Apologies for placing this subject in the Ailments section, but there wasn’t really anywhere else for it to go!
When considering the use of aromatherapy during pregnancy, we should first put aside a small group of essential oils which should never be used in the first few months of pregnancy, either because they are toxic and could possibly harm the mother and foetus, or because they involve some risk of miscarriage Provided these oils are carefully avoided, aromatherapy techniques can be used very safely and beneficially to maintain the general health of the expectant mother, and to help minimise the various discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, backache, swollen legs and ankles.
The oils which must be avoided during the first three or four months of pregnancy include those which are described as 'emmenagogue', i.e., they induce menstrual flow, those which are recommended for use during labour to strengthen contractions, and a few rather toxic oils which could harm both the mother and the foetus. (There is some degree of overlap between these three categories).
The oils which should NOT be used at this time are: Aniseed, Armoise (mugwort), Arnica, Basil, Birch, Camphor, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Cypress, Fennel, Hyssop, Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Origano, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary, Sage, Savoury, Thyme and Wintergreen plus any other oil described as toxic. Camomile and Lavender are also described as emmenagogue, but can be used with care in small amounts and low dilutions except where the mother has reason to fear a possible miscarriage, e.g. if she has miscarried previously, there is a history of miscarriages in her family, if she has had any abnormal bleeding or other symptoms, or has been told by her doctor that there is some risk.
Later in pregnancy, from about sixth months, you can use Lavender as it is so good at relieving backache, and Rose in extremely low dilutions as it corresponds so much to the emotional needs of many pregnant women. For the nausea which often accompanies the first few months, ginger tea is a safe and effective remedy. Peppermint tea is better avoided, as is Peppermint oil.
A great many women experience some low back pain as their pregnancy advances, due not only to the increase weight of the baby, but to the changing shape of her own body, and the way this increases the lumbar curve of the spine. Gentle exercise, such as yoga and specific ante-natal exercises, are important, and it is also, a great help to rest for at least 20 minutes each day lying flat on the back, with the legs bent at the knees and supported on a chair. The thighs should be at right angles to the body, and the calves at right angles to the thighs. This position straightens out the lumbar curve and deeply relaxes the overworked muscles of the lower back.
However, massage with essential oils will give a tremendous amount of relief from pain, and help to tone the muscles which are carrying the increased load. Obviously, as the baby grows, it will not be possible to lie the mother on her tummy to be massaged. It is possible to give back massage with the woman lying on her side, but it is more comfortable for the mother and more efficient for the masseuse if the woman sits on a stool alongside the massage couch, rests her folded forearms against the couch and leans her forehead on her arms. The masseuse then kneels on the floor behind her and can apply an effective amount of pressure to the back muscles, which is quite difficult with the mother lying on one side. The lower (lumbar) area of the back should only be massaged lightly during the first four months, but at this stage, backache is seldom a problem. By the time it is becoming a real discomfort (say, from the sixth month onwards) it is perfectly safe to massage well in this area. See also Back Massage Techniques.
The same comments apply to massage of the abdomen - work very lightly in this area - or not at all if the expectant mother has any hesitations about it - for the first four months, but after this massage is not only beneficial but very enjoyable. Very often, the developing child responds to the massage given to its mother. A lively baby which may be causing its mother some discomfort through the amount that it kicks and moves around, will calm down and be still for quite a while when its mother has been massaged with a soothing, calming oil and babies whose mothers
have received regular massage throughout their pregnancy are generally very peaceful when they are born.
As well as massage from a therapist or friend, the expectant mother should massage oil into her own tummy and hips each day from about the fifth month, to prevent stretch marks. Even massage with unperfumed oil, such as almond, will be helpful, but it will be both more effective and more enjoyable if 2% to 3% of essential oil is added. This could be more or less according to the mother's preference, but perhaps the best choice is Neroli, for fits effect on the growing layer of the skin and Mandarin is another suitable oil.
Oedema (swelling) of the ankles or legs is often a problem in the latter months of pregnancy. If this is severe and persistent, a doctor or other qualified practitioner must be consulted, in case there is a problem of kidney function, but mild oedema, or puffiness of the ankles after standing and at the end of the day, can be effectively relieved by massage of the legs with oil of Geranium. This should preferably be carried out regularly by an aromatherapist, but it is also possible for the mother to apply the oils to her own legs in smooth, firm strokes, moving always from the ankles towards the thighs. Resting with the feet higher than the head is a classic remedy that should not be overlooked, and this can be carried out in the position described above, so helping backache at the same time! Avoidance of salt, coffee and strong tea will also help to reduce swelling, and it is also advisable to drink plenty of plain water (bottled or filtered).
Sometimes, the bulk and weight of the growing baby cause pressure on the veins and arteries of the lower abdomen, and give rise to circulatory problems, such as varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and (very rarely) vulvar varicosity. Rest with the legs raised, as described above is very important, and so is the avoidance of constipation, but aromatherapy treatment is somewhat complicated by the fact that many of the oils usually used in the treatment of circulatory problems are among those to be avoided in pregnancy. However, oil of Lemon in 2% dilution can be used in gentle massage, and plenty of fresh garlic or garlic perles should be included in the diet.
Other health problems which may arise during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, cystitis, fainting, are dealt with under the individual entries for those subjects, and can be treated as described there, provided that the list of oils not to be used is born in mind.
Aromatic baths can be enjoyed right throughout pregnancy, and can in fact be one of the expectant mother's greatest luxuries and forms of relaxation - once again, simply avoid the risky oils and also avoid over-hot water.
As usual if you are not sure about using Essential Oils during your pregnancy, consult your doctor or healthcare professional.
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