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By Nina, Modern Alternative Pregnancy editor

Each weekend, in addition to sharing all the awesome links and news from around our network, we also share and answer a reader’s question.  This week we’re talking about which essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy.

This week, Jill asked:

What essential oils should I avoid during pregnancy?

Essential oils are an important part of my daily routine. Several others have realized the benefits of essential oils and use them on a regular basis, too. But while these oils are a wonderful safe alternative for preventing and treating illness, there needs to be special care taken during pregnancy (as with everything else).

Here are a few ways to use essential oils safely during pregnancy (and a few to avoid): 

Use Pure, Therapeutic-Grade Essential Oils

No matter which oil brand you are loyal to, one thing every essential oil lover will agree to is that you need to use pure, therapeutic-grade oils. That means you need to choose a brand that does rigorous testing of their oils to ensure that there are no harmful properties present (that could be especially problematic during pregnancy).

These tests also ensure that the oils are as potent as they need to be. Because essential oils are so potent, you need to be aware of what the essential oil might do before you use it. Some could stimulate uterine contractions, just as some herbs would. I use Everything Essential as a quick reference and the book Modern Essentials for more in-depth information.

Also, be sure to choose an essential oil that isn’t “cut” with a carrier oil. Chances are, if you’re buying a large bottle of essential oils at a pretty low price, it’s not a pure oil. Pure essential oils tend to come in smaller vials and carry a little higher price tag. Thankfully, because they are so potent and only need one to two drops per dose, they will last quite some time.

Take extra caution during the first trimester

The first three months, even the first three weeks, are a precious time of rapid development for your baby. It’s important to take extra caution during this time in regards to what you eat and put on your body. Even herbs and essential oils considered safe for pregnancy should be used with caution during this time.

For example, rather than applying an oil directly to your body, you should dilute it first in a carrier oil, like coconut oil. You can then apply it to the problem area ( lavender or peppermint for a headache). Or, you can also apply oils to the bottoms of your feet, which is a common way to use essential oils on children.

Also, if you have any concern about an essential oil causing a reaction on particularly sensitive skin, start with a skin test.

Use Aromatherapy

Diffusing oils aromatically is a safe way to use essential during pregnancy. Essential oils like lavender and frankincense promote a peaceful mood and help reduce stress. Essential oils like lemon or wild orange are uplifting and make your house smell awesome. Eucalyptus works well as a decongestant.

Most concern is over the topical and internal use of essential oils.

Essential Oil Guide for Pregnancy

The following list is from Everything Essential as a guide for using essential oils for pregnancy. If you have any question about using essential oils, seek out the guidance of a holistic healthcare practitioner.

Oils that are generally ok: 

  • Bergamot
  • Coriander
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Sandalwood
  • Wild Orange
  • Ylang Ylang

Oils that for some would be better used diluted with a carrier oil: 

  • Clove
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Ginger
  • Helichrysum
  • Marjoram
  • Melaleuca
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Roman Chamomile

Consult with your healthcare practitioner before using these oils:  

  • Basil
  • Cassia
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Clary Sage
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Vetiver
  • Wintergreen
  • White Fir

* Use peppermint essential oil sparingly near the end of your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Mint is known to decrease milk production.

Network Links

Check out the connection between Sleep and Heart Health at Modern Alternative Health.

Looking for ways to lose weight either before or after pregnancy? Read these 3 Steps to Effortless Weight Loss, also at Modern Alternative Health.

Ready to conquer your fear of illness? Be sure to check out Monday Health & Wellness: A Holistic View of Illness from Modern Alternative Mama.

While you’re there, check out the post How to Show Respect Even When You Disagree.

Sometimes, food snobbery gets the best of us. (Except for me … Ok, it happens to me a lot.) Modern Alternative Kitchen covers this issue in Food Snobbery Gets us Nowhere: Thoughts for Real Food Newbies.

Also, read the great ideas in 8 Ways to Be Hospitable to Someone with Food Allergies, also from Modern Alternative Kitchen.

From Our Contributors

Concerned about the effects of adding more garlic to your diet? Never fear, because Birth Fit explains why Garlic Breath is Sexy and Healthy.

Looking for ways to save money on real food? Check out The #1 Way to Save Money on Real Food {+ a Free Meal Planning Download} from Shalom Mama.

If you’d like more natural remedies for common ailments, be sure to buy theNatural Living Bundle from Bundle of the Week. All five of these books are only $7.40! Great books, great deal. The Natural Living Bundle is available for just 3 more days, so get yours now.

Have a great weekend!

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This is the writings of:

Nina is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips and connect with Nina Nelson via Facebook.

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  1. Thanks for the tips. It’s nice to have guidelines for moving forward with oils in pregnancy. The one oil I would caution against from personal experience is Lemongrass. 2 drops applied topically stimulated my miscarriage within 10 minutes of application, after waiting 10 weeks to pass naturally. The brand was one of the pure, potent brands that’s mentioned often. After noticing how quickly it worked, I checked the company’s website to make sure there were contraindications for pregnancy, and unfortunately there were none. It really helped me and for that I’m thankful, but I would hate for anyone else to lose a pregnancy due to the use of Lemongrass oil. Based on how quickly and powerfully it worked, I would even be cautious of using it diluted in a carrier oil.


  2. Massage Envy has a sugar foot scrub treatment which they say is contraindicated in pregnancy due to lavender oil. I have never heard of lavender as an oil to avoid in pregnancy. Do you have any insight into this reasoning?


  3. Hi! I would urge caution with even diffusing the not-so-safe essential oils during pregnancy. As I understand it, when you inhale, those oils go into your lungs and get absorbed into your body very quickly. They influence your central nervous system, and cross the blood-brain barrier. I found this out when speaking with a DoTerra consultant, and was specifically asking if you can diffuse oils during pregnancy that you wouldn’t apply topically. In short, her answer basically said that diffusing may get them info your body even faster than topical application.


    • If there’s any question, I suggest consulting your healthcare provider (one who knows about essential oils). From my understanding, an oil diffused into the air will be quite diluted because enters the air and disperses throughout the room. This is taken from a doTERRA resource page:

      Aromatherapists generally agree that no oils topically (externally) applied at ordinary amounts have ever proven harmful to a developing fetus. However, pregnant women might want to consult a physician or licensed aromatherapist prior to using essential oils. If there are specific oils that pregnant women should be concerned about, it will be noted on the oil bottle from most reputable suppliers. You can read here for more information:


      • “consult a physician or licensed aromatherapist prior to using essential oils” there ya go. Why do they say this? Because there is no substantial scientific evidence to corroborate any of the information DoTerra has on their website. I am an actual health care professional – meaning I have 2 degrees in Health Sciences and numerous college diplomas specific to holistic healing (massage therapy and acupuncture). I consult with MDs, NDs, nurses, chiros, physios, many if not all have been in the health care industry for at least 15 years including myself. Do essential oils work? Well that’s a very good question although the answer will no doubt be subjective. I use some essential oils in my treatments, I make my own lotions and balms because I don’t want to expose myself or my patients to toxic chemicals and I have witnessed these essential oils having some healing capacity at a TOPICAL level. Do you even know what the “blood-brain barrier” is or what exactly it means in terms of human physiology? I would bet no. And the way that DoTerra throws that term around along with “lipid soluble molecules” that apparently can more easily be absorbed by the body causing all sorts of neurological effects. Take a neuro class and you will see for yourself how RIDICULOUS DoTerra’s information truly is. How, pray tell, do essential oils exactly affect astrocytes to provide nutrients to the nervous tissue, maintenance, extracellular ion balance, repair and help provide scarring tissue for the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injuries or due to disease? Do you have any idea what it would take from these oils for them to do the physiological things this company suggests their product can do? Do they even have a research page where one can actually look up MEDICAL trials and findings to corroborate their rhetoric? Nope. They tell you to consult your MD. And by the way, baked cookies, a freshly lit cigarette and fresh vomit can all elicit a neurological response from your body causing your organs to perform all kinds of actions as a reaction –that’s what the human body does for God’s sake! Cheese & crackers, this DoTerra is a cult-like BIG BUSINESS selling PRODUCT. And they do very well convincing everyday people into using their “unique oils” to cure all kinds of illness. You’ll notice however that they are very vague in all their claims… wonder why? I sound upset? You bet I am because this is a very dangerous game this company is playing with people’s lives. There’s people out there that actually believe that essential oils can replace contemporary medicine and naturopathic/homeopathic medicine. There are decades of studies and medical trials that have been documented to support the aforementioned medicines. IT”S OIL PEOPLE! Just because it comes from plants doesn’t mean it has all the answers for crying out loud. THINK FOR YOURSELVES. Talk to your MD, ND, RMT, Physio, Chiro – get their opinions so that you can be better informed to make your own conclusion. All these health professionals have YEARS of science education and experience. But I’m wasting my breath. This post won’t be published because where would your integrity be, where would your loyalty lie if you actually did publish it? With your patients or with Big Business?


  4. Pure therapeutic grade essential oil is actually false advertising. No FDA or any other US agency regulates essential oils so, to sell them, producers can make up whatever they want. No one grades essential oils. Certified pure therapeutic grade or CPTG is a registered trademark of huge essential oil brand!!!
    Shocking right?


    • It is that brand’s promise of purity and it each batch is compared against a third party’s purity testing standards. If it doesn’t have at least 95% match to the “fingerprint” from the third party, that batch is considered unusable and is not bottled. The FDA won’t regulate these, so the industry is left to do what it likes. I think it is fantastic that an individual company would take the initiative to set a standard and hold all the essential oil distillers that it buys from to that standard.


  5. Hi Nina, I’m wondering what the contraindications are for white fir? And if they would apply during labor also… I have a friend who is a DoTerra consultant and gave me a blend of white fir and lavender (with carrier oil) for contraction pains.


  6. Hi,

    I recently found out I was pregnant and I use essential oils in a lot of my products. I use toothpaste with peppermint oil, coconut oil with lavender as a lotion, and essential oils in my shampoo…are oils in these amounts okay to use?


  7. […] Essential oils are very concentrated and must be handled properly. Most essential oils are safe for use during pregnancy but there are a few that should not be used. My friend, Nina of Shalom Mama compiled a list of which essential oils should and shouldn’t be used during pregnancy that I always refer to. You can bookmark that information here. […]


  8. Hi there, I am nearing the end of my pregnancy. I’m about 31 weeks and have been dealing with horrible hip pain, especially at night when I’m trying to get some sleep. All of the over the counter topical pain relievers are off the table so I started doing research into essential oils and came across a lot of literature about using frankincense topically for pain. Is this ok to use in the third trimester and should I dilute it with a carrier oil? Thank you in advance.


  9. […] for what oils are safe during pregnancy, I found this article to be […]


  10. Thanks for the informative article.. I agree essential oils can do miracle if used properly. It is important to follow usage conditions before purchasing them..


  11. I am 26 weeks along, and I have recently been introduced to DoTerra LLV (Lifelong Vitality) pack. I am wondering if this is ok to take as a prenatal Vit? I have done research that says yes, however I am not yet convinced. I have ordered them, if nothing else my husband can take them. With all the great things I have heard I am itching to take them, but still airing on the side of caution. The essential oil complex contains 120mg of Thyme, clove, Frankincense, Cumin, Wild Orange, Peppermint, Ginger, Caraway and German Chamomile. I would like some advice from someone with experience or a site that is not linked to DoTerra to let me know what they think.


  12. I went to an essential oils party last week. They had you put a bit of water in a glass, then put a drop of EO in, then fill the rest with water and drink it. I was wondering if it would be ok since I’m 27 weeks pregnant, but since the ladies leading it made no mention that it wouldn’t be (and one of them was also pregnant) I assumed it must be ok. I used the grapefruit EO. Now that I’m researching it, I’m completely panicking that I harmed my baby! I’m really mad that the leader didn’t say anything, but I’m more mad at myself for being to foolish and not researching it first! Now I’m coming across all sorts of information that says to never ingest them, or if you do to always use a fatty oil with it, and to never while pregnant. I am just sick about it.


  13. I just wanted to point out that Bergamot and its Oil have been linked to “Pregnancy mask”, and should be strictly avoided on the face, throat, and chest while pregnant. Unless you’re ok with having permanent splotches on your face.


  14. Nina, what are your thoughts on taking them internally while pregnant?


  15. Hi, is there an oil I can use to boost milk supply while pregnant? I’m about 6 weeks and my supply has almost diminished. My 1 yr old is not quite ready to wean yet. :(


  16. Thanks for your website! I am an essential oil newbie, and have a question. I’m 21 weeks and am having a lot of trouble with tooth sensitivity (major gum recession) on one particular tooth and got some clove oil to apply. If I need to use it with a “carrier oil,” could I just dilute it half and half with vegetable oil or olive oil?


  17. Also need to add to contra-indicated/talk to your medical provider: Jasmine. It is used in postpartum for a retained placenta which makes it contraindicated for use during pregnancy. (local doula’s and midwives have used it with repeated success).


  18. Hi, I am 16 weeks pregnant and I just purchased a shampoo and conditioner that have tons of kinds of essential oils in them: Argan, jojoba, aloe barbadensis, pomegranate, peach, almond, camellia, avocado etc ,Is it considered unsafe????????????????????? Thank you


  19. I’m terrified using vetiver on my kids may have caused early miscarriage. Is it safe to use it with rollerball or should I have my husband apply it to the kids in case I get pregnant?


  20. I drank a few drops of lemon oil 2 times then found out I was pregnant… and whats even worse, I used a Styrofoam cup not knowing what it does to it… did I hurt my baby?


  21. […] Essential Oils Cheat Sheet for Pregnancy and Birth What Essential Oils Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?  […]


  22. Hi, I see this post is older but I’m wondering why cassia oil should be avoided? I was given a balm for migraines that has cassia, menthol, and camphor for essential oils. I used it on my temples not thinking anything of it, but sure enough cassia shouldn’t be used and now I’m worried. I’m still waiting on a response from my doctors office but I thougght I may try asking here?


  23. Hi, my son’s girlfriend is pregnant (in her first trimester still) and is not sleeping well. I use Cedarwood on the bottom of my feet every night and LOVE it. Would it be safe for her to use that or could she just diffuse it and get the same results? Thanks for any help.


  24. Hi,
    I’m 4 weeks pregnant. Today at work (skin care therapist) I gave a client a peppermint scalp massage with 100% pure pm oil. Now I am petrified because i have been reading so many bad things about the oil, like that it may bring on your menstrual period, uterine contractions etc. I used a good amount as well. It was all over my hands and some got on my thighs. Not to mention the strong smell. Please someone give me some advice.


  25. Hi! I used Sunbreeze oil today, and now I’ m really concerned! Is it ok if i used it ones?


  26. What about taking oils internally? My sister is 9 weeks and has severe seasonal allergies. It’s getting to be that time of year again. Last year, she took 2 drops each of lemon, lavender, and peppermint twice a day for her allergies. I didn’t hear her sneeze but maybe twice all season! It really worked great for her. But, now that she’s pregnant, we have to be more cautious with the oils. Can she still take this allergy blend? you listed peppermint as needing a carrier oil, but does this apply to internally as well?


  27. What is the reasoning behind Vetiver being avoided in pregnancy? Was using in a diffuser to help with ADD/ADHD symptoms.


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