Using Essential Oils Safely for Pregnant & Nursing Mamas -

Using Essential Oils Safely for Pregnant & Nursing Mamas

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We have talked a lot already about essential oil safety, including safety with babies and children, but I have yet to cover essential oil safety for pregnant and nursing mothers. Today we are going to go over this topic, and explore the essential oils that are safe to use while pregnant or nursing, as well as ways to use them for specific pregnancy symptoms. 

Essential oils have shown to be safe and helpful during pregnancy

The topic of essential oil use during pregnancy is a bit of a controversial issue, mainly because there hasn’t been a lot of studies done on the topic ( it can be difficult to find a safe methodology of testing with pregnant women and the infants that they are carrying). Essential oils have been used for over 25 years by midwives, doulas, nurses, and mothers-to-be and have shown no harm to the mother or baby. In fact Jane Buckle, RN (Buckle, 2015) states;

“There are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses as a result of the normal use of essential oils, either by inhalation or by topical application.”

When used properly, essential oils are very safe for use during pregnancy and can help the expectant mother through all sorts of pregnancy symptoms, including nausea/vomiting, swelling of ankles and muscle spasms, insomnia, stress, and more! See down below for some suggestions for common ailments during pregnancy.

Using Essential Oils Safely for Pregnant & Nursing Mamas -


Essential oil basics when you are pregnant or nursing

If used safely and with care, essential oils have proven to be very helpful at aiding women through the physical and mental trials and tribulations of pregnancy. These are some of the basic rules to follow when using essential oils while pregnant or nursing:

  1. Ingestion should be avoided during pregnancy and while nursing – While topical applications and diffusion are both safe routes to use essential oils while you are pregnant or nursing, many essential oils can be toxic to the baby if ingested. It is important not to ingest ANY essential oils while you are pregnant or nursing. You can read more here on essential oil ingestion and safety
  2. Essential oil use should be avoided in the first trimester – Many aromatherapists agree that most essential oils should be avoided during the first three months of pregnancy, especially if you are high risk for a miscarriage (for any reason).
  3. Less is more with pregnant and nursing mamas – Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil (such as almond, coconut, hemp seed, etc.) before use. It’s best while pregnant not to exceed a 1% dilution (6 drops essential oil per 1 oz. of carrier oil), and a 2% dilution (12 drops essential oil per 1 oz. of carrier oil) during labor and while nursing.
  4. Only run the diffuser for 10-15 minutes – Pregnant mamas noses are much more sensitive  to smells and running the diffuser too long can cause headaches and nausea.
  5. Repeated intense daily use is not suggested – It is best to utilize essential oils for when you really need it like helping with acute issues such as nausea, indigestion, leg cramps/spasms, insomnia, cough/congestion, stress/anxiety, etc.
  6. Avoid absolutes and other solvent extracted “essential oils” – Not considered true essential oils, absolutes are created using a solvent, often hexane or butane, to retain the fragrance. Though there should be no solvent left in the final product, you can not be sure, and traces of hexane have been found throughout many absolutes.
  7. DO NOT add essential oils to the birthing pool –  Since essential oils are considered oils, they do not mix with water, rather they float on top and will not mix in. Adding essential oils to the birthing pool is dangerous to the newborn and could cause burns, irritation, or other problems from accidental ingestion. Keep the essential oils to inhalation/diffusion during the actual birthing process, if you are in a pool.


Using Essential Oils Safely for Pregnant & Nursing Mamas -

Essential oils pregnant and nursing mamas should AVOID

These essential oils have been determined to be unsafe for use during pregnancy and lactation, via ALL ROUTES (i.e. diffusion, topical, ingestion) because they’re chemical makeup contains specific chemical constituents that should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of these constituents can cross the placenta and become toxic to the fetus (camphor), are neurotoxic (thujone), teratogenic and cause deformities in the baby (citral), and more. You can read more about the specific chemical constituents to avoid, which essential oils they can be found in, and their possible adverse effects in many of the references at the bottom of this post (Tisserand & Young is the most complete source for essential oil safety information).

  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
  • Anise, Star (Illicium verum)
  • Araucaria (Neocallitropsis pancheri)
  • Artemisia (Artemisia vestita)
  • Atractylis (Atractylylodes lancea)
  • Lemon Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day
  • Birch (Betula lenta)
  • Black Seed (Nigella sativa)
  • Buchu (Agathosma betulina, Agathosma crenulata)
  • Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)
  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)
  • Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
  • Chaste Tree (Vitex ugnus castus)
  • Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum)
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) – This should be avoided during pregnancy because it can bring on contractions, but it has been used quite effectively in the birthing room for just this purpose. It’s safe for use during labor (under the guidance of a doula or midwife) as well as postpartum.
  • Cypress, blue (Callitris intratopica)
  • Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens)
  • Dill Seed, Indian  (Anethus sowa)
  • Eucalyptus, ALL (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithi)
  • Fennel, bitter and sweet (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia papyrifer Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day
  • Genipi (Artemisia genepi)
  • Hibawood (Thujopsis dolobratta)
  • Ho Leaf (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Lanyuna (Artemisia afra)
  • Lavender, French/Spanish  (Lavandula stoechas)
  • Lemon Balm, Australian  (Eucalyptus staigeriana Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus Avoid use during pregnancy, OK for use while nursing
  • May Chang Litsea cubeba  Avoid use during pregnancy, OK for use while nursing
  • Mugwort (Artemisia arborescens, Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
  • Myrtle Backhousia anisata)
  • Myrtle, Honey (Melaleuca teretifolia)  – Avoid use during pregnancy, OK for use while nursing
  • Myrtle, Lemon (Backhousia citriodora)   Avoid use during pregnancy, OK for use while nursing
  • Nutmeg (Mysristica fragrans)
  • Oregano (Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, etc.)
  • Parsley, Leaf/Seed (Petroslinum sativum)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Plectranthus (Plectranthus fruticosus)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  • Sage, Dalmatian (Salvia officinalis)
  • Sage, Spanish (Salvia lavandulaefolia)
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Tea Tree, Lemon (Leptospermum petersonii) – Avoid use during pregnancy, OK for use while nursing
  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Thyme, Lemon (Thymus x citriodorus Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day
  • Verbena, Lemon  (Aloysia triphylla Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day
  • Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Achillea nobilis)
  • Zeodary (Curcuma sedoaria)

Essential oils SAFE for use while pregnant or nursing

This is not a complete list, as many essential oils really have never been clinically tested for use during pregnancy. Other essential oils not mentioned here may be OK for use if properly diluted and used sparingly.

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – Do not use topically before going out in the sun, diffusion and wash-off products are safe
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • Chamomile, German/Roman (Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria recutita) –
  • Copaiba (Copaifera langsdorfii, Copaifera officinalis)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • Fir Needle (Abies albaAbies sachalinensis, Abies sibirica)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri, Boswellia frereana, Boswellia neglecta, Boswellia rivae, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia serrata)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) – Do not use topically before going out in the sun, diffusion and wash-off products are safe
  • Juniper berry (Juniperus communis)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lavender, Spike (Lavandula latifolia)
  • Lemon (Citrus x limon) – Do not use topically before going out in the sun, diffusion and wash-off products are safe
  • Lime (Citrus x aurantifolia) – Do not use topically before going out in the sun, diffusion and wash-off products are safe
  • Marjoram, Sweet (Marjorana hortensis)
  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
  • Neroli (Citrus x aurantium)
  • Orange, Sweet (Citrus sinensis)
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
  • Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium)
  • Pine, Scots  (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Rose, Otto (Rosa damascena) – is safe for use during the third trimester
  • Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
  • Spruce, Norway (Picea abies)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Thyme ct linalool (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) – Use sparingly as this is very pungent, even to the nose of someone who is not pregnant

 Using Essential Oils Safely for Pregnant & Nursing Mamas -

Essential oil uses for common pregnancy symptoms

Morning Sickness, Nausea/Vomiting, Heartburn: I prefer to try either ginger, peppermint, or spearmint tea for nausea, but when I do use essential oils for nausea, I like to keep a drop or two of ginger, spearmint or a combo of two on a personal inhaler, in my purse. Spearmint is preferred over peppermint, as it is not as intense and has less pulegone (a constituent found in several minty essential oils that can cause liver toxicity to the mother if used in excess). Some mothers also find relief with the refreshing scents of lemon, grapefruit, lime, and sweet orange when experiencing nausea and vomiting.

Chest Congestion/Cold: For chest congestion and stuffy noses, I like to treat pregnant women with my Cool Vibes Vapor Rub Jr. (the 6+ months blend). Fir needle and cypress are two of my favorite alternatives in place of Eucalyptus, for breathing and chest congestion. You can add a few drops of Frankincense or bergamot to help combat illness, chest congestion, and germs if needed.

Back Pain/Sciatic Nerve Pain: While black pepper, sweet marjoram, and chamomile are great for back and leg muscle pains, cypress is great for leg and ankle swelling and leg cramps. When it comes to sciatic nerve pain, I find that sweet marjoram, lavender, cypress, black pepper, and chamomile are all great choices. My personal favorite for nerve pains of any kind is sweet marjoram.  BONUS – if you combine any of these with rosehip seed oil (6 drops eo to 1 oz. rosehip seed oil), and massage this into your lower back, hips, and thighs; this doubles as a stretch mark oil that also helps soothe your lower back at the same time!

Stretchmarks & Dry Skin: For stretch marks and scars, dilute 2 drops (Roman or German) chamomile essential oil and 2 drops sweet orange essential oil into 1 oz. rosehip seed oil, and massage all over. I used a body butter for myself, during my pregnancy. I used it daily, and found no stretchmarks postpartum! (Hallelujah! Not everyone is so lucky with stretch marks!)

Stress/Anxiety/Fear: Lavender, chamomile, citrus scents, geranium, ylang-ylang, petitgrain, and neroli are all great options to use when calming and uplifting moments are needed. Massage, diffusion, or a personal inhaler are all great ways to use these oils. I also like to suggest meditation and yoga to EVERYONE stressed out, pregnant or not. Learning to control the breath and to relax the mind will even help during the birthing experience. I also enjoy a good cup of chamomile tea!

Insomnia: My first suggestion is always lavender and chamomile, maybe even with a little bit of sweet orange. Others that work well for sleep and relaxation are sweet marjoram, ylang-ylang, lime, bergamot, neroli, and lemon. I like to either make a spray and spray the room or my pillow or diffuse the essential oils around your room 30 minutes prior to bedtime. You can also put a couple drops onto a personal inhaler and keep it by your bed, just in case you have one of those nights that you just can’t get any sleep.

Fatigue: For fatigue, I love to combine 1 drop spearmint with 1 drop each grapefruit, lime, and sweet orange in a personal inhaler. This is my favorite option because then you can bring it with you and take a sniff when needed. You can also use this blend in the diffuser too! All the citrus oils have wonderful uplifting properties and can be interchanged her.

More great references for essential oil safety while pregnant or nursing

This post, combined with these great references, you are sure to enjoy a safe and aromatherapeutic pregnancy, labor, and postpartum! These resources have been combed through by me, for school and while writing this post!

Essential Oil Safety 2nd edition (Tisserand & Young, 2014)

Clinical Aromatherapy – Essential Oils in Healthcare 3rd edition (Buckle, PhD, RN, 2015)

The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd edition (Battaglia, 2003)

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art 2nd edition (Keville & Green, 2009)

Safety of Essential Oils in Pregnancy and Childbirth – A Guide for Midwives (Tiran, 2012)

NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) Pregnancy Guide

Essential Oil Safety During Pregnancy – (Leah Harris)


The beautiful nursing photos in this post were generously provided to me by a very old friend Jennifer from Natural Grace Photography! Isn’t she gorgeous? I couldn’t help but ask her if I could use a couple of her photos for this post!

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All information on The Hippy Homemaker is meant for educational and informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician.

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  • should be fine as long as you don’t put it on right before nursing, that way it’s not diffusing around you while nursing your little one!

  • You can use the spray in your room or in the common rooms when your little one isn’t in the room!

  • Hi there! I’m not sure which suggestion you are referring to! I went over that section to double check and all of the suggested oils are from the YES list! Did I miss something?

    • Christin Yurchick

      Lavender was the one I noticed, but I see it says French/Spanish. How do I tell the difference on the oil that I own?

      • Avoid Spike Lavender (aka Lavandula latifolia) the lavender that is ok to use will say either lavenula angustifolia or lavendula offianalis on the bottle for the latin names!

  • yes cinnamon leaf is safe! Actually because of how much skin irritation that cinnamon bark causes, it’s only recommended for use in the diffuser for everyone, children or adults pregnant or not! Cinnamon leaf would be the one to use topically and yes it’s safe for use while pregnant! I will go back in there and add it to the list! I must have missed it when I was making it lol

  • Hi Holly! I’m so sorry to hear about your past issues! If this were going to cause issues to your baby, You would likely show signs within an hour of touching the essential oil. If you aren’t experiencing anything out of the usual of normal pregnancy symptoms, you should be in the clear. Fortunately, topical application is MUCH safer than internal ingestion. The skin’s barrier is tougher to get through and a lot less will enter the bloodstream because of it. As far as I have read, there have not been any documented cases related to topical application. The worst cases noted all had to do with internal ingestion! If you are still concerned about toxins in your body, you can safely (double check with your doc to make sure it’s ok!) take activated charcoal pills! Activated charcoal is wonderful for absorbing toxins and helping them out of your body. I’ve used it for food poisoning when pregnant and it worked wonders! If you show any concerning signs, always consult with your doc !

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  • while fennel in it’s herbal state is totally fine to use, the essential oil is not suggested at this age because it can be estrogenic. Essential oils are much more concentrated than the herb, so many herbs are safe while the essential oils may not be!

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  • Katie Powers Strah

    I am so confused by all this! I am trying to get away from chemical filled shampoos and body lotions. Coconut oil does not work for me. Can I use a shampoo and body lotion with lemon in it,even during the first trimester?! Thank you!

    • yes, lemon in your shampoo should be fine! Soaps and shampoos wash down the drain so there is a lot less that sinks in through the skin to begin with!

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  • Hi Alex! I am sorry i took so long to read this comment! I hope I can still help you out! Do you have time to send me an email at ? That way I can better help you out!

  • lemon, sweet orange, and lavender are all safe to use in your cleaning products while you’re preggers!!!

  • the rosemary oil in that is likely rosemary antioxidant oil which is kinda like vitamin E but made from rosemary! They use it to help the oils from going rancid loger and is totally safe for use while pregnant!

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  • if you don’t have a history of miscarriages, you should be fine using it for your headaches! When you get closer to term, you might want to hold off on the mint for awhile because it can slow down your milk production, but other than that you should be fine!

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  • Alex

    Okay I’m super worried now… I have been using a lemon eucalyptus blend in my defuser for almost a week as my son has been ill… I didn’t think it was toxic to the placenta?? And can cause abnormalities… What do I do?

    • just discontinue use, if you have not experienced any symptoms out of the ordinary, you likely haven’t caused any damage! Diffusion is a LOT safer than ingestion!

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  • mint is definitely advised not to be used during lactaction because it has been known to reduce your milk supply! That includes the tea as well!

  • Fabi

    Hi. Thanks for writing such a thorough article. I just came across it and it’s very helpful. It has put my mind at ease abouy which EOs to use with my diffuser. I have one question: is it OK to use shampoo and conditioner that has lemon tea tree in it? I’m 6 months pregnant, and I’ve been using a shampoo and conditioner that has lemon tea tree for years. The conditioner never touches my scalp; I use it to dentangle the ends. The lemon tea tree is listed about halfway through the ingredient list. I honestly didn’t think nor did it cross my mind that my shampoo could cause a problem. Thanks.

  • Samantha

    Hi! I have a question that I hope you can answer in order to calm my nerves a bit. I’m nursing my 22 month old daughter and have been using shampoo and hair oil with rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil for a while now, I didn’t think anything of it until I bought a diffuser and started reading up on eo safety for children and now I’m freaking out. Is she okay? Should I take her to the hospital? She is sick with tonsillitis atm, I think she’s getting better but I’m so scared that I somehow did this to her. Can you explain to me what sort of reactions she could have from me using the oils and her nursing? What should I be looking for? I’m pretty sure I’m done with eo’s, sending my diffuser back asap. I have anxiety disorder and this is just too much for me.

    • Shampoos and soaps are totally safe to use on yourself because they wash away and aren’t diffusing or touching the child! You’re baby is fine from your shampoo! no worries! The biggest concern really is the baby breathing too much of the eo’s and causing a slowness of breath. This would only happen from rubbing a vapor rub (or essential oils diluted) on or near a young child’s face or heavily diffusing it in the air. Tisserand has said that diffusing small amounts of eucalyptus isn’t as worrysome as applying it directly to the baby’s chest/face!

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  • Micah

    So Fennel and Fenugreek – the same herbs used in tea (that’s recommended you should drink 3-5 cups a day of while nursing) – is not recommended while nursing?

    • yes the tea is safe, the essential oil is HIGHLY concentrated and has shown to be estrogenic in studies , which is why it should be avoided in children under 6 as well!

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  • Amber Perry

    Great post and I have to say I love that you mentioned Mountain Rose Herbs, they’re my families go-to for all things herbal! I would love to see a post about herbal oils as well and their role, safety, etc. in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Especially Arnica, Comfrey and Calendula! Perhaps another time. 🙂

    • That’s a great idea! I will put it on the roster for a future post. I am thinking on doing an entire series for pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, with stretchmark butters, and other herbal teas/concoctions! You have just given me another post to put in it 🙂