Essential Oils for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

 A fair amount of debate remains in the aromatherapy community about the safety factors of using essential oils for pregnancy and essential oils for breastfeeding. A woman’s body chemistry and hormones are very different during pregnancy. The developing baby receives 100% of its nourishment from its mother meaning that many of the things that mama puts in (or on) her body will cross the placenta and be absorbed by baby as well.


Currently, there is not a lot of human research to tell us exactly which natural oils will be transferred in this way, so it is generally considered wise to err on the side of caution when it comes to essential oils during pregnancy. If the idea of using them, well-diluted in a carrier oil or even in an aromatherapy diffuser, fills you with fear or concern, it may be better to avoid them altogether during this time.

Ideally, we want well-diluted, pure essential oils to lend support and joy to mamas, while also respecting the important changes that are happening in their bodies and minds. Aromatherapists believe that the safest, most effective way to accomplish this is to use minimal dosages of the very best essential oils available. This method will allow the mother to have the kinship of her plant allies, while also avoiding any interference with the development of the fetus. So, let’s discuss which essential oils are traditionally recognized as safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well is which ones to avoid at various stages.


Safely Using Essential Oils for Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Since the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy is the most delicate and vulnerable part of the journey, most aromatherapists recommend that pregnant people only use essential oils at a 1% dilution, and only as needed. This is a good time to take a break from daily use of essential oils, both in terms of aromatherapy and skin application.

Mama may notice changes to the experience of many sensations during this time including heightened awareness of different aromas. Thus, she may not want anything to do with the potent fragrances of essential oil scents! It may seem that the mother’s own biology and way of intuitively experiencing her surroundings is, in fact, leading her toward the things she needs and away from the things she does not.

Once the second trimester of pregnancy has begun, the use of essential oils is generally considered to be safer for mama and baby, though it is best to keep in mind that there are some oils that, at any stage, are considered unsafe. In the second and third trimesters, a dilution of 2.5% may be used for short periods of time.


The following essential oils are generally understood as safe to use while pregnant:

*These are stronger oils, so use them with care and caution.


The following essential oils should not be used during pregnancy:

  • Giant Arborvitae
  • Blue Cypress
  • (Sweet) Birch
  • White Camphor
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cassia
  • Champaca
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Clary Sage*
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Frankincense Papyrifera
  • Hyssop
  • Jasmine*
  • Lemongrass*
  • Majoram*
  • Melissa (Lemon Balm)
  • Lemon Myrtle*
  • Myrrh
  • Mugwort
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Owyhee
  • Pennyroyal
  • Ravintsara
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Idaho Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood Absinthe
  • African Wormwood
  • Yarrow


Many holistic sources advise avoiding essential oils such as Clary Sage, Lemongrass, and May Change (Litsea), because they are thought to cause premature contractions.

*These oils can be used when breastfeeding, and in some cases during labor (For example, Jasmine is well researched and shown to be helpful during labor).


Essential Oils During Pregnancy - What We Know

Women the world over have traditionally used essential oils to ease many discomforts of pregnancy and breastfeeding. While not intended as medical advice, for the following common complaints, here are some recommended oils that many women feel have helped them over the years.

➢ Nausea:

Peppermint essential oil is a traditional treatment. Peppermint oil can aid with bile production problems, nausea, heartburn, and other digestive issues. Please don’t use it too often because it’s a strong oil. All required is one drop, well diluted, or in an oil diffuser. Peppermint should not be used after 25 weeks since it can decrease breast milk production in some people.

Nausea is frequently linked to a weak liver, which is stressed due to pregnancy hormones. Lemon or fresh citrus oils, diluted and applied to the liver area or feet, can help digestion.

➢ Fatigue:

Citrus oils such as Lemon, as well as Peppermint, can help with fatigue. In the early or mid-afternoon, diffuse some citrus oils. Fill a 2-ounce bottle with purified water, witch hazel, and 10-15 drops of citrus essential oils to make a spritz spray

➢ Sleep:

Sleep problems are common during pregnancy. The mama may feel exhausted throughout the day, but can’t get enough sleep at night! Fortunately, some fantastic relaxing essential oils for sleep can be used while pregnant. Cedarwood, Vetiver, Tangerine and especially Lavender essential oil are among the greatest aromatherapy oils promoting deep sleep. Before going to bed, diffuse any of these. You can even massage your feet if you choose. Make a sleep spray, and spray your linens and pillow with it.

➢ Headaches:

Ylang Ylang or Grapefruit are both excellent essential oils for headaches. Try 1 drop essential oil per 1 tsp carrier oil, rubbed into temples, back of the neck, and inhaled for support and comfort.

➢ Sore Muscles

Minor muscle aches, painful backs, and tight necks may occur as the belly expands. Peppermint, Copaiba, and Frankincense essential oils are excellent oils for relieving painful muscles. Dilute one or more of these and apply to your muscles for soothing relief.


Essential Oils During Breastfeeding - What We Know

Most professionals recommend continuing to use a low dilution of 1% while you are breastfeeding. The chemical components in the essential oils are small enough to go through your bloodstream and enter your breast milk.

➢ Increase Milk Production:

If you would like your body to produce more milk, try putting a few drops of Fennel essential oil to your favorite carrier oil and applying it to your breasts. This trick usually works in a matter of hours! Only use as needed, as overuse of Fennel can have an effect your hormones. Basil essential oil can also be used for this purpose, but remember that it has a stronger aroma so it may be best to use Basil essential oil away from baby and be sure to wipe the residue off of your breasts before nursing.

➢ Sore Breasts:

Lavender essential oil is a lifesaver when it comes to soothing sore breasts. Roman Chamomile can also be used. Add 1 drop of essential oil to a carrier oil and apply. To help your body’s natural process of unblocking a clogged duct, use heat in a hot shower and massage with diluted Lavender or Chamomile oil. Making sure your baby nurses frequently will help to support healthy lactation.

➢ Postpartum Depression:

Consult your doctor or midwife if you’re experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression. Try diffusing Lemon essential oil in the mornings for a boost of energy and optimism. Apply this oil diluted to the outside of your ears and over your heart. Orange essential oil can be used liberally for this purpose as well – it is known as the “happy oil” and is helpful for moving stagnant energy and uplifting the spirits. Lavender oil can help to soothe and nurture the spirit while helping you feel more relaxed.

➢ Weight Loss:

Be patient with yourself, as losing weight can take time! Grapefruit, Lemon, citrus oils, and Helichrysum are beneficial oils because they nourish the liver, which aids digestion. Of course, a healthy diet, breastfeeding, and exercise are all beneficial for supporting natural weigh loss after pregnancy.


The following essential oils are generally understood as safe to use while breastfeeding: 

*These are stronger oils, so use them with care and caution.


The following essential oils should not be used while breastfeeding

  • Blue Cypress
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Carrot Seed
  • Dill
  • Hyssop
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary
  • Nutmeg
  • Sage
  • Wintergreen
  • Idaho Tansy

Safest Ways to Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

The feet are an excellent place to apply essential oils while pregnant, because they are one of the safest and most effective places to apply oils to our bodies. All of the body systems are linked to the feet, making them a great catch-all, and you can even target trigger points to help with specific body issues

Oils can be applied to specific pain areas, such as the temples for a headache or the lower back for sciatic nerve pain.

Diffusion is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. Only a few drops are needed to fill the room with your chosen aroma and enjoy its therapeutic benefits safely.

Essential oils should not be consumed or inserted into the body while pregnant or breastfeeding.

The outside of the ears can be a wonderful place to apply essential oils when dealing with the emotions that arise during pregnancy and especially postpartum.

Always dilute your oils, unless they are going in your diffuser!


Dilution of Essential Oils

Diluting our essential oils can help us to enjoy them in a gentler way! To get an easy mixture, try using 1 drop of essential oil in a Tablespoon of your favorite carrier oil. If you find that more essential oil is desired, you can also try putting your single drop of essential oil in a Teaspoon of carrier oil.



Here are some simple and enjoyable recipes that use safe pregnancy oils with proper dilution.


Relax Your Feet

Mix essential oils and carrier oil and massage into feet and legs to relax.


Smooth Baby Bump

Mix 2 tsp Argan Oil with essential oils and rub onto your belly for smooth skin.


Diffuser Blend for Morning Sickness

Add these essential oils to your aromatherapy diffuser and breathe deeply for relief.


Giving Birth

If the mother is going through a natural delivery, this blend can help her relax and strengthen her contractions towards the end of her labor. Medical professionals recommend avoiding essential oils if an epidural, c-section, or emergency care is required.

Massage the blend into the mother’s lower back area between contractions.

For more information about how to enjoy an aromatic lifestyle with essential oils as baby grows, check out our blog post called Essential Oils for Babies and Children.

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