Willow Grace

Willow Grace
Lavender Essential Oil and dried lavender. Julia Walder will often use lavender during her massage treatment as it's a very versatile oil which blends well. Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

Every pregnancy is unique but there are some common pregnancy issues that aromatherapy can help with.

Following on from looking at how essential oils work. For this blog I will look at the different issues that can be experienced during pregnancy. Then I’ll look at the oils that I would choose to support you in a treatment.

Pregnancy sickness

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are one of the most common complaints. It is thought approximately 75% of pregnant women are affected by it.  No-one is really sure what causes it. But it may be due ‘to the effects of progesterone on gastric smooth muscle tone, especially in the lower oesophageal sphincter and delayed gastric emptying’ Yates (2010).

Essential oils that can help

A randomised clinical trial showed that the inhalation of lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil significantly improved the incidence of nausea and vomiting in women experiencing pregnancy sickness (Yavari et al 2014). I also like to use peppermint (Mentha piperita) or spearmint (Mentha spicata) and grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) oils.  Battaglia (2003) states ‘peppermint is one of the most effective essential oils for the digestive system’. Mojay (1997) believes peppermint ‘stimulates the flow of Qi-energy in the stomach and intestines, while grapefruit is fantastic for regulating the appetite.’

How I use aromatherapy to help you

If you are struggling with sickness when coming for a treatment I will often use some of these oils working gently over the upper back. I can also pack you home with a nasal inhaler for use between treatments. I have had great success using a combination of grapefruit, lemon and peppermint for a client that was really struggling with nausea. You can also use a couple of drops of either a blend of the oils or just one of the oils on a tissue tucked under your bra strap or to inhale as necessary. I can also provide you a blend to use in a diffuser at home. I will always ensure they are diluted appropriately, in order to make safe use of aromatherapy in pregnancy massage.

Before moving on, it is also worth mentioning that not only do these oils help with nausea and vomiting they all have uplifting properties which provide additional benefit.  To provide additional help you can also try drinking peppermint or ginger tea. Stimulating Heart Protector 6 can also assist your symptoms. I can show you how to do this yourself, equally purchasing some sea sickness bands can achieve the same result.

I feel that it is important to mention here that essential oils should never be ingested. This includes when added to water or other fluids or used neat on the skin.  This is not a safe practice for aromatherapy in pregnancy or any aromatherapy for that matter.


To be anxious and stressed during pregnancy and birth is completely normal and can be caused by any number of reasons.  Whilst aromatherapy (and massage) can’t replace the support of a medical professional. Tiran (2000) states ‘this is one condition where aromatherapy comes into its own’ and the massage itself can reduce the body’s cortisol (stress) levels.

Essential oils that can help

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is my go to oil of choice for anxiety. It has a high content of the ester linalyl acetate, which means it is balancing to the body, sedative but uplifting.  Fischer-Rizzi (1990) believes ‘it uplifts and refreshes the spirit.  The gentle fragrance like a bouquet of flowers, evokes joy and warms the heart’.  A randomised controlled trial carried out by Igarashi (2013) showed that when pregnant women were allowed to choose an essential oil high in linalyl acetate, of which Bergamot was one. After fives minutes of inhalation their anxiety had improved and their parasympathetic activity had increased.  Bergamot’s energetic qualities enhance the circulation of free-flowing Qi.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium), has also been proven in a study to be affective in relieving the stress of hospitalised high-risk pregnant women, Go and Parks (2017).  It has both anti-depressant and nervine properties. Mojay (1997) says that ‘it clears heat, relaxes the nerves and uplifts the spirits’.

I would also consider using geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) as it can have a fabulous regulating effect on the nervous system and is both sedative and uplifting. ‘It clears heat and has the ability to strengthen the flow of Qi’ Battaglia (2003).

Sandalwood (Santalum album) is another useful oil as it has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and calms agitated emotional states. It is said to ‘quieten mental chatter’ (Mojay 1997).

How I use aromatherapy to help you

Alongside the oils above, I use mandarin (Citrus reticulata), petitgrain (Citrus aurantium), frankincense (Boswellia sacra) or ylang ylang (Canaga odorata) all of these have similar properties.  A 1% blend of two or three of these oils used in a massage, I find has wonderfully calming and uplifting effects. I also combine this with calming points Kidney 1, Heart Protector 6 and Heart Protector 8.  I can also provide you with an oil blend to be used at home in a bath (4 drops added to a tablespoon of oil or white lotion and mixed in a run bath) or in a diffuser. If you are struggling with anxiety I can work through a relaxation exercise or meditation with you as part of the treatment and help you to continue these at home.


I have yet to work with a pregnant woman who hasn’t experienced backache at some point in their pregnancy. It really is not surprising when you consider the effect that the hormones relaxin and progesterone are having on the smooth muscle. When combined with the hyper-lordosis caused by the increasing growth of the baby.  Backache is more likely to be experienced by multiparous women, those who have suffered prior to pregnancy and with increasing maternal age (Yates 2010). I will often discuss posture with you and assist with postural adjustments as needed.  Whilst a massage may improve the backache bringing in aromatherapy in pregnancy enhances the treatment still further.

Essential oils that can help

Analgesic and anti-inflammatory oils are the ones needed in this case to relieve the muscular aches and pains.  A study by Hughes et al (2018) looked at the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for pregnancy related low back pain and/or pelvic girdle pain. The most popular choice of CAM was aromatherapy in pregnancy.  The study showed that 81% of the women felt that CAM had improved their pain. Although it did not say what percentage of those used aromatherapy.  Price et al (2021) suggest the following oils for pregnancy, German chamomile, sweet marjoram, ginger and lavender.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has more sesquiterpenes than any other essential oil. Therefore it can have a fantastic anti-inflammatory effect, when used in a massage.  It also has analgesic properties.  German chamomile is another oil that aids the smooth flow of the body’s Qi. Mojay (1997) states ‘the oils ability to regulate the movement of vital energy helps to relax the nerves, relive spasm and ease pain’.

Sweet marjoram (Origanium majorana) is a warming oil that has both analgesic and antispasmodic properties.  It is also one of the main essential oils that has the ability to both relax and strengthen.  Mojay (1997) states that ‘marjoram oil’s Qi-moving action results in very distinct antispasmodic and analgesic properties.’  If your sleep is disturbed I will also advise using sweet marjoram, potentially in a diffuser or tissue by your pillow, as it he has sedative effects.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) stimulates and warms the circulation.  The sesquiterpene, zingerberene and the monoterpenes, camphene and limonene are what give ginger oil its effective analgesic property.  Ginger oils ability to strengthen the yang-energy of the kidneys makes it helpful for relieving lower backache, mainly when associated with muscle fatigue, Mojay (1997).

Lavender Essential Oil and dried lavender. Aromatherapy in Pregnancy
Lavender is one of my favourite oils

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is without doubt the most versatile essential oil in aromatherapy. But it is its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that make it great for aromatherapy in pregnancy.  Yazdkhasti and Pirak (2016) completed a study that showed lavender to be an effective analgesic during labour. So I believe that it should have a similar effect during pregnancy.  In terms of energy ‘the cool, dispersing and relaxing qualities of lavender benefit heat and inflammation, spasm and pain, and general unrest’ Mojay (1997).

How I use aromatherapy to help you

I will use a blend of two or three of these oils at 1% to support the massage. As aftercare I can send you home with the blend to use in a bath. Or to use as a warm compress by adding 4 to 5 drops of the blend to a bowl of fairly warm water. You then soak a flannel or small towel and place it on the lower back for 10 minutes or until the flannel/towel has cooled down.  These methods with the same oils could also be used if you are suffering with pelvic girdle pain.  In addition, Tiran (2000) suggests using Bladder 23, Bladder 47 and Bladder 48 to relieve symptoms of lumbosacral pain.  Again, it would be beneficial for you to do some relaxation, as it is very common for women to ‘hold’ and tense their back in anticipation of the discomfort.


Many women suffer with constipation during pregnancy. This is largely due to the relaxing effect that progesterone has on the muscle of the gastrointestinal tract, slowing down peristalsis. Also the ever-reducing space in the abdominal cavity as it adapts to the growing uterus can add to the problem.

Earlier on in pregnancy an abdominal massage may be an effective treatment, but as the uterus grows out of the pelvis this will become increasingly difficult. This is where using aromatherapy in pregnancy can really help.

Essential oils that can help

The oils used to relieve constipation are largely similar to those used for pregnancy sickness and vomiting.  Essential oils belonging to both the citrus and mint families are the most recognised.

Sweet orange (Citrus sinesis) is a beautiful sweet and fresh smelling oil and is considered to be one of the best all-round essential oils for the digestive system.  Davis (2005) says it appears to have a normalising effect on the peristaltic action of the intestines.  Energetically it has the ability to unblock and circulate stagnant Qi.  Combining the tonic effect on the stomach with its ability to circulate Qi. The oil is invested with distinct antispasmodic and carminative properties suitable abdominal distention and pain, nausea and vomiting and constipation, Mojay (1997).  Sweet orange is also a very uplifting oil helping if you are suffering with anxiety.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a warm and spicy smelling oil. It’s stomachic, carminative and antispasmodic effects make it an excellent choice for treating constipation.  It’s warming and anti-spasmodic properties also make it an excellent oil to use for muscular aches and pains.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is the other oil that I would recommend to use. As I mentioned when looking at pregnancy sickness and vomiting, peppermint is one of the most effective essential oils for the digestive system, Battaglia (2003).  It can have a powerful antispasmodic effect on the muscles of the digestive tract. It stimulates Qi energy in the stomach and intestines. Lembo (2019) believes that ‘while peppermint is helpful on a physical level. It also helps you digest life and truly understand and process all that is happening around and within you.’

How I use aromatherapy to help you

There is clearly a physical reason pregnant women suffer with constipation, but on an unconscious level it can be about a fear of letting go, due to feeling out of control or a fear of the unknown. This can be a common feeling during pregnancy.

As it may be difficult to massage your abdomen as the pregnancy progresses, in massaging others areas of your body with these oils you can still get the benefits. Or I can help you inhale the oils either with an inhaler or diffuser. Equally I can enable you to use them in a compress on your back.  Another alternative is to massage your feet, gentle clockwise massage of the foot arches may produce similar results, Tiran (2000). The arches in reflexology represent the ascending and descending colon.

If you are struggling with constipation we can also discuss nutrition advice, as ultimately this is the best means of prevention.

Heartburn and Indigestion

In the second and third trimester of pregnancy heartburn and indigestion can often become a problem for women. This is due to the space the baby is taking up in the abdominal cavity. The progesterone being produced also effects the muscles of the digestive system, particularly in the incidence of heartburn, the cardiac sphincter of the stomach.

Essential oils that can help

Tiran (2000) recommends the use of lemon essential oil. Stating ‘you may assume that the acidic nature of lemon means it is contraindicated, but it appears to work by neutralisation of the citric acid, especially during digestion’.

Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) is recommended for heartburn and indigestion.  Again, it is part of the citrus family and has a tonic effect on the digestive system. It helps to regulate the metabolic processes and it aids the secretion of bile and breaking down of fats, Battaglia (2003).  Its effect on the digestive system are thought to be even more effective when used in synergy with other citrus oils.

Peppermint, sweet orange and a small amount of black pepper can also be used to sooth heartburn and indigestion. I have used this to good effect with previous clients.  Tiran (2000) recommends a blend of sweet orange, mandarin and black pepper massaged on to the back and abdomen.

How I use aromatherapy to help you

Prior to commencing any treatment we will go through a thorough consultation. This will help me to establish all your symptoms. We will examine your digestion and your anxiety levels because they are often linked. From here I can work out how best we can use aromatherapy in pregnancy to help you.  If this is the case I may use both sweet orange and mandarin. As the uplifting benefits of these oils can assist not only with any heartburn or indigestion but also anxiety.  As with constipation, it is important we also look at nutrition if you are suffering with heartburn or indigestion.


Approximately 50% of pregnant women suffer with oedema towards the ends of their pregnancy, Tiran (2000). If you’ve spent a long time on your feet or if there is hot weather you are more likely to suffer this at the end of the day.

Essential oils that can help

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is a diuretic and can be brilliantly stimulating to the lymphatic system. These two properties reinforce each other in helping the body to eliminate fluids more efficiently.

Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) is another valuable oil for fluid retention.  It is diuretic, a detoxing and a lymphatic stimulant.  It can be used on its own (diluted in a carrier oil) it also blends well with geranium essential oil.

Cypress is an excellent venous decongestant and is very astringent, therefore ideal for any ailment where there is extra fluid.  The principal action of cypress oil is to enliven and regulate the flow of blood. Part of this action depends upon its restorative, toning effect on the veins, a by-product of its overall astringent quality, Mojay (1997).

How I use aromatherapy to help you

I would include lymphatic massage as part of your treatment to help the movement of the fluid. Using any of the above oils in a blend for this massage will enhance the fluid movement. I can provide you with some of the blend at the end of the treatment. You can take this home for a partner to massage your ankles and feet between treatments.  We will also discuss other suggestions to help such as:

  • reducing salt intake,
  • resting in a left lateral position with legs slightly elevated,
  • taking regular exercise
  • avoiding wearing tight clothing.

If the swelling suddenly becomes worse and is in other parts of your body, is accompanied by a headache and/or epigastric pain you should seek medical advice urgently as these could be symptoms of pre-eclampsia.

Aromatherapy in pregnancy

I hope that you can see that there are many oils that can support aromatherapy in pregnancy. Whatever the indication there is an essential oil that can assist you. I love working as an aromatherapist, especially the challenge of working with pregnant clients.  Having said that, there is more and more research into using essential oils for a whole plethora of reasons.  I invest a lot of my time in keeping up to date on the best uses of oils and their chemistry.  This allows me to maximise the benefits I can bring you.

As part of my pregnancy massage treatments I tailor the essential oils I use to your need at that time. I can also make some take home products for you to use between treatments. I also offer gift boxes that can include aromatherapy bath salts and some additional treats.

Example gift box. Aromatherapy in Pregnancy
Gift box containing voucher, space mask, bath salts, sweet slumber pillow spray and lotion

You can book yourself in for a pregnancy massage at Rumwell Hall near Taunton from my treatments page. Alternatively, get in touch if you would like any more information.