Everything You Need to Know About Safely Using Essential Oils While Pregnant

When you become pregnant for the first time, it is common to get the typical do's and don'ts rundown from your healthcare provider to help you keep your growing baby safe. While tips like cutting out alcohol and taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin are typically covered, the question of whether essential oils are safe during pregnancy is often overlooked.

Considering how people are turning to more natural remedies for ailments ranging from insomnia to exhaustion (and everything in between), essential oils continue to be popular. In fact, the global essential oil market is expected to reach $11.67 billion by 2022. That's a lot of oil! Although essential oils are natural and popular, you may be wondering whether these oils are safe to use during pregnancy. We asked the experts to weigh in.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are made from the essence of a plant. Hence, the name. Inside the flower petals, roots, or seeds of certain plants, certain compounds (aka oils) are found. These oils are then used in many ways, with each offering a unique scent and benefit. While you may think of essential oils as a tool used for aromatherapy, you may be surprised to learn that these oils are sometimes used as cleaning agents, lice repellents, treatments for cold sores, and more.

It makes sense that a pregnant person may want to lean on essential oils to help cope some challenges like anxiety, nausea, or insomnia. But just because something is natural, it doesn't always get a green-light as being safe for every stage of life.

Are Essential Oils Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

While it would be wonderful if the question of whether essential oils are on the "use" or "avoid" list during pregnancy, unfortunately it is not that simple. "Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits that can ease discomforts of pregnancy, but not all are considered safe," Kenosha Gleaton, MD, an ob-gyn and medical advisor at Natalist tells POPSUGAR. "Some have even been linked to preterm contractions."

Most medical providers will agree that pregnant people should avoid ingesting pure essential oil during pregnancy, regardless of whether it is delivered via tea, candy, or otherwise. "When it comes to pregnancy, frankly we tend to be more cautious and since we don't have much data, avoiding it is best," Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, an ob-gyn based in Portland, Oregon tells POPSUGAR.

Putting essential oils on pregnant skin gets a little more complicated. Kendra Tolbert, registered dietitian and certified aromatherapist advises that although diluting essential oils is always important when using them topically, it is even more important when someone is pregnant. She recommends using a 1 percent or lower dilution during pregnancy.

What Essential Oils are Safe to Use Topically During Pregnancy?

Tolbert also advises to become familiar with which essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy, and which are not (some include aniseed, basil, mugwort, and sage). Tolbert likes using diluted peppermint oil on pregnant bodies, as she reports that it can "do wonders for achy muscles or headaches."

Diffusing essential oils appears to be a safe option, although choosing "safe" essential oils is still important. "Essential oil sprays and diffusers can be wonderful in labor — some studies have shown they help reduce anxiety, and labor can be anxiety-provoking for some," explains Dr. Lincoln. She also suggests to check with your obstetric team before you infuse your delivery room with lavender essence, as some places have "no scent" policies.

For better or for worse, you have to take extra precautions while you are expecting to help keep your little one healthy. It appears that essential oils can play a positive role in a pregnancy if they are used in a safe way. No drinking undiluted lavender essential oil during pregnancy, please!

And no matter which way you choose to use them, it is important to check with your doctor before you incorporate essential oils into your regimen. Be proactive with the essential oils questions – it is best to have your health care provider on board with everything you are using during your pregnancy journey.