Pregnancy and the Sense of Smell
“When a baby comes, you can smell two things,” says the musician Carlos Santana.
“The smell of flesh, which smells like chicken soup, and the smell of lilies…” While this all sounds quite intensely pungent and wonderful – albeit a rather paradoxical combination of the savory and the floral – the olfactory experience of the mother herself can be an altogether less pleasant one, especially during pregnancy.
Around two thirds of women report hyperosmia (hypersensitivity to aromas) during pregnancy, and a violent aversion to certain smells in particular, including – you guessed it – chicken. Break it gently to Mr Santana, Mrs Santana. Those celebratory buffalo wings can wait.
With this in mind, you may be surprised to learn that aromatherapy can play a valuable role in alleviating the effects of the challenging changes that take place in a pregnant woman’s body. Which essential oils can be used safely, and with real benefits? Which should be avoided, and may even be unsafe? What are the different applications of essential oils that pregnant women may find beneficial, and how should they be prepared?
Essential Oils to Avoid During Pregnancy
As a reliable rule of thumb, always talk to your doctor or midwife first if you have any concerns about using essential oils during your pregnancy. They will advise against it should you have previously miscarried, have had any vaginal bleeding during your current pregnancy, or if you suffer from any long-term conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy or asthma.
For caution’s sake, you should avoid using essential oils completely during the first trimester. In the second and third trimesters, you should also avoid the following essential oils, as there is evidence to suggest they may metabolize and cause toxicity in the body if the recommended amount is exceeded: Aniseed, Basil, Birch, Camphor, Hyssop, Mugwort, Oak Mass, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sage, Tansy, Tarragon, Thuja, Wintergreen and Wormwood.
Some physicians also advise against using Peppermint, but used in aromatherapy at low concentrations this essential oil may be useful in alleviating the dreaded nausea and morning sickness with which many pregnant women suffer.
Safe Essential Oils During Pregnancy
The following essential oils are all considered safe to use after the first trimester: Argan, Bitter Almond, Cardamom, Chamomile, Cypress, Fennel, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon, Myrtle, Patchouli, Pomegranate and Rose.
While most other essential oils are also considered safe when used in aromatherapy or massage, it is sensible to stick to low concentrations of these oils in your diffuser or carrier oil.
The Benefits of Essential Oils During Pregnancy – And How to Use Them
Many women enjoy using essential oils during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancy to help with pain and soreness, nausea, and the stretch marks that may soon begin to develop as the baby rapidly grows. Remember – avoid ingesting essential oils, only use recommended oils topically, and always use low concentrations of oils in whatever application you choose.
Ready, mother and baby? Let’s think ‘lilies’ rather than ‘chicken’ – and explore the ways essential oils can make your pre-partum experience together even more joyful!
5 Ways to Use Essential Oils During Your Pregnancy
If you want to avoid relying on Peppermint, Lemon and Ginger essential oils can also be of great help in alleviating nausea symptoms. Use a low concentration of up to 10 drops of essential oil in your diffuser.
With the little one squirming and kicking all day, you’ll be wanting to grab every opportunity for rejuvenating naps. Although Lavender essential oil is the go-to aroma for relaxation, some pregnant women complain that it can smell a little too ‘perfumey’ for them. Rose essential oil is a more gentle alternative for your diffuser.
Around 90% of women will see some changes to the skin around the belly during their pregnancy. You can lessen the appearance of these marks, and speed the skin’s return to normal after you give birth, by massaging these areas with around ten drops of essential oil to every 20ml (one large tablespoon) of a massage carrier oil such as jojoba. Apply with the finger tips (make yourself useful, Mr Santana!) or with a roller ball.
Carrying a miniature human inside you all day can play havoc with your lower back. Soothe away the discomfort with a blend of Rose, Geranium Rose, Myrtle and Chamomile essential oils in your jojoba carrier oil.
I’m sorry, what? Where was I? ‘Pregnancy brain’, or a persistent mental fogginess and forgetfulness, is common in pregnant women, but this diffuser blend of Pomegranate, Ginger and Frankincense essential oils can help you remember that pre-natal class tomorrow!
Aromatherapy and the Treasure in Plants
Looking for something to listen to while you put your feet up and take a load of that pregnancy back? You can hear a fascinating LabAroma podcast episode about the plant treasures of the Amazon here.