by Marlene Ericksen
in pregnancy arise from ordinary fluctuations and bodily changes. Some
signal a call for dietary or lifestyle adjustments. Most can be eased
with the additional use of essential oils.
is of great help not only in pregnancy, but in preparing the body and
mind for pregnancy. As you begin journeying toward the creation of
new life, explore the joys of beautifying and caring for yourself.
oils extracted from flowers, plants, trees, fruit, and roots provide
a natural means of nurturing both body and psyche. Aromatherapy can
be used on a regular basis throughout the childbearing year to ease
discomforts, alleviate emotional stress, and maintain health and beauty.
of great help not only in pregnancy, but in preparing the body and
mind for pregnancy. Many essential oils are derived from the reproductive
apparatus of plants. Flower essences in particular have an alluring
aroma that attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinating creatures.
These oils, which are so important to plant sexuality and reproduction,
have physiologic benefits for our own female hormones and reproductive
organs. Essential oils from neroli blossom, rose, and jasmine, for
example, have numerous yin characteristics--including the ability to
calm the nervous system--as well as aphrodisiac qualities and antispasmolytic
The rose is considered
the epitome of the feminine. It is associated with the Virgin Mary,
who is often depicted with a rose in her hand. Rosaries, from which
the Catholic rosary was named, were originally made from dried rosebuds.
Hippocrates recommended rose for use in obstetrics. Cleopatra used
essence of rose on the sails of her barge to entice the unsuspecting
Mark Antony: "The winds were lovesick.... From the barge a strongly
invisible perfume hits the sense of the adjacent wharf" (William Shakespeare,
Antony and Cleopatra).
In the three months
prior to conception, rose essential oil (Rosa damascena)--or rose otto,
as it is sometimes called--can be of great assistance. To begin with,
this oil is known as a fertility promoter. For an increased sperm count,
have your partner take warm baths with 4 to 10 drops of rose otto.
(Hot baths and hot tubs are to be avoided for three months prior to
conception because heat can damage sperm.) Rose oil also helps purify
the uterus and regulate the menstrual cycle. To absorb the oil directly
into your pelvic region, try sitz baths with 3 to 7 drops of rose otto.
[For preparation guidelines, see "Methods and Dosages."] More than
anything else, rose oil facilitates relaxation and nurtures the emotions.
to nourish each other and strengthen bonds before childbearing are
advised to massage each other with 4 to 7 drops of rose oil mixed with
1 ounce of carrier oil (grapeseed, sweet almond, hazelnut, or other
vegetable oil). Other essential oils are also beneficial at this time.
Geranium (Pelargonium x asperuin) can help balance the menstrual cycle
and hormonal activity. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), neroli (Citrus aurantium),
ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata), and clary sage (Salvia sclarea) are
relaxing and uplifting. To make a female fertility blend that can counteract
the effects of stress, add to 2 ounces of carrier oil: 3 drops of rose,
4 drops of geranium, 3 drops of clary sage, 2 drops of ylang-ylang,
and 2 drops of bergamot. A nightly abdominal massage with this blend
just before sleep is particularly comforting. Using small, clockwise
movements, massage around the entire abdomen, tracing along the inner
portion of the pelvic bones, along the diaphragm, and over the solar
plexus, then focusing on the lower abdomen in the region of the uterus.
Discomforts of Pregnancy
bring on discomforts, many of which arise from ordinary fluctuations
and bodily changes. Some signal a call for dietary or lifestyle adjustments.
Most can be eased with the additional use of essential oils.
and morning sickness. A woman's sense of smell is heightened during
pregnancy You may be intensely attracted to some odors and strongly
repelled by others. To keep the atmosphere appealing, use an aromatic
diffuser or simply place a few drops of essential oil in a bowl of
water so that they can evaporate naturally, scenting the room. The
diffuser method, which relies on heat from a candle or an electric
bulb, vaporizes the essential oil molecules, spreading the scent faster
and farther than the bowl-of-water method. Diffusing antiseptic essential
oils into your breathing space will also cleanse the environment of
harmful airborne bacteria.
To make a diffuser
recipe effective in alleviating morning sickness and headache, mix
3 drops of lavender (Lavendula officinalis or Lavendula vera) with
1 drop of peppermint (Mentha pipperita). If colds or flu are in the
air, add 1 drop of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) as a preventative.
To help combat
nausea, place a cool lavender oil compress on your forehead and a warm
lavender oil compress over the front of your rib cage. A deep whiff
of peppermint oil will often cure nausea, as will a cup of tea or honey
water prepared with 1 drop of peppermint oil. (Do not overuse peppermint,
as it can have stimulating effects, and do not take essential oils
internally on an empty stomach.
Lavender and peppermint
are good remedies for headaches as well. At the first sign of headache,
place 1 drop of undiluted lavender oil on each temple, or lying down
in a dimly lit room, place a cool peppermint oil compress on your forehead.
To counteract noxious odors when out and about, keep a cotton hankie
dabbed with 1 drop of lavender or peppermint oil in a plastic bag in
your purse. To prevent headache or nausea, hold the hankie over your
nose and inhale deeply; repeat as necessary.
often occurs during the third month of pregnancy, usually in response
to the siting of the placenta. It can also arise in response to low
blood sugar levels after a night of fasting. Nutritionist Adele Davis
recommends a healthy, protein-rich snack along with carbohydrates and
fruit before bed and again in the morning before getting up. Morning
sickness can also result from a vitamin B-6 deficiency
To alleviate vomiting,
add 7 drops of lemon (Citrus limon) or lavender oil to 1 ounce of carrier
oil, and massage over the abdomen--or simply inhale the essences. A
cup of red raspberry leaf (Rubus strigosus) tea can provide relief
while toning the uterus. If morning sickness is severe, try tincture
of wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa); add the extract to boiling water
or hot tea as recommended on the label.
and hemorrhoids. Weight gain and abdominal pressure due to increased
blood volume and the softening effects of progesterone on the venous
walls may cause varicose veins, edema, other leg discomforts, and hemorrhoids,
particularly in the second trimester. Leg discomforts during pregnancy
are also attributed to nutrient deficiencies. A boost in vitamin B-6
is often recommended for varicose veins, edema, and leg cramps. Vitamin
E helps prevent varicose veins and blood clots. Garlic cleanses the
circulatory system. Sodium helps alleviate leg cramps, as does calcium.
respond well to the toning and astringent properties of cypress (Cupressus
sempervirens), geranium, lemon, and lavender oils. Elevating your legs,
alternate warm and cool compresses of any combination of these oils
to the affected area. Bathe in warm water mixed with 3 drops of cypress
and 3 drops of lemon. Using a blend of 7 drops of cypress and 7 drops
of lemon mixed with 2 ounces of carrier oil, gently stroke from the
feet upward. While massaging, be careful not to apply strong pressure
over a varicosity or just below the point at which a varicosity begins.
retention) of the ankles or legs responds to lavender, geranium, and
rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) oils, all of which stimulate the
lymphatic system to drain excess fluids from the body. Using upward
strokes, gently massage a blend of these oils to the feet and ankles.
If your feet are hot, tired, or swollen, try tepid-to-cool footbaths
with 3 drops of geranium or lemon and 3 drops of lavender. To reduce
swelling, sleep with a pillow under your legs, and take afternoon naps
with your legs elevated higher than your heart. To strengthen the venous
walls, add vitamin C and buckwheat to your diet. Exercise, especially
walking and swimming, will stimulate circulation, as will support hose
worn on a regular basis. Baths with lemon, mandarin (Citrus reticulata),
or other citrus oils contain vitamin C and will provide a mild diuretic
that cause swollen anal tissue result from the same conditions that
cause varicose veins; they also result from repeated straining to pass
stool. The herb nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) can be taken as an infusion
or tincture to improve elasticity of the veins and reduce hemorrhoids.
Also add oat bran to your breakfast cereal, and be sure to eat plenty
of fruit and vegetables. Cool sitz baths with 7 drops of lemon oil
will help, as will a follow-up massage using 7 drops of cypress plus
7 drops of lemon oil in 2 ounces of carrier oil.
positions can be hard to find in the later stages of pregnancy. If
you are having trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, try lying
on your side with a pillow between your knees and additional pillows
supporting your arms and back. Sprinkle neroli blossom or sandalwood
(Santalum album) oil around your bed, or dot a drop or two on your
pillow. These oils, soothing to the mind and emotions, act as sedatives
to relieve anxiety; their fragrant aromas will help you drift easily
off to sleep. Also try sprinkling a few drops of essential oil in a
bowl of water near a radiator or heat vent. A warm neroli oil bath
before bed can help relieve the day's stress and invite a sound sleep.
If muscle cramps are keeping you awake, take a calcium-magnesium supplement
nightmares about themselves or their babies are considered a normal
release of anxiety about parenthood and the well-being of the child.
The remedy of choice is essential oil of frankincense (Boswellia carterii).
Sprinkle it around your bed, place a drop or two on your pillow, put
a few drops in a bowl of water near a heat source, or massage your
chest with 1 drop of frankincense mixed with 1 teaspoon of carrier
oil. Applied to the back of the neck, this oil is said to be especially
protective. A cup of tea made with skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
extract soothes raw nerves and restores deep sleep.
To prevent stretch
marks and keep your skin soft and supple, use topical applications
of vegetable oils. To maintain elasticity, stock up on vitamins C and
E. Evening primrose oil capsules, taken internally, also nourish the
skin and help maintain elasticity. Wheat germ oil, applied topically,
is a wonderful stretch mark preventative, for it neutralizes acidity
and toxins and is a natural source of vitamin E. Hazelnut oil is similarly
rich in vitamin E. To make a stretch mark blend, mix 1 ounce of hazelnut
oil and 1 ounce of wheat germ oil with 4 drops of neroli, 2 drops of
carrot seed (Daucus carota), and 2 drops of geranium oil. Morning and
evening, massage this blend into thighs, hips, breasts, and belly.
Or add the blend to warm bathwater mixed with seaweed extract or seawater
concentrate for a mineralizing soak. To avoid dehydrating your skin,
do not take overly hot baths and do not soap up your entire body After
emerging from the tub, pat off excess water with a towel, leaving the
skin damp. Then apply stretch mark blend and body lotion.
mask of pregnancy (hyperpigmentation) has been linked to the inability
of the liver to remove excess hormones from the bloodstream. Pigmentation
problems also result from a deficiency of folic acid, PABA, vitamin
B-12, or vitamin B-6. To protect your skin from sunlight, wear sunscreen
and a hat. At night, apply several drops of the following essential
oil blend to your facial skin: 3 drops of lemon plus 4 drops of myrtle
(Myrtus communis) to 1 ounce of carrier oil. Work the blend into your
skin with cool water or a floral water. Then apply your preferred face
Some women say
that their skin never looked better than when they were pregnant. Others
prone to the surging hormonal activity of pregnancy say the opposite.
If you are among those subject to acne, dab on a tiny amount of undiluted
lavender oil. For an inflamed pustule, use 1 drop of tea tree oil (Maleleuca
alternafolia). A weekly mask of seaweed extracts and mineral-rich clay
will help keep skin clear of dead cells and debris.
Massage for Pregnancy
Touch is a profound
part of your sensory experience. A daily massage can activate millions
of nerve receptors, regulate and balance bodily functions, and send
a message of love and care to your baby. Self-massage is one approach;
massage by your partner is another. Massage is a lovely way for fathers
to be involved in pregnancy and to get to know their babies.
Care of the
Much can be done
during pregnancy to prepare the perineum to stretch beyond its everyday
limits for birth, and to do so without tearing and without the need
for surgical cutting. Midwives who incorporate aromatherapy into their
practice have found that episiotomy or tearing occurs in only 48 percent
of birthing women who perform perineal massage during pregnancy, compared
with 77 percent of those who do not.(1)
For optimum results,
massage your perineum for 5 to 10 minutes a day beginning five or six
weeks before your due date. First, empty your bladder. Follow with
a 5- to 15-minute warm water and lavender oil sitz bath to relax the
vaginal wall. Then, inserting two well-washed index fingers or thumbs
into the vagina just enough to stretch the perineal tissue, press the
vaginal wall back toward the rectum. Massaging in a U-shaped motion
with a blend of 3 drops of lavender, I drop of geranium, and 1 ounce
of wheat germ oil, stretch the vagina open for 20 to 60 seconds, or
until you feel a tingling or slight burning sensation-precisely what
you will feel with the crowning of baby's head in labor. Over time,
the perineal tissue will become soft and supple.
With daily massages
of this sort, the perineum is likely to remain highly elastic--and
intact--during birth. If tearing should occur, or if an episiotomy
becomes necessary, treat yourself to warm postpartum baths or sitz
baths to speed the healing. Add cypress, lavender, or geranium oil
to the bathwater to help tighten the stretched or severed tissue, prevent
infection, and stop the bleeding. For an effective soak, use 3 drops
of cypress and 3 drops of lavender.
Care of the
Treat every part
of your body to an essential oil massage, especially in the later months
of pregnancy. A foot massage is a wonderful way to enliven the entire
body and relieve the legs of pressure. To position yourself for massage
of the back and neck, sit backward on a straight-backed chair, or sit
on a stool and lean forward onto a table piled with pillows for support.
Reclining, prop yourself up with cushions and pillows for massage of
the neck, back, shoulders, and limbs. And remember, massage of the
abdomen calls for the lightest of strokes.
Oils for Labor and Birth
increasingly endorsed by midwives throughout the world, is slowly gaining
acceptance in hospitals throughout Europe and the United Kingdom. German
midwife trainees are required to study aromatherapy as part of their
course curriculum. Indeed, monitoring equipment has shown that fetal
heartbeat variability accompanying fetal distress can be normalized
when mothers are given an essential oil body massage.(2)
Whether you are
planning to birth your baby in a hospital, at a birthing center, or
at home, have ready the following items:
- Blended oils
for massage. Bottle the mixtures in dark glass containers at least
three weeks in advance of your due date.
- Undiluted essential
oils for baths, compresses, inhalations, and diffuser. An aromatic
diffuser. An electric model is preferable if there will be toddlers
about or if you will be using a hospital or birthing center room.
- Flannels and
bowls for compresses.
- A plastic baby
tub for sitz baths.
Plan on creating
a magical birthing environment, complete with soft lights, music, and
your favorite essential oils. Neroli, bergamot, rose, and frankincense
can help relieve anxiety and fears you might be harboring about birth.
Breathing in any of these oils as they waft through the air from your
diffuser will help you relax between contractions, inviting your body's
production of endorphins to provide natural pain relief. Simply add
to the diffuser 3 or 4 drops of your chosen oil.
augustifolia) can promote relaxation and pain relief during labor.
Once your contractions are established and your cervix has dilated
at least 2 centimeters, plan on taking a long lavender soak. Women
who bathe for 30 minutes or more during this phase of labor experience
improved progress and a significant decrease in the need for drugs.(3)
An essential oil
massage between contractions can be soothing and comforting while stimulating
pain relief. A foot massage may be ideal, or perhaps a low back massage
with gentle, yet firm strokes, using the palm of the hand. For a topnotch
labor blend, combine 20 drops of lavender and 8 drops of clary sage
in 4 ounces of carrier oil.
To help stimulate
and strengthen contractions, request a jasmine (lasminum grandiflorum)
compress on the lower abdomen or sacrum. For pain, use lavender or
clary sage. Cool compresses to the forehead can help ward off fatigue
and keep you refreshed. If nausea crops up, take a whiff of peppermint
jatamansi), an exotic essential oil not often mentioned in aromatherapy
literature, is profoundly relaxing. Spikenard's sedative action is
useful if pain and tension are keeping you from opening into your contractions.
In such instances, be sure to ask for an abdominal massage with 8 drops
of spikenard mixed with 7 drops of jasmine and 3 drops of lemon verbena
in 4 ounces of carrier oil. Or apply a compress of this blend just
above the pubic hair. Evening primrose oil can be massaged directly
on the cervix if it remains rigid and nondilating.
Labor is a wondrous
act of nature, and unique to every childbearing woman. If pain or tension
gets you down, remember that this stage will pass. Envision yourself
as a powerful woman, and know that in a very short time, you will be
experiencing the gift of birth.
and be discriminating when selecting essential oils. Purchase only
those that have been distilled for therapeutic use. Such oils are termed
"genuine," "authentic," or "of therapeutic quality." Check to see that
the oils you buy are of the botanical species noted in the accompanying
article, are unadulterated (free of additives, even natural ones),
are not deterpenated (subjected to laboratory removal of terpenes),
and are steam distilled under pressure to ensure the completeness of
their components. High-quality essential oils are tested by gas chromatograph
to assess their chemical constituents and to detect adulterants. Unfortunately,
many of the essential oils available today are of a lesser grade, and
are not suitable for healing purposes.
oils are emmenagogic (bringing on menstruation) and are subject to
controversy. Some texts list them as unsafe in pregnancy, whereas others
point out that they are wonderful for pregnancy. Essential oil researcher
and pharmacologist Tony Balacs explains: "I have found no evidence
of any danger in pregnancy. Even if an essential oil is proven to have
an emmenagogic action, this does not necessarily mean it is a potential
abortifacient."(1) The following essential oils are emmenagogic: camphor,
caraway, cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, jasmine, juniper,
lavender, marjoram, nutmeg, peppermint, rose, and rosemary.
oils are known abortifacients and are to be avoided during pregnancy
These include: ajowan, aniseed, basil, bitter almond, boldo, buchu,
camphor, dove, cornmint, cotton lavender, fennel, horseradish, hyssop,
lavendula stoechas, mugwort, mustard, myrrh, oregano, parsley seed,
pennyroyal--American and European, pimenta racemosa, plecanthrus, rue,
sage (not to be confused with clary sage), sassafras, savin, savory,
star anise, sweet birch, sweet marjoram, tansy, tarragon, thuja, thyme
(C.T. thymol), West Indian. bay leaf, wild thyme, wintergreen, wormseed,
Notes (1.) Tony
Balacs, "Safety in Pregnancy," International Journal of Aromatherapy
4, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 15.
The maximum dosage
for use in pregnancy is a 1 percent dilution. To prepare a 1 percent
dilution, add 10 to 14 drops of essential oil to 2 ounces of carrier
oil, or add 5 to 7 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil.
Two percent dilutions are suitable for use before and after pregnancy.
Never use undiluted essential oils directly on your skin unless specifically
Baths and sitz
Use a maximum
of 6 drops of essential oil per bath. To prepare a sitz bath, set a
large plastic baby tub in your bathtub, fill with water, add the oils,
and agitate to spread. Lower yourself into the baby tub, keeping your
feet on the outside, and soak for 20 minutes unless otherwise directed.
An aromatherapy bath in the morning can prepare you for a smooth and
easy-to-cope-with-stress day. To eliminate the urge for caffeine, try
an uplifting oil such as lemon or geranium oil. An evening bath with
relaxing oils such as sandalwood or frankincense can soak away the
day's troubles and calm the nervous system for a sound sleep.
Fill a bowl with
cool or warm water, depending on your needs. Add 3 or 4 drops of essential
oil. For cool compresses, drape a flannel across the top of the cool
water to pick up a film of the oil, then wring out the flannel and
place it on the appropriate body area; repeat when the compress has
warmed. For warm compresses, drape the flannel, wring it out, place
it on the body, and cover it with plastic and a towel; repeat when
the compress has cooled.
For a diffuser,
use 3 to 4 drops of essential oil. For a hankie, use 1 drop.
Notes (1.) Juliette
Guenier, RGN, RM, "Essential Obstetrics," International Journal of
Aromatherapy 4, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 7. (2.) Grace Lafan, "Case Studies,"
International Journal of Aromatherapy 4, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 33-34.
(3.) Lynne Reed and Lynne Norfolk, "Aromatherapy in Midwifery," Aromatherapy
World (Summer 1993):13.
is a certified aromatherapist who has been practicing since 1983, She
is also a licensed massage therapist and aesthetician, and is certified
in manual lymph drainage. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where
she and her husband William Lennon own an aromatherapy salon and day
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