Welcome to Childbirth Today's 2012 Blog Carnival - honoring the busy month of May and all of the celebrations of midwives, nurses, doulas and childbirth educators...AND mothers! Our guest blogger today is Donna Walls RN, BSN, IBCLC who is a Master Herbalist and Certified Aromatherapist. She shares about aromatherapy and essentials oils in pregnancy.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils to affect mind and body. The essential oils are, literally, the plant oils distilled from aromatic plants. This concentrated oil can be used in many ways, but like the plants, must be used respectfully. Essential oils produce a pleasant aroma and are often thought of as medicinally benign. Just the opposite is true as these oils are 75-100 times more potent than the plant.
These oils are distilled or expressed from the plant glands. Oils change in character depending on the part of the plant used. The oils from the orange peel (orange essential oil) are distinctly different from the oils from the leaves (petitgrain essential oil) or blossoms (neroli essential oil).
Choosing Essential Oils
The therapeutic effects of essential oils are well documented, but these effects are derived only from 100% pure and natural oils. Synthetic oils may have a pleasant aroma, but do not demonstrate the same positive effect on mind and body. Synthetics are often labeled “perfume” or “fragrance” oils. When selecting and using essential oils, choose only a “pure essential oil” which is stored in dark amber bottles. Pure essential oils most often are more expensive, have a fuller, deeper aroma and evaporate within minutes when placed on paper.
Some general safety guidelines for use in pregnancy are:
1) Do not use oils undiluted on the skin- do a patch test if prone to sensitivities
2) Do not take internally unless under the direct supervision of a knowledgeable
3) Use only in small amounts- formulas for essential oils are given in drops only,
do not exceed recommended number of drops
4) Do not use in or near eyes
5) Use only pure essential oils
6) Use very dilute formulas for children and during pregnancy
7) Use extra care on broken or damaged skin
How to Use Essential Oils-
Inhalation- with electric, battery or candle diffusers, or placing a small amount on small piece of fabric or cotton ball. This is good for relaxation and calming essential oils.
Topical- diluted with a base oil (olive, sweet almond, jojoba, apricot kernel, or any cold pressed oil) or distilled water for direct application or misting of the skin.
Hydrotherapy- drops added to baths, foot or sitz baths.
Dilutions for Topical Use
Carrier Oil Essential Oil and dilution %
½ oz or 1 TBSP 3-5 drops = 1% 6-8 drops= 2% 12-15 drops= 4%
1 oz or 2 TBSP 6-10drops= 1% 12-16 drops=2% 24-30 drops=4%
Most healthy adults will use the 4% dilution for most topical applications. Pregnant women should use the 2% or lower range of 4% dilutions.
Essential Oils Which are Considered Toxic and Harmful
Bitter melon Rue
Essential Oils to Avoid in Pregnancy
Ginger (not in 1st trimester)
Essential Oils Generally Regarded as Safe in Pregnancy
Cypress Citrus (in small amounts)
Ylang ylang Sandalwood
Clary sage Rosemary
Rose geranium Neroli
Tea tree Marjoram
Striae Gravidum (Stretch marks)
Massage abdomen with enriching oils and butters such as wheat germ or jojoba oils or shea or cocoa butters.
Pregnant Belly Massage Oil
2 oz carrier oil
10 drops each lavender and sandalwood essential oils
5 drops chamomile essential oil
Mix well and apply to abdomen 1-2 times daily
Respiratory and Sinus Congestion
Eucalyptus essential oil diffused in the air in diffuser, inhale 2-3 drops on a cottonball or make a steam by placing about 1-2 cups water on the stove. Bring to a gentle simmer and add 5-7 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and turn off heat. Inhale the vapors for 3-4 minutes to clear congestion.
Relaxation in Pregnancy
Calming essential oils to diffuse in the air, place 5-7 drops in a warm tub bath or make into massage oil:
Sandalwood, lavender, marjoram, patchouli, rose geranium
Energizing, uplifting for Pregnancy
Energizing essential oils which can be diffused in the air for energy:
Rosemary, bergamot, peppermint, orange, or tangerine
Incorporate relaxation breathing- slow, deep, deliberate breaths, focusing on the exhale will help with relaxation at sleep time.
Diffuse in the air or on a cotton ball next to the bed, relax in a tub, or make a massage oil with essential oils of:
Lavender, ylang ylang or sandalwood, marjoram
Rose geranium is a natural hormone balancer
Clary sage reduces anxiety and promotes calm
About the author:
Donna Walls RN, BSN, IBCLC, Master Herbalist and Certified Aromatherapist has been a registered Nurse for 40 years, and for 38 years has worked with pregnant and new parents. She became a Certified Childbirth Educator in 1984 and a Certified Lactation Consultant in 1987. She continues to practice as a clinical Lactation Consultant, teaches the Certified Lactation Counselor course for the Healthy Children Project and teaches many women’s health classes and workshops for patients and professionals. Team leader for successful Baby Friendly designation at Southview Hospital in 2008 and is currently project leader for the Baby Friendly process at Miami Valley Hospital (Dayton, OH). In 1995, she developed and opened the first Alternative Birth Center within a hospital setting in the state of Ohio, Family Beginnings. In 1997, she graduated as a Master Herbalist from the Australasian College with a Diploma Degree in Herbal Sciences and in 1998 became a Certified Aromatherapist. She has been in private practice as an Herbalist since 1997. She has presented programs on wholistic care, including natural therapies for women’s health, herbal medicines, aromatherapies, nutritional healing and environmental health both locally and nationally for many years. She published her first book “Natural Families- Healthy Homes” in 2007, focusing on the connection between the health of the environment and personal health.