Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and challenging times of a women’s life. The complexity  of pregnancy  is one of life’s miracles. Hormones change dramatically once an egg is fertilised. The usual fall in oestrogen  and progesterone at the end of the menstrual cycle does not occur and as a consequence  there is no menstrual period.  A new hormone, HCG (human  chorionic  gonadotrophin), produced by the developing  placenta,  stimulates  the ovaries to produce  the higher levels of oestrogen  and progesterone that  are needed to uphold  a pregnancy.

As the fourth  month  of pregnancy  arrives, the placenta  takes over from the ovaries as the main producer of oestrogen  and progesterone. These hormones increase the volume of blood circulating  (in particular the supply to the womb and breasts),  and relax the muscles of the womb to make room for the growing baby.

Around  the time of childbirth, other hormones come into play that  help the womb to contract during and after labour, as well as stimulate  the production and release of breast milk.

Why some women suffer terribly with varying ailments during pregnancy  while others barely experience any isn’t understood, but we send out a special message to those of you who do have a hard time. You are doing a great job bringing this wee bundle of joy into the world,  so just hang in there — it will all be worth  it! Nature has a wonderful way of making you forget all the discomforts when you finally hold that  little bundle in your arms!

Try to take as much care as possible and keep trying to distract  yourself! Like many women I worked  throughout both of my pregnancies, treating clients in therapy clinics and doing workshops, I also both suffered from morning  sickness and the essential oils were a godsend in keeping me going. I would  often spritz myself with a favourite  ‘Lime and Peppermint’  spritzer.

The following section is a brief outline  of a number  of common  discomforts associated  with pregnancy  with some tips and tools you can call on that  may assist you to overcome them. Always check with your lead maternity caregiver or health care professional  for their thoughts and advice. You never know  — they may just have a magic suggestion that  makes all the difference.

Please note: Whenever it is suggested the topical use of essential oils on the body, as in massage, this only applies from the 16th week of pregnancy onwards. Until then just use the massage base oil on its own.

Morning sickness: many women will experience some degree of nausea or vomiting during the first trimester  — I know I did! Luckily this usually stops after the first 3-4 months  and even though  it is commonly  referred  to as ‘morning  sickness’ some women can experience it all day every day. Believe it or not, it is a sign of a good strong hormonal surge, so let’s just focus on that,  shall we! Even though  you may not feel like it, it is important you continue  eating and drinking.  Try some of these suggestions:

•  Dry crackers or toast can be helpful to snack on throughout the day

•  Sip on water  as often as possible or try sipping weak peppermint tea.

•  Avoid heavy, rich, starchy,  sugary, fatty foods. Eat as simply as you can.

•  Try Peppermint, Lavender  or Lime essential oils. A drop of one or a combination of these oils on a tissue to inhale at regular  intervals is helpful. Or go for an aromatic spritzer using 100 ml of water with 2-3 drops of each. Shake vigorously and lightly spray the head and face area.

•  A tepid bath  may be relieving in summer months,  as well as a cool compress on the face and forehead.

•  Use your vaporiser.  Try keeping the air cleansed and refreshed  with oils like Peppermint, Lime, Bergamot,  Geranium or Lavender.

•  Homeopathics can also be helpful here, as can acupressure bands around the wrist. Most health food shops can help you with both of these.

Constipation: due to the pressure of a growing uterus and a more sluggish bowel during pregnancy,  constipation can affect a large number  of women.  This can also lead to haemorrhoids.

•  Drink plenty of water  — at least eight glasses a day.

•  Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.  Kiwifruit,  prunes and figs may help. Or try prune juice as an alternative to the fruit.

•  Avoid stodgy, processed foods which provide bulk but little fibre. Try cutting down on wheat products and eating different grains like millet or amaranth or give coconut flour and buckwheat as alternatives.

•  Gentle exercise like swimming or walking  helps stimulate  the digestive system.

•  Massage your tummy in a clockwise direction  (to support the flow of the digestive tract).  After 16 weeks you can use a 50 ml blend of cold-pressed  oil with 3 drops  Neroli,  4 drops  Orange  and 3 drops  Black Pepper (this is the child’s ratio blend of 50 ml = 10 drops  total).  

•  A cold Lavender  compress may soothe and relieve symptoms  of haemorrhoids.

Backache: as your body adapts  to being pregnant it undergoes  many changes mentally,  emotionally and physically. The back in particular is put under enormous stress as the baby grows, which can result in excessive curvature of the lower back, causing strain  and pain.

Try not to sit, lie or stand in one position  for too long, and rest whenever possible if you are active during your pregnancy  with other children or work.

Use pillows however and whenever! A pillow between the legs while lying down can help keep the pelvis and hips aligned or placing a pillow under the knees, while on your back, can take some of the pressure off the lumbar  (lower) spine. Extra pillows to support your head can help relieve heartburn as well as back pain.

Avoid heavy or strained  lifting. If you do have to lift at all, make sure you bend your knees and keep your back as straight  as possible. This is so obvious  but you will be amazed how much you forget once ‘pregnancy  brain’ steps in!

Gentle exercise can offer relief. Community centres or hospitals  within your area may offer specific classes for pregnancy  like swimming,  walking  or yoga. Check with your caregiver or GP before undergoing any exercise programme.

Massage can be most beneficial for backache  or pain. It can also help tone and relax the muscles and nourish  the stretching  skin. Make sure you are comfortable when receiving a massage: keep warm and have plenty of pillows for support. Some massage therapists have a table designed for pregnant women with big holes in the tummy region. This can be heaven when it seems like you will never be able to lie on your front again! Try the following blend, or choose your favourite  essential oils:

50 ml massage base oil (Sweet Almond,  Jojoba or Macadamia) and 10 drops essential oil:

4 drops    Lavender

2 drops    Geranium

4 drops    Lemon

Varicose veins: with the increased  circulation and weight gain, varicose veins are quite common,  particularly as the pregnancy  advances into the third trimester. They are enlarged veins that  are easily seen under the surface of the skin and are often seen in the legs.

Try not to sit or stand for long periods of time. Aching feet are a good indication that  it is time to rest.

Good,  comfortable footwear is important. Ill-fitting, uncomfortable shoes (no matter  what fashion is dictating)  will not help the circulation in your body or the health of your feet; they can also put extra strain  on your back. It may be wise to invest in a pair of shoes the next size up that  are easy to wear, comfortable and supportive. Your feet will thank  you for it and it may help reduce the risk of varicose veins.

Lie down  at least once a day on your back on the floor with your legs at a 90° angle up the wall, or if that  is too uncomfortable start  by lying down  and placing the legs over the seat of a chair. Use a pillow for your neck if needed. Raising the feet above the heart helps the blood flow and relieves the pressure of gravity. This is also beneficial for swelling.

For massage use a massage blend and stroke the legs very gently, working from the foot to the thigh in an upwards motion.  This may prove difficult as the pregnancy  advances and you might need assistance from a partner, friend or trained professional  to reach past your belly. The following blend can be helpful:

50 ml of cold-pressed  massage base oil and 10 drops  (total) of essential oils:

3 drops    Cypress

5 drops    Geranium

2 drops    Lemon

Swelling: due to the increased  blood flow and a rise in oestrogen,  many women find their hands,  feet and legs can swell with a rather  ‘puffy’ appearance. In warmer temperatures this can be exaggerated further.  While a little bit of swelling is to be expected,  always keep a check on the level of swelling in your body with your lead maternity caregiver (fitted jewellery such as rings are often good indicators).

Drink plenty of water  with a minimum  of eight glasses a day.

Footbaths can be beneficial and help relieve swollen feet. Try placing a flannel at the bottom of a large, stainless steel bowl (big enough for both of your feet) and place half a dozen large marbles  on the bottom. Add a couple of drops  of either Geranium, Bergamot,  Cypress, Lime, or Orange  and rub the soles of your feet over the marbles.  This is sheer heaven.

A full body bath  can bring relief to that  puffy appearance as well as bringing about  a sense of weightlessness that  can relieve joints and muscles. After sixteen weeks try adding a few drops  of your favourite  essential oil to the bath.  Place 2–4 drops  of your chosen oils in a fully drawn  bath  and immerse your body for at least 10–15 minutes.  Try oils such as Bergamot,  Lavender,  Sandalwood, Neroli, Rosewood, or Geranium.

An aromatic daily body boost may also assist the lymphatic  and circulatory systems. This is a wonderful treatment to help restore the body and your emotions.

Skin issues: during pregnancy  your skin experiences many changes brought about  by the dramatic hormonal changes affecting the oil production in the skin, increased  blood flow and the fact that  a lot of nutrients are going to the baby, often leaving you a little short.  It is therefore  very important that  you eat well, supplying your body with all it needs to support you and your baby.

Acne: while acne during pregnancy  is rarely as severe as that  of adolescence,  it may be best to take extra care and follow good skincare rituals. The Healing Skin Boost is particularly helpful for this condition as is Lavender and Chamomile compresses. The key is to be gentle with your skin, use a natural creamy cleanser and avoid the temptation to over cleanse it.

Skin colourations: as your skin becomes more photosensitive during pregnancy it pays to be vigilant about  skin protection. Avoid excessive exposure  and choose a natural sunscreen.

New moles may also appear.  Consult  your doctor  if these moles seem particularly raised, dark,  or have irregular  borders.  The areola and nipples of your breasts  will become darker  and although other areas of your skin will return  to their original colour after pregnancy,  your areola will probably always be somewhat darker  than  they were before you were pregnant.

A lot of women normally  have a faint linea alba (a white line) running  from their belly button to the centre of their pubic bone. It is barely visible before pregnancy.  (You may not have even noticed it was there!) Sometime in the second trimester  a linea alba becomes a linea nigra (a dark line) that  is much more obvious. The line can extend upward from the navel for some. The linea nigra is darker  in darker-skinned women and whilst there is no known  remedy it disappears several months  after delivery.

Brownish or yellowish patches called chloasma  (also known  as the ‘mask of pregnancy’) can appear  on the face, in particular on the forehead,  upper cheeks, nose and chin. Chloasma cannot  be prevented  but the intensity of these blotchy,  darkened areas can be reduced  by limiting your exposure  to the sun which stimulates  melanin production.

Spider veins: the increase in blood volume, along with pregnancy  hormones can cause minute,  web-like red or purple capillaries just below the surface of the skin to branch  out and become more visible during pregnancy.  These ‘nevi’ can take longer to disappear than  many of the other skin problems  of pregnancy  but can be benefited by the use of Rosehip oil, rich in Vitamin A and E.

Itching: some areas of your skin may itch due to the increased  blood flow or often skin can become dry as the body is using most nutrients and essential fatty acids to grow the baby. Many women find the most irritating itching is in the skin that  stretches,  mainly over the abdomen, but also on hips and thighs. As early as the second month  of pregnancy,  the insides of your hands and the bottoms of your feet may itch and take on a reddish hue. This is called palmar  erythema.  Make sure that you are getting good oils in your diet so that  you are providing  your body with essential fatty acids: these come from oily fish, seeds and nuts. Also make sure that you are using a high quality  natural body lotion or cold-pressed  oil on the skin to strengthen and nourish.  

After sixteen weeks try adding in some essential oils to your cold-pressed  oil; Chamomile and Lavender  are very beneficial. We suggest using the child ratio when blending — which is simply one fifth of the adult dose. See the chart at the end.

Pimply eruptions: A very small percentage  of pregnant women experience itchy, red, raised patches on their abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hands and feet. This condition is called pruritic  urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy  (also known as PUPP). It tends to come and go during the second half of pregnancy  and nearly always disappears shortly  after delivery. Treat this in the same way as any other itchy skin break-out.

Stretch marks: Stretch marks are caused by rapid  weight gain or loss and are fairly common  in pregnancy  around the breast area, hips, buttocks, stomach  and top of the thighs. Some women are genetically predisposed to getting them and no
amount of rubbing, pleading or magic potions  will prevent stretch marks altogether. However,  using a cold-pressed  massage base oil with essential oils may help reduce their severity and improve their appearance over time. Try the following preventative blend and rub into the whole body or on the affected areas:

25 ml Sweet Almond oil and

25 ml Rosehip oil

3 drops    Frankincense

3 drops    Lavender

2 drops    Rosewood

2 drops    Neroli

Try a new perspective and think of stretch marks as the most amazing stripes of honour!

Fatigue: From the moment  you conceive you may be consumed  with fatigue. This is not unexpected, considering  how hard your body is working  to incubate  and nourish  a tiny little being for nine months.  Remember  to drink plenty of water  and choose ‘natural’ foods — organic where possible.

Your first pregnancy  is the one during which you can completely  think about yourself and indulge, recharge and rest, so make sure you do! Lie down  as often as you can and put your feet up. Sleep whenever you get a chance — your body will thank  you!
Use your vaporiser  in the room you are resting in. Try oils such as Lavender, Orange,  Bergamot,  Lemon, Geranium and Chamomile.

Gentle exercise such as swimming can improve your energy levels, just be sure not to overdo  it.

The moody blues: dealing with emotional states is a tricky one, considering  all the different emotional responses a woman  can have while being pregnant! This is where aromatherapy can be very helpful. Here we focus on a few of the more common emotions  and feelings you may experience.  Choose any three oils from the following chart in a bath  or massage blend after sixteen weeks, using 50ml of massage base oil with 10 drops  in total of essential oil. Or use in a vaporiser  any time from conception.



‘Got the blues’                                   
Orange,  Lavender,  Lime, Sandalwood, Geranium

‘Away with the fairies’                      
Sandalwood, Lavender,  Lime, Pine

‘Sick and tired’                                   
Peppermint, Lavender,  Geranium

‘Can’t remember  a thing’                  
Rosemary,  Lemon, Geranium

‘Fear of pain’                                      
Frankincense, Neroli,  Lavender,  Geranium, Sandalwood

‘Don’t know if I can do it’               
Frankincense, Orange,  Sandalwood, Lavender

‘Fat and frumpy’                                
Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot

‘Big and beautiful’                              
Orange,  Lavender,  Pine, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang

‘Maternal bliss’                                  
Lavender,  Neroli,  Chamomile, Orange

Labour: The time has arrived  for your little bundle of energy to begin its journey into the world and a relaxed,  stress-free mother,  support team and environment can make all the difference for a positive birth experience.

Prepare all the oils you would  like to have at the birth and after the delivery well in advance.  A couple of synergy blends are great to have at hand.  Try what we call the ‘pregnancy  power’ blend of Lavender,  Sandalwood, Neroli and Lime. Mix to an adult’s ratio of 50ml massage base oil and 25 drops  in total of essential oil!
Make a ‘Labour  support’  blend for your support person(s)  to use when you are in the last stage of labour  or when you feel it is appropriate and make sure you label it so they know  which one to use! To mix use:

100 ml Sweet Almond oil

15 drops Lime

20 drops Clary Sage

8 drops    Jasmine

7 drops    Rose

Massage can be particularly helpful in between contractions and works well combined  with facial compresses to keep the mind focused and refreshed.

Compresses  for the face and forehead  are fantastic  to help refresh the mind. Cool Lavender,  Bergamot,  Lemon or Pine compresses are very effective. Don’t use too many combinations or the support team may bear the brunt  of an agitated mother-to-be’s irritation.

Warm compresses work well on the lower back or abdomen. Alternate  between Jasmine and Clary Sage.

Sip water  as often as possible. Use a cup with a straw to conserve energy!

A bath  during labour  is a lovely way to relax and lessen the weight-bearing load on the body. Use a few drops  of the labour  support blend as mentioned above. For those of you undertaking a water  birth,  it may be better to avoid using essential oils considering  it is the first place of entry for your little babe and the oils are so concentrated. Have a vaporiser  in the room instead.

Like smells, music has an incredible ability to link us with experiences.  To have a certain CD or song playing during the birth of your child will thereafter be significant each time you hear it. Music also has the ability to calm and centre, uplift, inspire and motivate  us, so select some of your favourites  to be played during the birth of your child.

After childbirth levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones fall sharply,  causing a number  of physical changes. The womb shrinks back to its non- pregnant size, pelvic floor muscle tone improves,  skin and hair problems  often reduce or disappear and the volume of blood circulating  round  the body returns  to normal. This dramatic change in hormone levels is thought to play a part in causing postnatal depression.  Although  there have been no significant differences detected in the hormone changes of women who do, and do not, get postnatal depression,  it is thought that  some women are more easily affected by these hormonal fluctuations than  others.  If you feel like you are not coping or don’t know  where to turn,  just know  that  you are not alone and help is always at hand.  Talk to your midwife or doctor  and seek advice — just talking  it through with someone can relieve much of the concern,  during this miraculous time of your life.