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Olverum Team


Essential Oils and Pregnancy: Sniffing out the facts and making scents of it all

21 Jun 2022

This post has been reviewed by Dr. Sameera

flink of an eye, it is as if every anxiety and uncertainty magnifies.

When it comes to our health, especially when pregnant or breastfeeding newborns, we consume information, searching for solutions and guidance. The sense of responsibility and the desire to “do it right” is overwhelming, and the fear of side effects and health contraindications is acute.

We recognize that pregnancy makes you question EVERYTHING. Nothing seems beyond the anguish of decisions in the full glare of information overload, society, and social media pressure.  

A classic example of this is the culture of wariness that can accompany the use of wellbeing, beauty, and self-care products while pregnant, especially essential oils.

It is a provocative area that one must explore for a better understanding.

We are right by your side to guide you in the safest way to incorporate and enjoy essential oils, realising their full potential in supporting you through a healthy pregnancy. 


Take a deep breath: the science of scent

Raw, primitive, and instinctual. The evocative connections between aroma and our most profound, oldest memories - coined The Proust Effect - continue to be an area of great interest for neurological research. 

Our sense of smell is 10x more potent than taste. Everything surrounding us emits scent molecules, which travel to the tiny receptors, instigating cellular change, recognition, organization, preference, and reactivity. The remote area that detects odour, is called the olfactory bulb and is located at the top of the nose. 

Studies have revealed that humans distinguish over 1 trillion scents[1]. The mysterious nature of our sense of smell is, however, still not fully understood as it is impossible to discern at this point whether a scent creates a mood/emotion/reaction through its chemical compound or through association.

Natural Wonders:

Delicately extracted from trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, grasses, and leaves, essential oils undoubtedly offer an abundance of benefits as a complementary wellbeing system for your mindset and physical equilibrium. 

For the longest time, indeed over 3500 years of known history[2], essential oils have been used in what has been considered holistic or complementary treatments.

Today, science is revealing the potential of essential oils in supporting mainstream treatments and that previous caution around genotoxicity (the impact of toxicity on DNA that can cause abnormality in cell health) is not as cut and dried as previously thought. Many of the most popular oils did not show genotoxicity[3], but studies for more clarity continue.

Scents and sensibility

Research and expert opinion are that aromatherapy has many opportunities to support well-being while pregnant or breastfeeding. It is best to avoid essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy due to their ability to cross over into the placenta.

When pregnant or breastfeeding, you must seek the advice of your medical care professionals before you integrate essential oils into your wellbeing regime. 

Becoming a parent and growing a human being in your body is not easy… pregnancy is a time of change and can create a pattern of worry, poor sleep, and tension. The stress hormone cortisol can transmit from mother to child via the placenta or breastmilk, which can cause complications and imbalance. 

Relaxation, rest, and a sense of control over the overwhelm are crucial to improving the maternal stress of pregnancy and newborn experience. 

In a small study of women at 28 weeks, researchers demonstrated the use of essential oils to help improve fatigue and reduce the sense of tension[4]. Additionally, essential oils also help with nausea and skin irritation. The uplifting fragrance is another bonus when adding essential oils to your routine. Over time, the results will convince you to include at least one essential oil in your self-care regimen. 

So here are our recommendations on using responsibly:

Dilute: It is important to state that no essential oils should be used neat on the face or body but diluted in a suitable carrier oil. Wellbeing products that contain essential oils at a light intensity pose less concern. Using diluting agents with essential oils such as oil or milk for massage or bathing is a good idea.

External only: Never ingest as there is insufficient research to know the impact of oils on the unborn or breastfeeding newborns. 

Sensitivity: Pregnancy can cause new skin sensitivity, irritation, and an increase in photosensitivity, be cautious in the sun and perform a patch test before use. 

Choose wisely:  While research is ongoing there are certain oils that are not considered suitable for use in pregnancy or breastfeeding due to their potential unknown impact on the health and wellbeing of mother and unborn child[5].

Below is a list of oils recommended to avoid. We strongly recommend that you consult your healthcare provider to discuss specifics if you are uncertain of their suitability, as certain oils are suitable in the 2nd or 3rd trimester under advice.

newborns, 4th trimester, Breastfeeding


Calming Mental Chatter:

Creating a place for essential oils in your wellbeing routine is simple. Essential oils work through inhalation or absorption through the skin, whether through massage or dilution in a bath.

Skin is our largest organ and a canvas of opportunity for feeling good. Regular massage helps support the circulatory systems, stimulate cellular mobility, boost a sense of well-being, aid relaxation, and soothe niggles. Always get advice on suitable techniques for massage. 

Using essential oils in massage may help reinforce positive associations within the limbic system, forming relaxing memories with scent and thereby aiding the body and brain to recall sensory status due to triggers, which can be beneficial when stress takes over. Could this help with labour anxiety? Potentially, especially if positive associations of calm and control are established[6].

The last word:

Our brand launched in 1931 with our iconic Bath Oil - developed to alleviate aches, soothe, relieve stress, and help promote restorative sleep. We have remained committed to creating luxurious, quality products that become part of your daily wellbeing. We are passionate about the emotional connectivity of wellbeing but vehement about truth and transparency, sharing knowledge to support informed choices.



[1] Humans Can Identify More Than 1 Trillion Smells

[2] Infographic: Essential Oils as Antimicrobials

[3] Genotoxicity of Some Essential Oils Frequently Used in Aromatherapy

[4] Physical and Psychologic Effects of Aromatherapy Inhalation on Pregnant Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial

[5] Maternal Reproductive Toxicity of Some Essential Oils and Their Constituents

[6] The use of essential oils for pain relief and anxiety during childbirth: a systematic review 


Essential Oils to avoid, use under caution and advice

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Clary Sage
  • Sage
  • Juniper
  • Thyme
  • Pennyroyal
  • Oregano
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Aniseed (anti-platelet aggregation activity)
  • Anise star
  • Fennel 
  • Sweet birch (congenital abnormalities)
  • Wintergreen
  • Hyssop 
  • Nutmeg 
  • Zedoary
  • Wormwood
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Verbena
  • Thuja
  • Tansy
  • Spanish Lavender
  • Savin
  • Rue
  • Plectranthus
  • Parsley
  • Orange Champaca
  • Indian Cress
  • Somalian Myrrh
  • Mugwort
  • Lemon Balm
  • May Chang
  • Cuckoo Flower
  • Lemon Tea Tree
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon Myrtle 
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Indian Dill Seed
  • Ho Leaf
  • Green Yarrow
  • Genipi 
  • Midsummer Daisy
  • Costus
  • Chaste Tree
  • Cassia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Buchu
  • Blue Cypress
  • Black Seed
  • Bitter Fennel
  • Atractylis
  • Araucaria