60 Essential Oils to Avoid during Pregnancy

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Can I use essential oils if I am pregnant?

How safe are essential oils?

Will usage of essential oils affect my pregnancy?

essential oils to avoid during pregnancy

I have been in love with essential oils for a few years now. In fact, there was a time when this love became a bit too much and my mom used to comment that my room smelt like a spa!

Essential oils can help you deal with certain ailments if used in the correct amount and with precaution. So when I became pregnant, I wondered if these oils I had grown to love so much would affect my little one or complicate my pregnancy.

Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but during pregnancy, I guess every mom to be starts to put everything they do, under the scanner.

If you are pregnant and love essential oils then today’s post is for you. Today we will discuss whether you should be using or ditching essential oils during pregnancy.

Before we start off, I will tell you a little something about essential oils.

What are essential oils?

 If you have visited a spa, chances are that you would fallen in love with the calming aroma wafting out. That is the work of essential oils.

Essential oils are extracted from plants or flowers. They are called essential not because they are vital to us, but because it contains the essence or fragrance of the plant they were extracted from. They are volatile and hydrophobic.

There are many methods of extraction of these oils. They include

  • Distillation
  • Solvent extraction
  • Absolute oil extraction
  • Expression
  • Resin tapping
  • Cold pressing

General uses of essential oils:

Essential oils have been around since ancient times. Since olden days people have used these oils in a variety of ways in their day to day life.

Essential oils happen to be an important part of the cosmetic and beauty product world. I am sure you would know of many soaps and body washes that boast of the benefits of essential oils.

Let us take a look at how these find their way into our lives.

Essential oil uses vary according to which plant they come from, but certain general uses are-

  • Adding fragrance to soaps, perfumes, cosmetic products
  • Flavoring food and drinks
  • Adding fragrance to cleaning products
  • Adding fragrance to incense sticks
  • Added to medicines
  • Added to massage oils due to their therapeutic properties
  • Homemade scrubs

Essential oils during pregnancy:

As I mentioned before essential oils are used to treat certain ailments.

Now while the conventional medicines may not recognize the benefits of these oils, there are many people who have been using essential oils in home remedies. If used the right way, most of these oils are safe.

But some can be detrimental for you and your baby if used when you are pregnant. I am talking about taking pure essential oils in various home remedies.

60 Essential oils to avoid during pregnancy phase:

Essential oils can be good for you, if you know what to use, how to use and when to use it.

Any discussion on essential oils and pregnancy can stir up a few contradictory arguments. That is because some essential oils can be bad for you if taken during your pregnancy. There are contradictory views on which are safe and which are not. Here I have posted the reason why each oil should be avoided.

#1. Aniseed – This essential oil should be avoided as it contains anetholes. Due to this factor, it may cause eostrogen to increase in the body but for pregnancy it is not favorable.

#2.Star Anise – While small amounts of this oil is good, large amounts can cause issues as labored circulation.

#3. Lemon Basil – If used in low concentration and only once a day, this is considered safe, but better safe than sorry right. 

#4. Basil – While home remedies containing the leaf is considered safe, the essential oil can cause irritation and hence is best avoided during pregnancy.

#5. Bay laurel – Pregnant moms are advised to avoid this oil as it could cause skin sensitization or even stimulate contractions in some.

#6. Birch – The essential oil of birch is also known to cause irritation and so refrain from use during pregnancy.

#7. Bitter almond oil – Oil extracted from bitter almond is to be avoided as it can cause birth defects in the child.

#8. Buchu – This can have adverse effects on your liver.

#9. Camphor – Excessive use can break down the red blood cells so best avoided, that doesn’t mean a bit of vicks vaporub in between is harmful.

#10. Carrot Seed/Queen Anne’s Lace – While there are many benefits associated with carrot seed oil, pregnant ladies are advised to stay away as it is an emmenogue. Apart from that is also stimulates the uterus.

#11. Cassia -This here is an anti-galactologue and emmenogue, both are not something you want during pregnancy. It also causes sensitivity and irritation of the skin and mucus membrane.

#12. Chamomile – It is an emmenogue, so use with caution after getting clearance from your doctor.

#13. Cinnamon Bark – It contains safrole which can cause liver or kidney issues in the fetus.

#14. Clary Sage -This induces contractions and hence is best avoided during pregnancy, you don’t want the baby out before the intended time, right?

#15. Clove – Essential oil of clove is also known to cause contractions.

#16. Cedarwood – It is an emmenogogue and hence should be avoided during pregnancy. An emmenogogue will help to raise the eostrogen levels in the body and that is not something you want.

#17. Cypress, blue – While this oil is good otherwise, this is also to be avoided during pregnancy.

#18. Dill Seed – The essential oil of dill seed can cause abortions and hence stay away.

#19. Dill Seed, Indian -This oil can also cause abortions.

#20. Eucalyptus(All varieties) – There are contradictory views on this one, while some say it is safe, a majority of them say it is not. So it is best to avoid.

#21. Fennel, bitter and sweet – This can prevent implantation and hence pregnant moms should not use it, especially those who are in the first trimester.

#22. Feverfew – This has caused reactions in some so consult your doctor before using it.

#23. Frankincense – This is ok as long as it is used at a low dilution but only once a day.

#24. Genipi – You should not use genipi essential oil due to the potential health risks posed by it.

#25. Ho Leaf – This oil is said to be able to cross the placenta and become toxic to the baby.

#26. Hyssop – The presence of pinocamphone is what makes this one a no-no. This compound is a toxin and can cause convulsions.

#27. Horseradish – This oil is to be avoided as it can be toxic.

#28. Juniper – The component called sabinyl acetate present in this essential oil can cause abortion or even affect the growth of the baby. It can also be harmful for the kidneys.

#29. Lanyuna – Lanyuna oil contains neurotoxins and hence do not use while pregnant.

#30. Lavender (French/Spanish) – While it can help woman with menstrual problems, lavender can have negative effects on expectant moms.

#31. Lemon – Lemon can cause irritation in some hence it is finds its place in this list.

#32. Lemon Balm (Australian) – Can be used at a low dilution, but is best avoided as it can affect the baby.

#33. Lemongrass – Avoid use during pregnancy as it can irritate some.

#34. Marjoram – This oil is an emmenagogue too so do not use this while pregnant.

#35. Mugwort – Mugwort oil should not be used as it can be toxic to you and the developing baby. So refrain from using this.

#36. Mustard – Just like mugwort essential oil, the essential oil of mustard is also to be avoided. But do not confuse this with the mustard oil you use for cooking.

#37. Myrrh – You would have heard of this as one of the 3 gifts the wise men got for baby Jesus. But since it is an emmenagogue, it would be wise to not use this during pregnancy.

#38. Myrtle – The compound anethole present in this prevent implantation.

#39. Myrtle, Honey – While nursing mothers can use this, pregnant moms should avoid this as it can cause defects in the baby.

#40. Myrtle, Lemon – The reason why this oil shouldn’t be used is same as above. This oil is also considered safe while nursing.

#41. Nigella seed – The essential oil of kalonji or nigella seeds can hamper uterine contractions.

#42. Nutmeg – Nutmeg can hinder the effectiveness of pain relief medicines given at the time of labour. It can also cause hallucinogenic effects and even act as a stimulant.

#43. Oregano – Oregano can cause skin sensitization. Here each time the skin is exposed to the irritant, the reaction becomes severe.

#44. Parsley, Leaf/Seed – This contains apioles, that can cause abortion hence needs to be avoided.

#45. Pennyroyal – This essential oil can cause liver toxicity in moms.

#46. Peppermint – Peppermint oil is an emmenogogue and also can decrease lactation. Hence it is to be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

#47. Pine – This oil can cause skin sensitization in some, so avoid usage during pregnancy.

#48. Plectranthus – This can cause harmful effects to the developing foetus.

#49. Rose Otto – This oil can cause uterine bleeding and that is not good.

#50. Rosemary –This oil has compounds that can affect the baby.

#51. Rue – This is also an abortifacient, which means that it can induce abortion.

#52. Sage, Dalmatian – Expecting mothers should avoid this oil due to its neurotoxic nature.

#53. Sage, Spanish – Like the Dalmatian sage, the Spanish sage should be avoided to as it contains sabinyl acetate. This can cause abortions or even lead to deformities in the little one.

#54. Tansy – The essential oil of tansy is to be avoided as it contains neurotoxins.

#55. Tea Tree, Lemon (Leptospermum petersonii) – Avoid use during pregnancy as it may affect the baby.

#56. Thuja – This should also be avoided due to the presence of thujone which is a neurotoxin.

#57. Thyme, Lemon – This can cause birth defects if used in high amounts.

#58. Verbena, Lemon – This oil also needs to be treated with caution as it has the same effects as above.

#59. Wintergreen – The compound present in wintergreen called methyl salicate can affect the normal growth of the foetus and cause deformities, if ingested in high quantities.

#60. Wormwood – This oil contains camphor, thujone and sabinyl acetate. All three aren’t good for you during pregnancy. Apart from that it is also an abortifacient.

When to stay away from all essential oils while pregnant?

The fact that there are not enough research to show the effects of essential oils on pregnant woman and the baby, makes you feel wary.

While I have listed certain essential oils that shouldn’t be used by expecting moms, if you have any history of complications or certain health issues, stay away from all essential oils or take the advice of a doctor if you can’t do without any particular oil.

The reasons to avoid these oils during pregnancy include

  • Having a history of miscarriage.
  • Having had bleeding from vagina at any time, during the course of pregnancy.
  • Having diseases of the heart, liver, kidney, and thyroid.
  • Having epilepsy
  • Having blood clotting disorder

Points to consider while using essential oils during pregnancy:

Essential oils are really potent and hence you should exercise caution while using it.

If you have been using any oil and have already spoken to your doctor about it, then you can continue. But if you are a first time user who has just gotten clearance and are going to use it for the first time, keep these tips in mind.

  • Buy pure oils only

The oils blended with artificial fragrance and colors might be cheaper but won’t be as effective.

  • Check the chemical name on the bottle

For instance there are many varieties of eucalyptus oil. Do not forget to check if the scientific name corresponds to what you want to buy.

  • Do not use it directly on the skin

Do not make the mistake of thinking that more means better here. As these oils are concentrated a drop or two will do the trick. Using more will lead to skin sensitivity, irritation etc.

  • Do not ingest

I repeat do not ingest these as ingesting essential oils can be harmful.

  • Storage

When it comes to essential oils, storage is important. Always buy oils that are sold in glass bottles. Plastic and rubber won’t stand a chance against the potent oils. Also store it in a cool dark place as these oils are highly volatile. And keep away from the little ones.

  • Read the instructions

Like for all products, do not forget to read the instructions to see if it has any warnings.

Disclaimer: There may be other essential oils that I have not included in the list but could be harmful to you or your little one.

While a lot of essential oils have been used as alternative medicine, it is mandatory that you get it cleared by your doctor as something that suits one may not suit another. Also you medical history can cause you to react negatively to certain oils that are considered ‘safe’.

Essential oils may be good, but when you are pregnant it is always best to be extra cautious. So if you hear that a certain oil is good for say, treating nausea, always check if that can be used during pregnancy.

The next step is to ask the doctor, if it is safe for you. Then follow the instructions on how much to use. We should only use the amount that is meant to be used.

During the pregnancy phase, the safe amount would usually be lesser than what you can use normally. Follow these simple tips and you are good to go.

Hope this article helps expectant moms to know about essential oils to avoid during pregnancy.

Dear mommas, have you used any essential oil while you were carrying? Were you advised against using any essential oil? Do let me know in comments.

About Author

A stay at home mom for a feisty 19 month old named Ahaana, Chitra Santosh has rekindled her romance with words once again now. Though Arakkonam is her home, she can be seen migrating to Mavelikara, a quaint little town in Alappey during summers. Studies have shown that this has no connection with the migratory patterns of birds.

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