Consequently, the use of aromatherapy during pregnancy is becoming more popular in Europe, with apparently 76 per cent of German obstetrics departments making essential oils available. In the US, aromatherapy is also being introduced to hospitals and clinics.
There are a number of caveats before we delve into this topic. There are a number of oils that are best avoided or only used at a particular phase of the pregnancy. These include basil, birch, calamus, cassia, cinnamon bark, hyssop, Idaho tansy, lavandin, rosemary, sage and tarragon. Oils to be used with caution include angelica, cedarwood, German chamomile, cistus, citronella, clary sage, clove bud, cumin, cypress, davana, fennel, laurel, marjoram, mountain savory, myrrh, nutmeg, peppermint, rose, spearmint, vetiver and yarrow. For example, taking oils such as clary sage and fennel can help accelerate labour once begun, but you would have to be careful with their use prior to that time. There is also the opinion that women should refrain from using essential oils in the first trimester.
Having said all this, I feel the greatest risk comes from using essential oils that are not pure and are used incorrectly. Also be sure to consult with your health practitioner prior to using any of these essential oils.
Essential oils to use during the term of the pregnancy
To ease anxiety and calming: Lavender. Diffuse in the air or rub into your hands and inhale.
To combat nausea and morning sickness: Peppermint, ginger, spearmint and lemon are helpful. These oils can be diffused in the air (at least 3o minutes every 4 hours or as needed), applied topically with a warm compress on the navel area (around three drops) or behind each ear.
To prepare for delivery: A massage of the area (three times daily) around the perineum in the last trimester can prepare the skin for the stretching that will occur during delivery. A massage blend combining oils such as lavender, geranium, myrrh, German chamomile, neroli and sandalwood can be beneficial in improving the elasticity of the skin and reducing stretch marks.
Essential oils during labour and delivery
During the contractions of early labour, lavender is again useful in relaxing and reducing anxiety for the woman. Clary sage and jasmine help to increase uterine contractions as well as acting to reduce stress. Fennel also works in a similar fashion to clary sage in increasing contractions. These oils can be applied on the ankles, hands or lower abdomen. Dilute them 50:50 with a vegetable oil if desired.
Eucalyptus is a great fresh aroma to have diffusing in the background as well as providing anti-bacterial action.
Lavender and geranium are great oils to apply to the ankles, abdomen or the soles of the feet, following delivery. Lavender is calming, has a slight analgesic effect, stimulates circulation and has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities. Geranium likewise increases circulation, is healing for the uterus, helps to pull together dilated skin tissue and has uplifting and anti-depressant properties.
In the event that you have undergone an episiotomy or cesarian section and are experiencing discomfort, try a compress using lavender oil, which is also anti-inflammatory.
Postpartum is also a time in which a woman’s hormones can be haywire and there can be chaotic sleep patterns. Symptoms of postpartum depression can include sadness, irritableness, anxiety, fatigue, hopelessness, guilt, fatigue, difficulty in sleeping and thoughts of suicide. Oils such as geranium, fennel and clary sage have estrogenic properties and can help restore hormonal balance. These can be massaged diluted 50:50 with a vegetable oils and applied to the feet, hands, forehead and temple. Diffused in a room, individual oils, or better still a blend combining oils such as neroli, jasmine, rose, myrrh, frankincense, lemon, grapefruit, orange, bergamot and patchouli, can be emotionally uplifting. These can also be massaged on the skin or you can even add three drops of your blend to a warm bath.
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
 Coleman Smith, Virginia. Aromatherapy as a comfort measure: during the Childbearing Year, International Journal of Childbirth Education. 2012 Vol 27, No.3, pp 26-30
 Tiran, D. Smell’s good! Aromatherapy in midwifery, Practising Mid-wife. 2011 Vol 14, No.10, pp 11-15