Using Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Birth

Last Updated: February 8, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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While pregnancy is a joyful time for many – it also comes with a lot of physical discomforts, mental stress, and even anxiety. One way to ease these things are essential oils for pregnancy!

In this article, we are going to discuss the benefits of using essential oils for pregnancy, how to do it safely, and learn specific essential oil blends for common prenatal symptoms.

Then, we’ll turn our attention to birth and look at specific essential oils for labor and delivery too.

Before we dive in, I do want to put out a disclaimer that you should not use essential oils during pregnancy without discussing this with your provider.

While there are many that are considered safe – there are some that should be avoided entirely, which we’ll discuss below. Let’s dive in!

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Essential oils for pregnancy

Essential oils are too often categorized as “alternative” when in reality they’re a great tool for all!

Easy to access and becoming more mainstream, essential oils can help you address a variety of pregnancy discomforts – from physical to psychological.

You just want to make sure you are using essential oils that are considered safe for pregnancy and that you’re doing so in a safe manner!

Are essential oils safe for pregnancy?

According to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists’ (IFPA) Pregnancy Guidelines, essential oil use for aromatherapy and massage can be safe for pregnant women.

Here is a summary of their safety recommendations:

  • Use only high-quality essential oils and carrier oils. Avoid synthetic oils entirely
  • Your skin is more delicate during pregnancy, which is one reason why certain essential oils are contraindicated and why higher dilution is a good idea
  • For skin application (ie: massage oil), make sure your essential oil is diluted to 1% or less. Use no more than 4 drops of essential oil in a bath during pregnancy
  • Smell is often heightened during pregnancy, so a 1% blend for aromatherapy may be less offensive to the system
  • Do not use undiluted essential oils during pregnancy

I encourage you to read and interpret their guidelines yourself, and remember to always discuss essential oil use with your provider before jumping in!

Related Reading: How to Relax During Pregnancy? Tips You Need

Essential oils that are not safe for pregnancy

There are some essential oils that should not be used in pregnancy. Often, this is because they can stimulate uterine contractions, or because they may be toxic or dangerous to you and your growing baby.

Here is a general list, but please know this is not definitive:

  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Savoury
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Aniseed
  • Fennel
  • Anise star
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Sage
  • Hyssop

Essential oils generally considered safe for pregnancy

Fortunately, there are a lot of essential oils that are safe for pregnancy and effective for symptom management!

Here is a list, again not meant to be definitive:

  • Benzoin
  • Bergamot
  • Black pepper
  • Chamomile
  • Clary
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Juniper lavender
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Marjoram sweet
  • Neroli
  • Petitgrain
  • Rose otto
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet orange
  • Tea tree
  • Ylang ylang

(IFPA Pregnancy Guidelines)

How to use essential oils during pregnancy

During pregnancy, essential oils should never be ingested – but aside from that, you’ve got some options! Let’s take a look at the ways you can safely use essential oils during pregnancy (and labor!).

1. Diffuse essential oils in pregnancy

You can diffuse essential oils (or essential oil blends) with an essential oil diffuser. With these, you typically add a few drops of essential oil into the water reservoir of the diffuser. It then sends a cool mist of scented vapor into the room.

You can also add a few drops of essential oil to water in a spray bottle and spray your pillows, linens, etc. Dark glass spray bottles are ideal because they protect the essential oils from deteriorating in sunlight.

2. Massage essential oil blends into your skin

Essential oils should only be applied to your skin via a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a base oil that is totally safe for the skin and dilutes the potent essential oils you want to use. Remember above, we talked about a dilution of 1% essential oil within a carrier oil! That’s how strong they are.

A few great carrier oils include sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, and fractionated coconut oil (which stays in a liquid state when cool).

You can create your own blend, or purchase a pre-made massage oil that includes essential oils – like this one for sore muscles.

Use your oil like you would lotion after a shower or bath, before going to bed, or for a massage!

3. Smell essential oils directly during pregnancy

Another way to use essential oils during pregnancy is to smell them directly. This is a great strategy for nausea, stress, anxiety, and headaches.

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Smell the essential oil bottle directly
  • Put a few drops on a cotton ball to sniff
  • Use an essential oil smelling-stick/nasal inhaler
  • Use a roll-on essential oil blend and smell your wrist/skin
  • Put a drop or two onto a paper fan and wave it in your face

4. Add essential oils to a warm bath during pregnancy

Adding essential oils to your bath can be a heavenly way to relax during pregnancy. To do this, add no more than 3-4 drops to your tub.

Related Reading: Are Baths Safe During Pregnancy?

Benefits of using essential oils during pregnancy

  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and essential oils like lavender and chamomile can help to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety levels. These oils can be used in a diffuser or added to a warm bath to help you relax
  • Improve sleep quality: Many women experience sleep disturbances during pregnancy, and essential oils like lavender and bergamot might help with pregnancy insomnia. These oils can be diffused in your bedroom, used in massage oil, added to a pre-bedtime bath, or misted over your pillows before bed
  • Alleviate nausea and vomiting: Morning sickness is a common symptom of pregnancy, and essential oils like ginger, peppermint, and citrus blends can really help to alleviate nausea and vomiting. These oils can be diffused in your space, sniffed directly when a wave of nausea hits, or added to massage oil to apply to your skin (see above for details)
  • Relieve pain, soothe aches, and minimize swelling: As the body changes during pregnancy, it can cause pain, inflammation, and muscle aches. Essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, cypress, and frankincense can help
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Essential oils for morning sickness

The best essential oils for nausea include:

  • Peppermint
  • Ginger
  • Citrus blends

To use for nausea, aromatherapy is the way to go! As mentioned above, you can do this with a diffuser, smelling sticks, cotton ball, or fan.

Related Reading: Top 10 First Trimester Tips for Beating Nausea

Essential oils for pregnancy headaches

For pregnancy headaches, lavender and peppermint are the most common and safe choices.

You can massage lavender oil (diluted in a carrier oil) into your temples or wrist. Peppermint oil in a carrier oil can be used on the wrists as well.

Essential oils for stretch marks during pregnancy

Stretch mark blend for pregnancy:

  • 80 ml sweet almond carrier oil
  • 20 ml avocado carrier oil
  • 7 drops lavender
  • 5 drops mandarin (or tangerine)

Apply a small amount daily and massage gently to affected areas.


Essential oils for swelling during pregnancy and varicose veins

Varicose vein support blend:

  • 100 ml carrier oil
  • 5 drops lemon
  • 5 drops geranium
  • 5 drops cypress

Mix well and keep refrigerated. Use as a light massage over the affected area once a day. Cypress oil is particularly good for reducing swelling!


Essential oils for pregnancy aches, pains, and cramps

Some essential oils to include in your aches and pain blend:

  • Lavender
  • Ylang ylang
  • Ginger
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemongrass
  • Cypress
  • Geranium

Add a total of 12 drops of essential oils to 2 tablespoons of carrier oil.


Essential oils for labor and delivery

A lot of women are interested in learning how they can incorporate essential oils into their labor.

I had the opportunity to speak with doula, Elizabeth Joy, on Instagram Live where she taught me all about essential oil use for pregnancy and birth.

Here were some of her top suggestions for their use during labor:

  • Orange has been shown to reduce anxiety during labor. Diffusing it in the room or smelling it via a paper fan can be very effective
  • Black pepper and basil are good for pain during labor when used in a carrier oil and applied to the lower back, hips, and sides. Be warned that these do have a strong scent that some can’t tolerate!
  • Geranium can promote circulation and is great to use during labor
  • Lavender and chamomile both calm and relax, which make them a good choice for massage oil during labor
  • Clary sage can be used for stalled labor – do not use it during pregnancy as it can stimulate uterine contractions
  • Myrrh oil can also help with stalled labor by stimulating contractions

Essential oil blend for pain relief during labor

I used this blend during my second birth and put everything you need to make it into my Amazon Storefront. I really enjoyed incorporating this into my labor toolbox!

Here is the blend that I used:

  • 2 drops ylang ylang
  • 7 drops clary sage
  • 7 drops lavender
  • 3 drops frankincense

Add all drops in a 2 oz bottle, fill to the top with a carrier oil, and roll bottle to mix oils.

Anti-tearing essential oil blend for birth

Perineal massage aims to prepare your perineum for the intense stretching that occurs during birth.

Basically, you routinely stretch the tissues, muscles, and skin that surround your birth canal to get it ready for the big day.

Essential oil blend for perineal massage

  • 15 ml glass bottle – can use roller or spray
  • 25 drops of geranium oil
  • 20 drops of frankincense
  • 7 drops helichrysum
  • Top with argan, olive, or fractionated coconut oil

Related Reading: How to Prevent Tearing during Birth

Essential oils for pregnancy explained

Now you have a better idea of how to incorporate essential oils into your life as a pregnant mama. You’ve learned the ways they can address physical ailments, ease stress, and promote better sleep. We also touched on how you can utilize essential oils during labor!

Learn more about managing pregnancy discomforts and the pain of labor in these articles:

And know that our online birth classes are here for you when you’re ready to take your birth education to the next level. Let’s erase the unknowns and get you feeling confident!

Birth Plan
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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