Is It Safe to Use Essential Oils While Pregnant

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 23, 2023
3 min read

Essential oils are plant abstracts made by steaming or pressing different parts of a plant to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. It can take several pounds of a plant to produce just one bottle of essential oils. 

When evaluating essential oils' effectiveness, research is promising, but the human clinical trials are mixed. Some studies show an improvement for people, while others show no improvement at all. 

The most common way essential oils are used during pregnancy is to help treat anxiety, aches, and lack of focus. There are many varieties of oils to choose from. Finding a high-grade quality variety is recommended. It’s also helpful to consult with your doctor before you start using essential oils while pregnant. 

Essential oils come in different scents and qualities. Certain varieties are safe to use while pregnant while others should be avoided.

Essential oils that are good to use while pregnant:

  • Cardamom. Helps with morning sickness and nausea
  • Frankincense. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night’s sleep 
  • Geranium. Promotes a positive mood 
  • German or Roman chamomile. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night's sleep 
  • Ginger. Helps with morning sickness and nausea
  • Lavender. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night's sleep 
  • Lemon. Improves your mood
  • Neroli. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night's sleep 
  • Patchouli. Improves your mood
  • Petitgrain. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night's sleep 
  • Rose and rosewood. Stimulates calm, relaxation, and a good night's sleep 
  • Sandalwood. Improves your mood
  • Wild orange. Improves your mood

Here are some other essential oils thatshould not be used while pregnant:

  • Aniseed
  • Basil
  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Clary Sage
  • Hyssop
  • Mugwort
  • Oak Moss
  • Parsley Seed or Leaf
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thuja
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen

If a doctor or midwife recommends essential oils to help you during pregnancy, use them carefully. A few good tips to keep in mind include:

  • Start with a small amount (maybe just a drop) and gradually increase based on your tolerance. Pregnancy can heighten sensitivity to smell which may make some essential oil scents overwhelming. Try putting a small amount of oil on a cotton ball or tissue and gently breathe in.
  • Avoid putting essential oils directly on the skin unless otherwise directed. Some essential oils can cause skin irritation or rash.
  • Don't ingest essential oils. There is not enough evidence to prove that this is safe.
  • Consult with your doctor and a qualified aromatherapist with questions or concerns.

Some people may experience an allergic reaction or skin irritation after using essential oils. You're more likely to have a bad reaction if you have atopic dermatitis or a history of reactions to topical products. 

Some essential oils that may carry a higher risk of causing an allergic or skin irritation include:

  • Oregano oil
  • Cinnamon bark oil
  • Jasmine oil
  • Lemongrass oil 
  • Ylang-ylang oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Bergamot oil 

If you get a red, itchy rash or hives after using essential oils, contact your doctor as these symptoms are often signs of an allergic reaction. 

When shopping for essential oils, the most important thing to look for is quality. Not all essential oils are harvested the same way, and you might find that there’s something in them that’s not listed on the label.

Here are some tips to finding a quality essential oil.

  • Check the label. A good quality oil will include the plant's Latin name, information about ingredients and purity, and where the plant was grown.
  • Research the company. Buy products from reputable aromatherapy companies that have an established reputation and a few years in the industry.
  • Choose dark-colored glass containers. Highly concentrated oils can dissolve plastic over time, contaminating the oil. Glass bottles protect the product.
  • Avoid fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are made with perfume or a combination of chemicals that are not safe for aromatherapy. Look for pure form essential oils with 100% essential oil with no additives or fillers.
  • Compare prices. When it comes to essential oils, sometimes you get what you pay for. If an essential oil is being sold at a rock bottom price, chances are it isn’t pure and contains a large number of chemicals.