Aromatherapy for mothers-to-be: essential oils for pregnancy

Apr 27, 2023

“It is the most powerful creation to have life growing inside of you. There is no bigger gift.” — Beyoncé

The human body is a miraculous thing, and this is particularly evident during pregnancy. While for most women pregnancy can be filled with joy, the subtle and obvious changes that occur in the mother’s body can cause physical and emotional discomfort. Hormonal changes such as the increase of estrogen and progesterone can cause changes in mood, organs such as the bladder become compressed as the growing fetus takes up residence in the abdominal area, and of course there is the dreaded “morning sickness” that can be “all-day sickness.”

Essential oils can be helpful for many of the symptoms related to pregnancy; however, some essential oils are not safe to use while pregnant. Other essential oils may be safe when used in a lower amount than normal. Because substances with a molecular weight of less than 1000 can cross the placenta, and because all essential oil constituents have a molecular weight of below 500, the assumption is that essential oils can cross the placenta. This means that the growing fetus will be directly exposed to the essential oils being absorbed by the mother. For this reason, pregnancy is one of the areas that Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies is especially cautious with. It is just not worth risking the health of the baby or mother by using inappropriate essential oils or too much of an essential oil. However, there are some essential oils that are safe, if used as recommended, and in fact they may be safer than using an alternative product.

Best essential oils to use during pregnancy, by trimester

During the first trimester, we recommend inhalation as the primary method of use. Essential oils such as ginger (Zingiber officinale), true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and citrus peel essential oils such as sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) or lemon (Citrus limon) can be inhaled to reduce nausea. Lavender, neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara), and sweet orange can be helpful with emotional issues related to pregnancy or life in general.

By the second trimester, often the mother’s nausea will have abated. Two common complaints during the second trimester are muscular pain and difficulty sleeping. Pam Conrad (2019) suggests that during pregnancy the dilution percentage should be between 0.5% and 1%, which is equivalent to 1–2 drops of essential oil per 10 ml of carrier. A lovely gentle pregnancy massage with true lavender and/or neroli diluted to 0.5% would be a wonderful way to relax during the second trimester of the pregnancy. A cool compress with one drop of lavender or ginger essential oil might help to ease some aches and pains during the pregnancy as well.

The pregnant woman may develop stretch marks on the abdomen and breasts, and she may also experience swelling in the ankles, feet, fingers, and face. Neroli in a 0.5–1% dilution can be helpful for preventing stretch marks. A cool foot bath with sea salts can help to alleviate the edema in the feet and legs.

During the third trimester, lemon, lavender, peppermint (Mentha piperita), bergamot (Citrus bergamia), neroli, and petitgrain can be used topically at a1% dilution and via inhalation.

If you are keeping a journal during your pregnancy, make sure to include the essential oils you’ve used, how you used them, and how they made you feel.

And if you're intrigued by the benefits of essential oils during pregnancy and want to dive deeper into safety and therapeutic applications, consider exploring the Professional Level Certification Program at Essence of Thyme. This comprehensive program features a dedicated lesson on the female reproductive system and pregnancy, providing valuable insights to elevate your understanding and practice.

Essential oils can bring a sense of peace and tranquility to during the pregnancy journey. It is a time to be more mindful of your essential oil use and how you use them in an appropriate and safe way. Enjoy your pregnancy, and enjoy your essential oils.

About Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies

Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies offers 300- and 630-hour professional aromatherapy certification programs that help you grow a successful, fulfilling career by specializing and creating your market niche. Professional Level Certification prepares graduates to become aromatherapy consultants, launch product lines or retail businesses, or provide services as an adjunct to existing holistic health specializations. Master Level Certification and electives are ideal for certified aromatherapists seeking higher education or a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.

All Essence of Thyme programs focus on aromatherapy product development and advanced formulation, evidence-based research, spa and business management, international industry regulatory guidelines, and sustainability and conservation of essential oil and carrier oil-bearing plants.

Our comprehensive, evidence-based programs meet or exceed the criteria set forth by 5 international professional aromatherapy associations. Learn more about our aromatherapy certification programs.


Conrad, P. (2019). Women’s health aromatherapy: A clinically evidence-based guide for nurses, midwives, doulas and therapists. Singing Dragon.

Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies. (n.d.) Module 12: Lesson 3: Anatomy & physiology - female reproductive system [Class handout]. Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies, Professional Level Certification Program.

Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety: a guide for health care professionals (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone.


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