Aromatherapy is a practice that has been around a long time. It can be found in Ancient Egypt where resins, balms, and fragrant oils were used by priests for religious ceremonies, offerings, and embalming. In this same time period, aromatic oils were being used in ayurvedic practices in China and India.
Preliminary research shows that aromatherapy can increase alpha, theta, and delta brain waves, which help calm the mind and body. Aromatherapy can reduce the perception of stress, increase contentment, and decrease levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to reduce crying in infants and promote sleep in infants and adults.
One theory of how these scents work is that by stimulating the smell receptors in your nose, they send messages to your nervous system. They are also thought to have a subtle effect on the body’s chemical and energy systems. Because of this, aromatherapy is often used as a natural remedy to relieve anxiety and stress.
You can practice aromatherapy in a number of ways. Candles and incense are popular but may be too strong for you while you’re pregnant. Essential oils are the most popular form of aromatherapy and there are several ways to use them:
- The old fashioned way: Take deep breaths of the aroma after opening the bottle.
- Diffuser method: Mix essential oils and water in an essential oil diffuser and turn it on. A diffuser is a device that disperses tiny oil particles around the room so you can breathe them in. Follow your diffuser’s directions for the right oil-to-water ratio.
- Dry evaporation: Put a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and smell the aroma as it disperses.
- Steam inhalation: Put a few drops of essential oil in a bowl of hot water. Put your head over the bowl, a towel over your head, and breathe in the steam.
- Body Products: Aromatherapy body products are great because they create a scent that follows you but can’t necessarily be smelled by others (unless they’re very close, in which case they probably won’t mind). You can rub aromatherapy lotion all over your skin, or dab a few drops of skin-safe essential oils on pulse points and enjoy the scent for hours.
Chamomile, frankincense, geranium, lavender, neroli, rose, sandalwood, spearmint, and ylang ylang are considered safe for use when you’re pregnant. Citrus oils such as lemon, orange, lime, tangerine, grapefruit and bergamot are also safe. However, citrus oils can cause photosensitivity to light when applied to the skin, so use them diluted in products or only for inhalation. TriLASTIN Maternity Stretch Mark Prevention Cream includes stress reducing chamomile, vanilla, orange, and grapefruit oils.
Essential oils you should avoid while pregnant include: bitter almond, inula, khella, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, sassafras, thuja, turmeric, and wintergreen.
You can also add aromatherapy to the practices of massage and meditation to make them more effective. We’ll cover these stress reducing techniques in our next couple of posts.