The practice of aromatherapy goes back thousands of years and several oils are mentioned in the Bible as God’s remedy! Simply, aromatherapy means a treatment (therapy) designed to help or cure using the aromatic part of the plant, by which we mean the essential oils.
The essential oils we use come from many different plants. The energy potential stored by the plant is in the essential oil which we introduce into the body by aromatherapy, and each individual oil has its own curative effect on various parts and systems of the body.
Today, when there is much publicity about “natural” childbirth, aromatherapy has a definite role to play. We do not, however, regard it as an alternative therapy but more as a supplementary and complementary aid to allopathic medicine. Each essential oil has a job to do, and it does it very well, but remember never to underestimate the power and potency of these oils.
“Controlled use” is the key phase concerning these powerful oils. We, as a training company, have always stressed the importance of correct use and oil knowledge and it is only since toxicity has been brought to the fore in an irresponsible manner that aromatherapists are anxious to stress the importance of being careful.
In fact, dilutions with an extremely high percentage of essential oils and repeated heavy dosages are necessary for toxicity to show itself. Since Aromatherapy was introduced in this country, mothers-to-be have used all oils during early pregnancy including those now “forbidden” for pregnancy with no ill effects.
However, for the sake of being without some of your favourite oils for a few weeks, it is worth being extra cautious, especially if you have waited a long time to become pregnant or if you have a history of miscarriages. After the baby beings to move, around four and a half months, many more oils can be added to the permitted list.
There are several oils therefore that would be best not used on a regular basis during the first five months of pregnancy; an essential oil whose effects include the encouragement of menstruation (i.e. it is an emmenagogue) is obviously one of these when the womb is just beginning to nurture a new life; oils which have diuretic properties come into this category too, as fluid is vital to the new life in the foetal sac.
During the first three months, medication of any kind should be avoided where possible, the emphasis being placed on the mother's diet, exercise and sleep pattern.
Cigarettes and alcohol are best left alone, too, as these can adversely affect a pregnancy far more easily than can essential oils. Some essential oils may be inhaled or applied in dilution and the oils regarded as safest during the first five months and those following, are lavender, sandalwood, rosewood, rose Otto, black pepper, sweet orange, petitgrain and neroli. In the correct dilution, all the citrus oils together with lavender and geranium are perfectly safe during the first few months of pregnancy.
Indeed, most people who love aromatherapy are using even contra-indicated oils regularly long before then even discover they are pregnant! Rose otto is an excellent tonic for the uterus, strengthening it, and there is no reason to exclude its use. It is not emmenagogic in action nor does it affect the fluid in the foetus. It is a hormonal balancer and is a great help emotionally. In fact, it is one oil that is so gentle in action (as well as being powerful) that it can be used on young children.
Juniper, fennel and rosemary (which are diuretics) are best not used regularly during the first four months if you want to be absolutely safe. The function of a diuretic is to reduce fluid in the body and some people believe that diuretics could reduce the fluid in the foetal sac early in pregnancy.
However, in cases where there is a deficiency of a mineral or vitamin in the baby, it takes what it needs from the mother and there is no reason to believe that the balance of fluid in the foetal sac should not be maintained in a similar manner. There are many different lists of “forbidden” oils for pregnancy in books.
Always look for the reason why they should not be used. Oils that are best not used at all are listed below. This is because of their possible neurotoxic effects on the baby because they are high in ketones or other constituents that need to be used with great care.
These oils, together with other not so well known but powerful oils, are, in any case, best used only under the direction of qualified therapists, who appreciate and understand their strength.
Pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell and this can contribute to the feeling of sickness, especially during cooking, or being in the company of a smoker! However, petitgrain and sweet orange essential oils, when used in a vaporiser or on a tissue, can be a great help towards eliminating nausea, or better still, preventing it. If a handkerchief or cotton wool ball with four drops petitgrain and two of sweet orange (with one drop sandalwood to hold the aroma), is attached to a pillow at night, the smell will linger until morning, thus lessening the possibility of morning sickness. As an alternative, it is a good idea to put these oils with water into a vaporiser and leave it in the bedroom overnight. If you take bath first thing in the morning add 4 – 6 drops in total of rosewood and petitgrain. A low fat, sensible diet is a big help here too.
There are many conflicting emotions during pregnancy that can be both confusing and upsetting for the mother, such as volatility of mood and slower brain reactions. State of mind can have an effect on the foetus and by caring for the total self while pregnant we can nurture the growing child effectively in the womb, thus helping to produce beautifully calm and healthy children, through the mother, even from this early stage. Geranium and mandarin are good “balancers” of mood and together make a lovely and effective aroma when used by any of the above methods of inhalation, or in the bath (4 – 6 drops total). Rose otto and clary sage are also effective here.
As the child develops, the mother may experience difficulty in dropping off to sleep. Inhalations using two-three drops each of sandalwood and ylang-ylang are most useful as an aid to relaxation. These oils can be put in the bedroom in a vaporiser, inhaled from a tissue or used in the bath an hour before going to bed.
Normal dilution of essential oils in an oil or lotion is approximately 30 drops in 100ml carrier. However, because of the heightened sense of smell and the sensitivity of the mother’s body, 15 drops of essential oil to every 100ml of the carrier may be sufficient (i.e. the strength usually used for children).
The dread of any pregnant woman is to be left with stretch marks and these can be prevented with the twice-daily use of an essential oil massage mix. Applied twice a day from the fourth month onwards, a mixed oil usually proves to be most effective. Suggested oils are lavender, chamomile (Moroccan or Roman) and frankincense. It is important, however, that a twice-daily routine is STRICTLY adhered to, remembering to cover breasts, thighs and bottom as well as stomach as the baby grows. Most people find it more comfortable to use a lotion mixture in the morning and the oil mixture at night. It is necessary to use the oil mixture at least once a day, to benefit from the extra lubrication this gives.
To ease pain and general spinal stress throughout gestation, an aromatic bath is very soothing and relaxing. It can also ease the pain of ligament stretching in the groin area and help to prevent constipation, an unpleasant side effect of pregnancy which is unhealthy for both mother and baby. The “stretch mark” mix is useful for back pain and this is convenient for the mother – she does not have to think about two treatment mixes. However, if you wish, you can add 2 drops of eucalyptus to 1 teaspoonful of stretch mark mix to make the oil or lotion more effective for backache. Putting oils in the bath (4 – 6 drops in total) is also helpful for the relief of back pain but as the uterus enlarges, bathing may become more of an ordeal than a pleasure.
This painful feeling can be relieved by taking deep breaths from some tissue with three drops each of sandalwood, petitgrain and chamomile oil. At the same time, a chest rub made with 1 drop each of chamomile, sandalwood and petitgrain in 1 teaspoonful of oil or lotion is a most useful mix to keep handy. Use the heel of your hand to give a good pressure in a circular motion, breathing deeply as you do so. If very severe, substitute peppermint for the petitgrain.
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, brown bread and fibre rich cereals to maintain a healthy routine. Should you need help, 2 drops each of orange, chamomile and black pepper in 30ml of carrier oil or lotion will help to regulate you if applied twice daily to the small of your back and your lower abdomen.
Towards the end of pregnancy, i.e. during the last 6 weeks, oils can be used to prepare the uterus for labour. Rose otto is excellent for this. Adding three drops of rose otto to 3 tablespoons of the stretch mark mix helps the uterus to gain tone and strength. You can also put 2 drops of rose otto and 2 drops of clary sage in the bath (if you are still able to enjoy having one). Sage or fennel tea, available from health shops, can be dunk daily 4 – 6 weeks prior to the delivery date, to enhance the above treatment.
Inhalation is an effective method if you are using essential oils while in labour, to help contractual pains. During contractions place a few drops each of lavender and clary sage onto a cotton wool ball and hold in your hand to use when necessary (to replace the gas and air machine!) Additional aid is to use a vaporiser in the labour suite – this way everybody benefits.
After birth, baths of cypress and lavender seem to be most effective in dealing with bruises and excess bleeding. Once born, there are endless possible uses of aromatherapy for children. Babies usually love to be massaged and also enjoy inhalations (see Recipe Section).