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Pregnancy, Babies and Aromatherapy

As with all these articles, I start by reminding you that I am not a Doctor. I am an aromatherapist and a beautician, though I did train in Russia as a medical nurse. Further, nothing written here must be used as a medical diagnosis or considered as a medical diagnosis.

Pregnancy and Aromatherapy

By its nature, aromatherapy means the use of plant essence distillations which create some very small molecules. It follows, therefore, that some of these molecules can slip through the skin into the blood stream, lymphatic system and other organs. Indeed, this is really what aromatherapy is, in part, about. During pregnancy, the skin is able to let through a greater amount as it is usually more permeable and sensitive. Whilst it may be safe to assume that very low, that is to say, therapeutic amounts are unlikely to affect the unborn child, some oils, notably citrus essences, are able to pass through the barrier of the placenta. That said, citrus essences, it has been suggested, are some of the safest to use during pregnancy.

You may have already browsed through the directory of oils which I have on this site and may have (I hope that you actually have!) noted that some oils are marked as not to be used during pregnancy or indeed, whilst nursing. Some oils stimulate menstruation and could therefore be dangerous, notably during the first three months of pregnancy - a time when the threat of a miscarriage is at its highest. Also to be avoided are those that can have a highly stimulating effect on the nervous system, the liver or the kidneys. In actual fact, you would really need to drink essential oils or virtually bathe in them to do real damage. Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy, that is, an aid to or a complement to other treatments. Aromatherapy is part of a holistic whole, rather then a specific targeted cure for any given condition. So, do check through my oils directory before using essential oils. Better safe than sorry.

My own feeling that it is better to avoid all use of topically applied or oral essential oils during pregnancy (I say oral because I include in this the oral supplements available in the main skin care and advanced skin care sections of my shop pages) Pregnancy gives you enough to think about, so issues that concern you such as cellulite, wrinkles or anti-aging should be put on hold for the duration. There is nothing wrong with using aromatherpy oils for their room scent to improve the frame of mind and outlook and therapeutic (that is, gentle) massage with a plain carrier oil such as virgin olive oil can help both mother and child.

After the first three months, the following essential oils may be found helpful and should be used in half their normal dilution:

Bergamot, Black Pepper, Chamomile (all), Coriander, Cypress, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Patchouli, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Rose Otto, Sandalwood, and Ylang Ylang.

For nursing mothers, for the reasons stated above, the use of high strength essential oils should be avoided (say, perfume strength - if you can smell it on you, it's too strong.) Some oils can get into the breast milk. Do remember to wash of all traces of oil before feeding as some aromas may affect the baby. (Geranium, for example could act as a stimulant). Please also note that it is not suggested that you use any essential oils on the skin of a baby until they are over 1 year old - and then only at half strength.

I am talking above about not using essential oils on a baby's skin. Your baby and you, after the first week, could well benefit from massage using plain carrier oils such as almond oil or a very light virgin olive oil. In Eastern countries, indeed, this process is an essential part of baby care and development. In the West, too, many hospitals actively encourage baby massage. It is, however, a technique in its own right and not one that I personally undertake or teach but if you ask your maternity hospital, they will, I am sure, provide details of a qualified practitioner.

It may be useful to mention here some of the more common ailments and some oils which may be used to help:

- PERIODS - Painful - Chamomile, Calry Sage, Cypress, Frankincense, Juniper Berry. Lavender, Marjoram, Rosemary and Melissa.

HOW: Warm bath, Abdomen compress, aromatherapy (light) massage of abdomen,

HERBAL: Cramp Bark, Chamomile. Marigold (or Calendula), Vitex agnus-castus (available in tablet form).

- PERIODS - Loss of - Clary Sage, sweet Fennel, Juniper Berry, Marjoram, Myrrh, Rose Otto.

HOW: Warm bath, warm compress, aromatherapy (light) massage of abdomen and lower back.

HERBAL: Marigold (or Calendula), Parsley, Vitex agnus-castus (available in tablet form).

- BREASTS - Engorgement (over supply of milk) - Geranium, Peppermint.

HOW: Cold compress

- BREASTS - To increase milk flow - Fennel, Lemongrass

HOW: Twice daily breast massage, warm compres

HERBAL: Infusion (make like tea; about 15g dried herbs in about 500ml water) Goats rue and Vervain and decocotion (boil down about 15g dried material or 45g fresh material in about 300ml water - but do not use aluminium pans) Fennel Seeds, Caraway and Fenugreek seeds.

- BREASTS - To decrease milk flow - Peppermint.

HOW: Cold compress, applied to (NOT massage into) the breast

HERBAL: Infusion of red or ordinary sage, thrice daily.

- NIPPLES - Sore and/ or cracked - Chamomile (any), Rose Otto.

HOW: Massage with carrier oil.

HERBAL: Calendula Ointment.

Sleep/ Fatigue - There is no cure for fatigue; however there are things you can do to help. First, sleep. Sleep as much as you can and feel no guilt. To a warm (not hot) bath add two drops of lavender, one drop of mandarin and one drop of ylang-ylang essential oils; these particular essential oils are used for their calming properties. Soak in this bath for 15 to 30 minutes then go to bed.

Nausea: (morning sickness) - Avoid anything that makes you feel nauseous; drink ginger tea; nibble on crackers. Try placing one to two drops of lemon or ginger essential oil in an essential oil diffuser and allow it to permeate the air, or drop one to two drops of either on a tissue and inhale as required. If your vomiting is severe, see your health care provider.

Indigestion/ Flatulence - Do not over eat! Massage oil containing mandarin essential oil can be used to help alleviate indigestion and should be massaged gently over the solar plexus in a circular motion between the breasts and abdomen.

Sore and Swollen Breasts - try a compress - use hot or cold water (that is, whichever temperature gives you the most relief) add two drops of lavender and two drops of geranium essential oils. Place the cloth on your breasts for as long as required.

... and a few other suggested remedies to try:

Constipation: Due to the high levels of progesterone, the digestive tract activity slows. Try high-fibre foods, drink plenty of water as well as to exercise. Try massage oil containing patchouli essential oil, massaged over the entire abdomen area in a clockwise direction. Cypress, lemon and geranium essential oils in massage oil can be massaged into the legs in an upward direction to help with circulation.

Leg Cramps - Can effect you in the middle of the night, these are painful muscle spasms possibly caused by a lackof calcium in the blood, so it is recommended to eat calcium-rich foods. When a leg cramp strikes, get up out of bed and walk then gently massage the muscle. To help prevet these, try a leg massage every night before bed, using massage oil containing lavender and geranium.

Stretch Marks  - In the future! I have a new product which is said to help with this. I have not tried it myself, but have heard some good reports. This is called SilDerm.

Insomnia. Try massage oil containing tangerine and neroli or lavender essential oils may help to bring about relaxation and sleep.

Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy -  Some tips on how to avoid hemorrhoids include: avoid constipation and if you are constipated do not strain when having bowel movements. Taking a warm bath to which geranium and cypress essential oils have been added can help alleviate the discomfort.

Postnatal Depression - Helpful oils are are angelica, benzoin, bergamot, clary sage, grapefruit, immortelle, jasmine, linden blossom, mandarin, narcissus, neroli, orange, petitgrain, roman chamomile, rose, rose geranium, ylang-ylang and yuzu. These essential oils can be used alone or in combination in an inhalant, in the bath or in massage oil. To start, try two drops each of neroli, petitgrain and orange essential oils in a warm bath.