Aromatherapy & Pregnancy
Whether planned or not, pregnancy always launches changes both physically and emotionally. These changes can start almost instantly, but are always unique to each woman. In some way, the best thing we can do is to relate our personal experiences. In this spirit, I would like to describe some of the problems that I had and the ways I used aromatherapy during my own pregnancy.
There is - still- a huge misconception that pregnancy must be a miserable experience that scars you for life. This is simply not true: there are so many simple things that can gently and deeply improve your quality of life and help you navigate the new stresses and strains of your pregnancy. It is often considered a beautiful and meaningful time in a woman's life, and is an opportunity to be full of reflection on life, its meaning, and the ways in which life changes as we grow—not simply older, but also emotionally and physically.
There are many 'contra-indicated' (to be avoided) oils that I read about. Having learned more about it now, I see that much of that is unfounded. There are definitely oils that should be avoided during pregnancy; if you think you are at risk of miscarriage or serious complications, you should be especially careful, and check with your doctor, midwife, or other professional, knowledgeable about essential oils and their effects.
For most women, aromatherapy can be used safely and effectively throughout the entire pregnancy. It can be extremely effective at allaying many of the physical and emotional discomforts associated with pregnancy. I highly recommend using your own intuition, but if you are unsure you can fall back on the common sense approach: if any oil, at any time, bothers you in any way—stop using it. Keep in mind that pregnant women often have heightened or intensified physical sensitivity and you will probably need much less of a dosage to get the effects you desire. Some normal dosages can lead to skin irritation as well as olfactory irritation.
The first thing I learned when I was pregnant was that morning sickness could last not only all day, but all night too! For many women it can be absolutely debilitating. For morning sickness, I used Peppermint in any form. Mostly I drank Peppermint tea, and sucked on peppermints. I also frequently used the oil for inhalation. Sometimes, however, a cup of tea just isn't practical while driving, taking a bus, or walking down the street, and I didn't at all have a sweet tooth for the mints. Here, inhaling the oil is definitely handy, and much better than vomiting in your car, at work or wherever!
Peppermint oil is one of the many that gets put on the do not use list. However, it can be so effective in treating morning sickness- that when its safety is compared to the pharmaceutical alternatives- it is important to weigh both sides. Is your pregnancy high-risk? Are you nauseous or vomiting so much that it could have ill effects on your pregnancy, or on your mental and physical functioning?
The second change I noticed was in the hips. Everything started to spread to make room for the baby, and that often leads to serious discomfort in the hips, lower back, legs, and feet. I learned some pelvic exercises that helped a great deal. But, I also used massage and warm baths with oils of Rosemary and Lavender. This also helped with tired achy feet and legs, as well as to prevent and relieve water retention.
Towards the end of the term, you will probably require assistance massaging anything lower than your rib cage. If you don’t have help, though, baths are still easy and will also help you stay relaxed. Blending the oils you want to use in your bath first, will greatly help reduce the risk of skin irritation, and you can also add just a tiny bit of the blend at a time.
One of the largest concerns of many women is avoiding stretch marks. They are much easier to prevent than to remove, so get started on it as early as possible. A nice blend of massage oils applied daily after bathing, but while still wet, can work marvelously. Infused oils of Calendula, St. John's wort, Roman chamomile, and Lavender are a great addition to any other base oils. You can also add a bit of Lavender, Carrot seed, and Sandalwood essential oils. Keep it light on the essential oils to prevent any skin irritation.
If your baby seems to be getting very large very quickly, you may want to increase the application to 2-3 times per day. Do not forget to treat the thighs and breasts (as I did), as they are probably growing too! And should you end up with stretch marks after all, just wear them proudly as a mark of a beautiful and miraculous experience.
Another thing I learned; that no one warned me about, was the incredible itching that takes place deep inside the breasts, where you could never get close to scratching. It usually starts sometime during the second trimester, and can last a few months. This is due to the milk glands increasing action. Though you may realize they are producing the most perfect food for your baby, that thought is not much consolation during the itchy stage. Again, there can be some relief, massaging with essential oils of Clary Sage and Lavender in a low dilution. In order to comfortably get at every area, do this while lying down. Done at least twice a day, this can help a great deal. And for those times you find yourself, despite all the massaging, in a really itchy state, keep in mind that it will end- really, it will!
I found pregnancy to be not only scary, but also very stressful. How much will labor hurt? Am I ready? What if I am doing something wrong? Should I eat that? What should I name my child? What is my life going to be like now? What if I go into labor on the bus? These very typical questions and concerns can lead to a lot of stress and emotional strain. Aromatherapy was a wonderful solace for me during the more difficult moments of my pregnancy. I used Lavender, Clary Sage, Geranium, and Roman Chamomile as an inhalant and also in baths almost every morning. It really helped me keep my 'cool' and just relax. Letting go of all the questions and worries helped me accept my discomfort as a manageable part of the beautiful process of bringing my baby into the world.
About Teshan Laucirica
Teshan Laucirica is a Certified, Dipl. Aromatherapist, having graduated from the Australasian College of Herbal Studies and the Institute of Dynamic Aromatherapy. Teshan works full time for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy as the associations Chief Administrator, editor, spokesperson, and National conference facilitator. Teshan is the creator and owner of Violet George Botanicals, and a published author. She is an invited lecturer for the Institute of Dynamic Aromatherapy and Western Washington University.