When looking for natural healing alternatives and remedies during pregnancy, it’s hard to determine what is safe and effective for use with regard to a developing fetus. Given the copious variety of herbs and essential oils available, it’s nearly impossible to navigate all of the benefits and possible risks involved in using aromatherapy to relax, soothe aches and pains, prevent stretchmarks, ease morning sickness, and provide relief during labor and postpartum. For these reasons I consulted expert Rachel Winard, creator of Soapwalla organic skincare products so she could give us the lowdown on how to safely use aromatherapy as a natural source of healing and relief during the fragile months of pregnancy, and beyond.

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I have used and loved Rachel’s Soapwalla products, from her Resilience Pregnant Belly Oil to her ingenious and effective deodorant cream. She creates every item in her collection by hand using vegan, cruelty-free ingredients, and she very fittingly wears the title “Soapwalla Chef” as she concocts, mixes, and whips up recipes for miraculous serums, soaps, scrubs, body washes and more in her Brooklyn kitchen. Read on to benefit from Rachel’s expertise on how to use aromatherapy during pregnancy, labor and postpartum.

Aromatherapy During Pregnancy

With regard to the creation of her Resilience Pregnant Belly Oil, Rachel shares, “I performed hours and hours of research on essential oils that are healing during pregnancy, and was somewhat dismayed to find that several well-known commercial pregnant belly oils contain essential oils that are strictly prohibited during pregnancy. This prompted me to create a product I am really proud to offer my clients. Rose essential oil should be avoided in the first four months, but can be tolerated the last two trimesters. Because borage oil is such a potent skin healer, it appears in several well known anti-stretch mark oils. There are some schools of thought that borage oil is safer as the pregnancy progresses as long as it is thoroughly diluted. However, other resources strictly prohibit its use during pregnancy and even while nursing, so I decided to be safer rather than sorry!”

When it comes to trying your own hand at aromatherapy, Rachel suggests, “Always use therapeutic grade essential oils purchased from reputable sources such as Mountain Rose Herbs or Young Living. ALWAYS dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as a high quality sweet almond, coconut, or grapeseed oil — never apply directly to the skin. Pregnant women are more sensitive to essential oils, so use half of the usual amount.”

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To battle that early pregnancy evil: morning sickness, and to help cope with general nausea or malaise, and fatigue, Rachel suggests that the following essential oils soothe and help calm a queasy stomach: lavender, ginger, lemon and spearmint. She advises, “For relief, apply a few drops to a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil, and massage onto the abdomen, behind the ears, and inside the wrists. Peppermint is also particularly soothing. Pour a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil onto a handkerchief and smell briefly when a wave of nausea is particularly bad. You can also set a small bowl of hot (not boiling) water next to your bed and add approximately 10 drops of peppermint oil. The scent will gently diffuse.”

*NOTE: Peppermint should not be applied directly onto the skin during the first four months of pregnancy. Peppermint is good for diluted inhalation but not direct skin application.

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Aromatherapy for General Relaxation

We all know how important it is to relax, but it seems like an ever-elusive goal! Rachel says that the following essential oils work best to promote relaxation, and they are also wonderful for helping babies unwind and sleep! She offers, “Rosewood, calendula, geranium, lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, sandalwood, frankincense and patchouli are earthy scents that ground, calm, relieve nervous tension and relax individuals.”

Aromatherapy During Labor

With regard to incorporating aromatherapy into your labor Rachel enlightens, “The essential oils listed for relaxation above are also wonderful during labor and delivery for their calming and tension-releasing abilities. Patchouli and lavender also ease nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pains and headaches, which many laboring women experience. These oils can be used separately or together — experiment with different combinations and quantities to find a scent that appeals to you — and add to a carrier oil (approximately 40 drops total to 2 oz oil) to make a lovely massage oil. Alternatively, the oils can be added to hot (not boiling) water for a diffused scent: 10-40 drops to 2 cups of hot water, depending on the woman’s sensitivity to smell.”

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Aromatherapy for Postpartum Healing

To promote postpartum healing Rachel suggests: “add the following essential oils to bathwater (4-5 drops each) or to a carrier oil (approximately 40 drops total to 2 oz oil) to create a healing blend: rose, neroli, roman chamomile, lavender, clary sage, geranium, grapefruit, lemon, ginger, calendula, frankincense, tea tree, rosemary. These oils are powerful antiviral and antibacterial agents, and possess mood-elevating qualities, which can be a lifesaver when you’re exhausted, depleted and so very sore!”

Essential Oils to AVOID During Pregnancy

Angelica, anise star or anise seed, basil, bay and bay laurel, cedarwood, celery seed, cinnamon, citronella, clary sage, clove, cumin, fennel, hyssop, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, parsley, sage, tarragon, thyme (white). Also avoid peppermint, rose and rosemary during the first 4 months of pregnancy. Borage seed oil should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. PLEASE proceed with caution if you have had a miscarriage, and avoid any scent that smells unpleasant.

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A big thank you to Rachel Winard of Soapwalla for providing us with this vital insight on how to use aromatherapy!