be used in pregnancy. It is extremely unlikely that a nightly bath containing a few drops of essential oils will cause any problems for the unborn child” and later states “there are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses due to the ‘normal’ use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application.

Holistic therapist and former international aromatherapy lecturer Chrissie Wildwood wrote: “A common myth in aromatherapy is that massage oils containing essential oils such as Clary Sage, Rose or even Rosemary can cause a miscarriage and hence should be avoided throughout pregnancy.” Authors such as Ron Guba, Kurt Schnaubelt and Chrissie Wildwood have all pointed out that there have been “no recorded cases of miscarriage or birth defect resulting from aromatherapy massage using therapeutic applications of any essential oil.”

Ron Guba points out that toxicity during pregnancy is almost exclusively due to pregnant women taking large, toxic doses of essential oils, notably pennyroyal (rich in the ketone, pulegone, which is metabolized to the highly toxic furan epoxide, menthofuron) and parsley seed (rich in the dimethyl ether, apiol) in an attempt to abort the fetus.13 And Battaglia writes: “The judicious use of essential oils together with appropriate forms of massage by a skilled therapist can help ease the discomforts of pregnancy and provide a sense of nurturing that will comfort the mother at times she is likely to be feeling rather fragile. . . . Caring use of aromatherapy treatments should help reduce the stress felt by pregnant women and thereby possibly play a valuable role in reduction of premature births caused by stress and the resulting prenatal deaths associated with it.”

Robert Tisserand, author of Essential Oil Safety and world-known aromatherapy lecturer writes: There is no evidence that the external use of any essential oils presents an abortifacient risk. Although positive safety information is not available for many essential oils during pregnancy, the same is true for many prescription and over the counter drugs.

Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD in science and founder and science director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy says:
“some of the oils designated as “forbidden use” are among the most therapeutically useful, and “even the safety of essential oils during pregnancy discussion seems to abate due to the stubborn absence of reports of any adverse effects.”
Essential Oils Considered Safe for Pregnancy and Lactation:
from Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand/Young

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – uplifting, digestion, improve appetiteDilute 0.4% to avoid phototoxcity risk when applying to skin that will be exposed to UV light.
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) – joints, muscles, metabolism
Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum) – anti-inflammatory, itching, skin
Cedarwood Atlas/Atlantica (Cedrus atlantica) – calming, gentle mucolytic, mental clarity, skin
Cedarwood Virginia(Juniperus virginiana)
Chamomile, German (Matricaria chamomilla) – anti-inflammatory, digestion, skin, sleep
Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) – anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, asthma, calming, digestion, skin, uplifting
Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis) – anti-fungal, congestion, skin, pain
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) – calming, digestion, hemorrhoids, pain
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) – capillaries, congestion, fluid retention, hemorrhoids, muscles, veins
Dill Weed (Anethum graveolens) – digestion, expectorant, promotes lactation. Dilute to at least 1.2%, which is about 6 drops in 1 TB carrier.
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) – joints, muscles, pain, respiratory, sinus
Fir, Balsam (Abies balsamea) – joints, muscles, pain, respiratory, sinus
Fir Needle (Abies sibirica) – joints, muscles, pain, respiratory, sinus
Fir, Silver//White (Abies alba) – joints, muscles, pain, respiratory, sinus
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii, frereana, serrata, sacra) – pain, skin respiratory
Geranium (Pelargonium x asperum) – anti-fungal, insect deterrent, skin, uplifting
Ginger Root (Zingiber officinalis) – digestion, expectorant, nausea, pain
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) – digestion, uplifting. Dilute 4% to avoid phototoxcity risk when applying to skin that will be exposed to UV light.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum,) – bruising, nerves, skin, veins. Maximum topical use level is 0.5%.
Juniperberry (Juniperus communis) – bladder, fluid retention, pain, skin
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) – allergies, calming, respiratory, skin
Lemon (Citrus x limon) – capillaries, immune support, respiratory, skin, veins. Dilute 2% to avoid phototoxcity risk when applying to skin that will be exposed to UV light.
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) – calming, digestion, hemorrhoids, sleep, uplifting, veins
Marjoram, Sweet (Origanum majorana) – anti-fungal, fluid retention, joints, muscle, nerve, pain, respiratory
Neroli (Citrus x aurantium var. amara) – anti-fungal, calming, skin, sleep, spasms, thread veins
Orange, Blood, Sweet, Wild (Citrus sinensis) – appetite, calming, digestion, immune support, uplifting
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) – calming, digestion, skin, uplifting. Maximum topical use level is 6.5%.
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) – fluid retention, nausea, skin
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – anti-fungal, headache, itchy skin, pain. May reduce milk supply when breastfeeding.
Petitgrain (Citrus x aurantium) – antiseptic, deodorany, inflammation, skin, sleep
Petitgrain (Citrus hystrix)
Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – immune support, pain, UTI
Plai (Zingiber cassumunar) – muscles, pain, respiratory
Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia) – congestion, respiratory, skin, similar to Tea Tree
Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) – anti-fungal, calming, skin
Sandalwood, Mysore (Santalum album) – antiseptic, calming, respiratory, skin, sleep
Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) – anti-fungal, appetite (stimulate), digestion, metabolism, mucolytic. Maximum topical use level is 1.7%, which is about 17 drops in 2 TB carrier.
Spruce, Black (Picea mariana) – adrenals, anti-fungal, pain, respiratory, sinus
Spruce (Tsuga canadensis)
Spruce, Norway (Picea abies)
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – anti-fungal, respiratory, skin. Maximum topical use level is 15%.
Thyme ct linalool (Thymus vulgaris) – immune support, infection
Vetiver (Vetivereria zizanoides) – calming, pain, skin, sleep
Ylang Ylang (Cnaanga odorata) – calming, uplifting. Maximum topical use level is 0.8%.

Essential Oils to Limit during Pregnancy and Lactation with Maximum Dilution Ratios 
(for once daily whole body application):
from Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand/Young

Basil, Lemon (Ocimum x citriodorum) – 1.4%
Champaca Absolute, orange (Michelia champaca) – 17.5%
Frankincense (Boswellia papyrifera) – 1.7%
Lemon Balm, Australian (Eucalyptus staigeriana) – 3.4%
Lemon Leaf (Citrus x limon) – 1.7%
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) – 0.7%
Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) – 0.7%
May Chang (Litsea cubeba, Litsea citriata, Laurus cubeba) – 0.8%
Melissa (Melissa officinalis) – 0.9%
Myrtle, Honey (Melaleuca teretifolia) – 0.9%
Nasturtium Absolute (Tropaeolum majus) – 0.26%
Tea Tree, Lemon scented (Leptospermum petersonii) – 0.8%
Thyme, Lemon (Thymus x citriodorus) – 3.7%
Verbena, Lemon (Aloysia triphylla) – 0.9%

Essential Oils to Avoid by Any Route during Pregnancy and Lactation:

from Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand/Young

Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
Anise, Star (Illicum verum hook) 
Araucaria (Neocallitropis pancheri)
Artemisia vestita
Atractylis (Atractylylodes lancea)
Birch (Betula lenta)
Black Seed (Nigella sativa)
Buchu ct diosphenol (Agathosma betulina) 
Buchu ct pulegone (Agathosma crenulata)
Calamint Lesser (Calamintha nepeta)
Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)
Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum)
Chaste Tree (Vitex ugnus castus)
Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Costus (Saussurea costus)
Cypress Blue (Calitris intratopica)
Dill Seed (Indian) (Anethum graveolens)
Fennel (Sweet and Bitter) (Foeniculum vulgare)
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Genipi (Artemisia genepi)
Hibawood (Thujopsis dolobratta)
Ho Leaf ct camphor (also known as Ravintsara) (Cinnamomum camphora)
Hyssop ct pinocamphone (Hyssopus officinalis) – Hyssop var. decumbens is not contraindicated.
Lanyana (Citrus aurantifolia)
Lavender, Spanish (Lavandula stoechas)
Mugwort, Common and Great (Artemisia vulgaris, Artemesia aborescens)
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha, Cammiphora molmol)
Myrtle (aniseed) (Backhousia anisata)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare, Origanium onites)
Parsley seed or leaf (Petroselinum sativum)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Sage, Dalmation (Salvia officinalis) – Clary Sage is not contraindicated.
Sage, Spanish (Salvia lavandulaefolia)
Savin (Juniperus sabina)
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum) is not contraindicated.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
Western Red Cedar Leaf (Thuja plicata) – the wood is not contraindicated.
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Yarrow (green) (Achillea nobilis)
Zedoary (Curcuma sedoria)

A handy list of doTERRA oils for you that may be helpful !

*I am not an aromatherapist and it is not within the scope of my practice to be an aromatherapist or make recommendations for use of essential oils. I can however, provide you with information and products for personal use to help add to your birth experience at your request and discretion!