Are Essential Oils Safe When TTC?

Are Essential Oils Safe When TTC?

For thousands of years, people have been using flower oils not just for their scent, but also to enhance their physical and emotional wellbeing. While essential oils are becoming increasingly popular today, not all are safe to use when you are trying for a baby or going through IVF as they may interfere with hormone levels.

Sources of essential oils

Essential oils are plant-derived volatile oils that have the aroma and other properties of that plant and may be extracted from:

  • Flowers, including orange, lavender, clove flower buds, and ylang-ylang bracts,
  • Leaves, including eucalyptus, mint, thyme, bay leaf, sage, pine needles, and tree roots (vetiver),
  • Rhizomes (e.g ginger),
  • Seeds (e.g coriander),
  • Fruits, including fennel, anise, and citrus
  • Wood and bark, including cinnamon, sandalwood, and rosewood.

Variability of Chemical Compounds in Oils

The plants that our forebears used would have been grown locally and deemed ‘safe’ after generations of trial and error. Today most essential oil production is done on an industrial scale with plants bought in, often from across the globe, in large quantities.

In much the same way as grapes of the same varietal taste different if they are grown in France vs Australia, it’s the same for plants. This poses a challenge as the chemical compounds that give oils their scent and medicinal properties can vary greatly due to their interaction with the environment (soil type and climate, etc.) and the maturity of the plant when harvested. How the oils were extracted or processed can also vary the chemical compounds in the oils.

All these factors combine to make it difficult to develop an evidence-based approach about how, and how much of each oil is safe to use. Further, while some compounds in oils have been studied, for many others there is very little quality evidence for their efficacy or safety.

Essential Oils That Are Likely Safe When Trying To Conceive

We can’t say with complete certainty that oils are 100% safe if you are TTC, but many studies have been conducted on these, and nothing concerning has been found:

  • Chamomile
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Neroli
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Tangerine
  • Ylang ylang
Generally, the use of a couple of drops of one of these essential oils in a diffuser should not cause harm, and they all smell divine!

Essential Oils To Avoid When Trying to Conceive

There is some evidence, even if not of great quality, that some compounds in essential oils could be harmful during preconception or pregnancy because they have been found to cause uterine contractions (and some, in fact, were used in the past to induce abortion). Others are on the ‘avoid’ list just because their use hasn’t been studied extensively, so their safety can’t yet be determined:

  • Basil
  • Camphor
  • Clary Sage
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine
  • Juniper berry
  • Nutmeg
  • Parsley
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rose
  • Rosemary

Tips For Using Oils 

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you're trying to conceive:

  • NEVER ingest essential oils
  • Make sure you use only high-quality essential oils that are pure and not diluted with synthetic chemicals
  • Consider buying only Australian grown and made products
  • Dilute all essential oils in a carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil) before using them on your skin
  • Limit the use of a diffuser or vaporiser to 10 to 15 minutes per hour
  • Once you become pregnant, don’t use them on your skin, use fewer drops than normal in the diffuser, and avoid using them completely during the first trimester.
For more health and wellness information on how to increase your chances of conception, check out our fertility news page, or download our e-book below.

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Image by Jopeel Quimpo via Unsplash