Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Essential Oil Use During Pregnancy, Birth & Postpartum: Part 2

Part 2 of my interveiw with certified aromatherapist Shannon Dennis discusses safe use during the postpartum period and on newborns.  | doulabarb.com|

Welcome back, everyone!  I hope you enjoyed the first part of my interview with Shannon Dennis, Certified Aromatherapist.  Last week we chatted about essential oil safety during pregnancy and birth as well as how to incorporate essential oil use into a birth plan.  This week, we're going to discuss oils in the postpartum period and safe use for newborns.  Read on and enjoy!

What about common misuse during the postpartum period? What unsafe oils do you see commonly recommended during that time and what better oils would you recommend?

I'm so grateful you touched on this delicate time, too!  Postpartum is such a precious time of bonding, healing and creating a new circle of family.  For essential oil use during this period please use great caution.  I prefer to err on the side of safety to not disturb the smell bond between client and baby as well as avoid any unnecessary additional taxing on the baby's new adapting body.  While within aromatherapy there is a "spectrum of practice" (just like in western medicine you will get a variety of recommendations from different doctors) I prefer to recommend no essential oil use before 3 months.  This gives the baby's body and organs time to adapt to the world as well as a secure bond between client and baby to be established.  It also allows time for milk and supply balance if nursing.  During this 3 month period, client can use lactation safe (if she is nursing) oils for themselves in a personal inhaler, diffuser jewelry or in hydrosols.  I highly discourage use in the form of "anointing" baby or the umbilical cord after birth or diffusing in the room the baby is in.

What about oil use as a galactagogue?  I hear fennel recommended often.  What are your thoughts on that? Are there any safe oils you can recommend?

Fennel essential oil is not safe for the nursing client to use nor for a child under age 2 because of the compounds the oil contains.  The constituent estragole can interfere with hormones and neuro-activity in a small child.  The herb fennel, on the other hand, is safe so consuming a bit of fennel tea could support a healthy supply when correct hydration and nursing regimens are followed as well.  For oils during lactation or for supply supporting purposes, be sure no oils are being applied to the nipples and that any application occurs after a nursing session to avoid overwhelming baby's sensitive olfactory system.


What do you recommend for safe usage in newborns and infants?  Do you have a good reference for people to consult in regard to age appropriate oils?

I spoke a little earlier on the "spectrum" of practice, even within the safe use community.  Since I'm not in a direct consult with someone reading this and do not know their specific experience, medical history or that of their baby I choose in public forums to err on the conservative side with this recommendation:
  • No essential oils under 3 months
  • Begin diffusing after 3 months but starting with one oil at a time and noting any responses from baby.  Be sure to safely diffuse for 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off in a well-ventilated space, not a closed bedroom.
  • Topical application with a dilution not to exceed 0.50% after 6 months.
Here is a downloadable list of restricted oils for pregnancy/lactation and an age-restricted list for oil use under age 10:

This list breaks down safe essential oil use based on age. This list breaks down safe essential oil use during pregnancy.



Can we talk a bit about diffusing an oil or blend?  Pros and cons?  And better times suited to it?  Why is using a diffuser at a birth not a great idea?  What is a better way for mom to receive those benefits?

I recommend diffusing MOST during labor and birth but I would agree that running a diffuser during the birth isn't something I would recommend as it can block that smell bond and overwhelm the newborn babe.  As we know, a client's tastes can change at the drop of a hat during birth so topical application of an oil is the hardest to remove from the birth space...especially if it is on the body!  A drop of oil on a wash cloth or cotton ball waved in front of the client or laid by the head can diffuse the oils into the air yet be removed in an instant if needed.  Using hydrosols to spray linens can give the necessary aroma without the prolonged lingering of an essential oil.  Using diffuser jewelry or aromasticks are bonuses, too.  I especially love the jewelry because who doesn't want to feel pretty during birth?!


Can you speak more about hydrosols?  What are they and how/when can they be used?  

Yes! So many reason to love all over they hydrosols.  I actually include 3 in my birth kit!

Linen and room sprays, in a bath (before the birth) or to clear unwanted clinical aromas hydrosols can fill a variety of need while being sometimes less expensive than their oil counterparts.  I very much encourage people to know the source of their hydrosols as they are easily soiled and tampered with which can produce adverse results.

What books and resources do you recommend for pregnant and nursing mothers?  What books, resources, etc. would you recommend for birth professionals?
There are very few books I recommend in general.  Both of the leading authors I've seen on the market in the area of pregnancy have published books full of unsafe and dangerous advice.  I would recommend working with an aromatherapist, honestly!

Finally, can you speak about oil quality?  How can you be sure that you are purchasing high-quality oils?  What are some things consumers can look for in a quality oil? Do you have any favorite brands? Are there any common misconceptions regarding oil quality that you would like to address?

This could be a whole other blog post as there are lots of opinions in this area, too.  I have written a blog post series on how to choose the best brand for you and your family.  It is written in three parts: Products & Testing, Labels & Pricing, and Company.  It is a series of questions to ask yourself and the company you buy from.  Quality is important for sure, but ensuring that quality and backing it up with proof of testing is crucial for me in the brands I purchase from  I also choose to purchase oils that were sustainable raised and harvested as well as organic.  These things narrow down the brands I have to pick from but also may not be important to someone else.

For misconceptions, I've always loved referring people to this article by Dr. Robert Pappas!  There is a lot in that article to chew on as far as what we see in the essential oil distribution realm but I think it is incredibly helpful.

Do you teach any aromatherapy classes or have any information you'd like to share?  Are you available to teach essential oil safety classes for groups- say doulas or midwives that might like to have a seminar on safe use?

I do teach classes locally in Cleveland, OH and hopefully soon via my website.  I have an upcoming doula/birth workers seminar (information, not training) that you can keep an eye out for here.

I also have a pregnancy, birth and postpartum product line designed with a local doula, Kathy DiVincenzo owner of Beyond the Bump birth services that provide safe, easy to use product for your clients.  Everything from a belly balm to a beautiful (non-greasy) massage oil free of essential oils to birth kits ready to go.

I'm so grateful to have been part of this blog, Barbara!  Thank you for being passionate about safe use and protecting our clients and babies during their hardest yet most glorious transition in life.  The opportunity means the world to me!


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