What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that uses essential oils which are highly concentrated containing therapeutic chemicals derived from fruits, bark, leaves, flowers and roots.
It is generally thought that essential oils may send chemical messages to the part of the brain that affects mood and feelings, which happens when you either breathe in the aroma of the oil or when your skin absorbs the oil during a massage or bath.
How Can I Use Aromatherapy During Pregnancy?
There are three different ways of applying essential oils but the most common way of applying the oils is through massage.
If you are using essential oils for massage, you will need to dilute them first. Mix one or two drops of your favourite essential oil with a teaspoon of base oil as as grapeseed oil.
You may want to use vegetable-based oil if you have an allergy to nuts, and do not use wheat germ oil if you have a wheat allergy. It is always recommended to do a skin test 24 hours before applying any essential oils.
If you partner is giving you a massage, ask your Aromatherapist about which massage strokes are safe to use at your stage of pregnancy.
2. By Breathing In Essential Oils
Mix four drops of essential oil with a teaspoon of base oil, and add the mixture to an oil burner or a vapouriser.
3.By Adding Essential Oils To Your Bath
Having a warm bath is an especially good way to use aromatherapy oils. The warm water helps your skin to absorb the oils, and the steam will help you to breathe in the vapour.
You only need about four drops of essential oil for one bath, mixed into a teaspoon of base oil. Milk is a good carrier for essential oils as the fat in the milk helps to spread the oil throughout the water.
How Can Aromatherapy Help Me?
There are a number of ways in which aromatherapy may help while you’re pregnant. It may:
Ease the symptoms of morning sickness
Soothe pregnancy niggles
Help you to feel calm and relaxed during your pregnancy
Aromatherapy for morning sickness
If you’re feeling or being sick during your first trimester, aromatherapy may help. You could try it to ease your nausea with using lemon essential oil.
Aromatherapy for common pregnancy niggles
Essential oils may be helpful for a range of common pregnancy niggles, for example sweet orange for constipation, or neroli (orange blossom) for heartburn.
You can use these oils to ease your symptoms in the usual ways – in your bath, via an oil burner or diffuser, or through massage.
Aromatherapy to help you relax
Massage alone can be very relaxing. It is a great way of easing tension and reducing stress. Add some lovely essential oil aromas and massage can feel wonderful. Research has found that having aromatherapy and massage helped pregnant women to feel less anxious.
Can Aromatherapy Help With Labour?
In many midwifery-led, low-risk NHS birth centres, midwives have been trained to use aromatherapy for labour. If you’re interested in trying aromatherapy during labour, ask your midwife whether your birth unit can provide it. If this is not possible then ask your professional Aromatherapist (IFPA) if they could make up a bespoke blend of essential oils for you so that your partner may be able to give you a hand, foot or back massage. Alternatively you could use a vapouriser, or add a few drops of oil to a tissue or to a hot or cold compress (a damp flannel)..
The following oils are safe for you while you’re in labour:
- Roman chamomile
- clary sage
- lemon grass
These oils can help to reduce fear and anxiety, ease pain or boost contractions.
If you’re using a birth pool, you shouldn’t add essential oils to the water, but using an electric oil burner or diffuser is fine.
Oils That Are Safe For You To Use During Pregnancy
As long as your pregnancy is going well, it’s probably fine for you to use:
- citrus oils, such as tangerine and neroli
- German camomile
- common lavender
- black pepper
- ylang ylang
- tea tree oil (not in labour)
Oils That Are Not Safe For You To Use
- Nutmeg, which may have hallucinogenic effects and react with pain-relieving drugs in labour.
- Rosemary, which is thought to increase blood pressure, and may cause contractions.
- Basil, which is thought to contribute to abnormal cell development.
- Jasmine and clary sage, which may trigger contractions.
- Sage and rose, which may cause bleeding in your uterus (womb).
- Juniper berry, which may affect your kidneys.
- Laurel, angelica, thyme, cumin, aniseed, citronella and cinnamon leaf should also be avoided as they could stimulate contractions.There is a lot of confusion over the safety of lavender essential oil in pregnancy. This is because lavender can be used to regulate periods. There has not been any research showing that lavender raises the risk of miscarriage. However, for ease of mind, you may want to wait until your second trimester before using it.Clary sage can be a great way to get labour started for a mum who is overdue. However, do not use this oil yourself, as overuse can make your contractions too powerful. Please first consult a professional Aromatherapist who is registered with the IFPA (International Federation professional Aromatherapists).
If you decide to see an Aromatherapist, tell her that you’re pregnant. Check that your therapist has the training and the insurance cover to work with pregnant women. Also ask your therapist how much experience she has had in treating mums-to-be.