pregnancy & Childbirth
During pregnancy the body undergoes massive changes whilst performing the magical task of
creating a new life. There are new demands upon the mother's body & new relationships with
previously acceptable ingredients.
Whilst natural remedies can certainly provide support for both mother & baby during pregnancy & childbirth, there are some remedies which must be avoided.
The following information provides a guide to the safe use of natural remedies during pregnancy & childbirth.
The first part lists those herbal medicines, culinary herbs & essential oils to avoid during pregnancy.
The second part lists some common conditions of pregnancy & suggests safe remedies for them.
The final part offers suggestions for herbs & essential oils which are useful & safe during childbirth & immediately after.
For information about natural remedies & products for babies & children see
HERBS TO AVOID IN PREGNANCY
Sweet flag-Acorus calamus
Uva ursi-arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Blue cohosh*-caulophyllum thalictroides
Greater celandine-chelidonium majus
Black cohosh*-cimicifuga racemose
Peruvian Bark-Cinchona officinalis
Autumn Crocus-colchium autumnale
Male Fern-Dryopteris felix-mas
Cotton Root-gossypium herbaceum
Golden sea*l-hydrastis canadensis
*Safe to use during childbirth
**Safe to use in last trimester
Tienchi ginseng-panax notoginseng
Poke root-phytolacca decandra
Alder Buckthorn-Rhamnus frangula
Raspberry Leaf**-Rubus ideus
Yellow Dock-Rumex crispus
Dan shen-salvia miltiorrhiza
Blood root-sanguinaria canadensis
Life Root-Senecio aureus
Pau d’arco-tabebuia avellanedae
Cat’s claw-unicaria tomentosa
Lesser periwinkle-Vinca minor
CULINARY HERBS TO AVOID IN PREGNANCY
These herbs are safe as flavourings in food but should not be taken in large quantities:
Celery seed, Cinnamon, Fennel, Fenugreek, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Saffron
ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID IN PREGNANCY
FURTHER ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID IN FIRST TRIMESTER OF PREGNANCY
Rose, Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Lavender
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR USE DURING PREGNANCY
Before self-medicating, check that your intended remedy is not
contra-indicated in the lists above, dependant upon the phase of your pregnancy.
Some of the herbs & oils which are beneficial in the 2nd or 3rd trimester may be
contra-indicated in the 1st or 2nd trimester.
Herbs & oils that are beneficial during labour & child-birth may be contra-indicated in
1st, 2nd or 3rd trimesters.
Go to to check whether any remedy you are considering taking is contra-indicated with any medical conditions. Go to to check whether there are any potential interactions with medications.
If in doubt, seek the advise of a qualified medical herbalist.
Choose filtered/spring water over tap water for drinking & cooking.
Abdominal Pain-Chamomile, Linden Blossom or Lemonbalm tea
Anxiety-Mild Sedatives: Chamomile, Linden Blossom, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower
Motherwort used with caution
-Stronger Sedatives: Oats
Valerian & Hops (Avoid in 1st trimester or if you are depressed. May cause drowsiness)
Back ache- Massage with any combination of the following essential oils in warmed base oil. Use 15 drops of essential oil per 30ml base oil.
Throughout pregnancy Bergamot & Ginger essential oil may be used.
After the 1st trimester Chamomile Roman, Geranium & Lavender may also be used.
For nerve pain massage 20ml St John's Wort oil into the lower back-essential oils may be added.
If severe a cold compress of St John’s Wort infusion applied for several hours and changed regularly as the compress warms up. St John’s Wort Tincture (contra-indicated with certain drugs & supplements. See ). 20 drops every two hours will help to relieve pain.
Constipation-Dandelion root decoction or tincture, Psyllium husk, Slippery Elm powder, Beetroot fibre.
Cramps-Cramp bark, Hawthorn Berry, Chamomile, Nettle, Borage, Oatstraw, Raspberry Leaf as tea or tincture. Nettle may be used as a green leafy vegetable.
Depression-Lemon Balm, Nettles, Oats, Lavender Tea or tincture.
Nettle may be used as a green leafy vegetable.
Fluid Retention-Massage oil of essential oil Lemon & (after the 1st trimester) Lavender, Chamomile Roman & Geranium -1 drop of each in 50ml base oil (Grapeseed is recommended). Massage in long strokes, along the limbs, towards the heart.
Cleavers, Horsetail, Dandelion Leaf, Couchgrass tea
Haemorrhoids-Cold compresses of Witch Hazel, Plantain or Oak Bark infusions for astringency.
Marshmallow, Mullein or Comfrey for soothing and Marigold for healing as compresses or ointments.
Witch Hazel water can be used. Pilewort ointment.
Heartburn-Peppermint & Meadowsweet tea or tincture, Slippery Elm powder 2g in warm milk at bedtime
Insomnia-Gentle sedatives: Linden Blossom (Limeflower), Passion Flower, Skullcap, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Orange Blossom, Rose as tea or tincture
-Stronger sedatives: Oats. After the 1st trimester Valerian & Hops-may cause drowsiness, do not take if you are depressed.
-Bath oils: Neroli & after the 1st trimester Chamomile Roman, Lavender, Rose, Geranium
2-3 drops any combination
-Massage oils-5 drops (1 drop of each of the above or any combination) in 50ml base oil
High Blood Pressure-Skullcap or Wood Betony for associated tension as tea or tincture.
Hawthorn Berry & Leaf tea. Linden Blossom (Lime Flower) tea.
Decoction of Cramp Bark may be added to the above to dilate arteries.
Diuretics for high blood pressure with associated fluid retention-Dandelion Leaf
Morning Sickness/Nausea-Dried or crystallized ginger. Tincture of dried ginger-20 drops in water every hour for up 5 hours. Infusion of Ginger powder 1g per cup of hot water.
Beneficial effects decrease over time.
Black Horehound is anti-emetic as a tea or tincture, mixed with Spearmint.
Bitter tonics/liver tonics may be indicated-see ‘Tiredness’ below.
Restlessness & Irritability-Cowslip tea or tincture. Skullcap tea or tincture for strengthening the nerves & easing nervous tension
Stretch Mark-Massage with wheatgerm oil, Rosehip seed oil with essential oils of Neroli & Mandarin & after the1st trimester, Lavender.
Tiredness-Siberian Ginseng (Eleutheroccus senticosus) tincture, “Floradix”, Borage, Betony, Alfalfa, St John’s Wort. For tiredness in last 4-6 weeks: Raspberry Leaf tea, Squaw Vine tincture 20-30 drops twice daily.
Bitter tonics may be indicated: Dandelion, Burdock, Milk Thistle, Blessed Thistle-small amounts as tincture taken occasionally.
Urinary Problems-Cranberry juice, Anti-microbials: Horsetail decoction; Soothing: Marshmallow Root, Couch Grass, Cornsilk as tinctures.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR PREGNANCY
Throughout pregnancy: Neroli, Tangerine, Mandarin, Grapefruit
After the 1st trimester: Chamomile Roman, Lavender, Geranium, Rose, Geranium, Coriander, Cardamom
CHILDBIRTH & POST-NATAL CARE
To prepare for the birth:
From 6 weeks before the birth take Raspberry Leaf tea to strengthen & tone uterine muscles.
For the last week & up to 4 weeks before the birth use the essential oils for childbirth (see below) in a diffuser. Use the oils sparingly, 2 drops in a bowl of water/burner is adequate. Or a couple of drops to a small bowl of water, moisten some cotton wool with it & put it under the pillow.
Soften the perineum with Rose Maroc oil (1 drop in 10ml base oil) applied once per day.
Use essential oils in a diffuser for a week or so before child-birth & the same oils in a diffuser during labour. Use the oils sparingly, 2 drops in a bowl of water/burner is adequate. Or a couple of drops to a small bowl of water, moisten some cotton wool with it & put it under the pillow. Use the oils singly rather than blending them.
Rose-uterine relaxant, helps ligaments to soften enabling the pelvic bones to expand; to regain elasticity after the birth. Natural anti-septic, slight analgesic effect, cardiac tonic.
Geranium-circulatory stimulant. Pulls together dilated tissues so good for after the birth. Anti-depressant.
Clary-sage-DO NOT CONFUSE WITH “SAGE”. Use with restraint! Tonic to uterine, respiratory & muscular systems. Mild analgesic, uterine tonic, euphoric, relaxant (specifically to lower spinal cord).
Lavender-circulatory stimulant, slight analgesic effect, calming. Anti-biotic, anti-septic, disinfectant; slight anti-viral properties, anti-inflammatory. Promotes wound healing. Eases headaches & light-headedness.
Neroli-tonic to nervous system & promotes easy breathing, especially during panting. Increases oxygen supply to blood & brain & helps to prevent hyper-ventilation. Low doses (1-2 drops per day in a diffuser) are sedative, higher doses are stimulant. Anti-septic, disinfectant. Increases confidence, anti-depressant.
Nutmeg-analgesic, calms central nervous system, alleviates anxiety. Circulatory stimulant.
For massage during labour Rose Maroc or Geranium are recommended, either singly or in equal parts in a blend. Max 5 drops in 30ml base oil. The back can be massaged throughout labour, only massage the abdomen once or twice & only during the first stage.
HERBS FOR CHILDBIRTH
The following herbs are safe for use according to directions. Other herbs should only used during childbirth under supervision of a qualified medical herbalist.
Chamomile tea can be drunk throughout. Frozen ice cubes of Chamomile tea can be prepared beforehand & sucked throughout or rubbed on lips.
Raspberry Leaf tea can be drunk during the first & second stage & is indicated if contractions become ineffective.
Ginger in any form can be taken as a stimulant to combat exhaustion during the second stage.
Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedy in water as directions can be sipped or rubbed on lips during second stage to combat exhaustion & overwhelm.
Wound/bruise/cracked nipple healing - Calendula Officinalis (English/Pot Marigold) infusions.
1 part dried Calendula: 2 parts solvent (water or oil)
Water infusion-use just boiled water &steep overnight, strain, keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or pour into ice cube tray, freeze & defrost as required. Use to drench sanitary pads, freeze them & use to relieve post-labour bruising, grazing & swelling. You’ll probably need to sit on a towel! Lavender essential oil can be added to the sanitary pads to prevent/treat infection. The essential oils Lavender, Yarrow & Chamomile could be added to the bath (max 4 drops) for this purpose.
Witch Hazel Aromatic Water can also be used.
Oil infusion-make in a lidded jar in a warm place. If in the sunlight, cover jar with a couple of brown paper bags. Shake every day for at least 3 weeks. Strain. Will keep in a cool place out of sunlight for many months, dependant upon the oil used. For sore nipples, I recommend using a base oil that does not have any allergic potential or hormonal effects-extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed, organic grapeseed oil, rosehip oil, rice bran oil, avocado & apricot kernel oil are all suitable. If nipples become cracked & infected Chamomile essential oil can be added to the infused oil 5 drops in 30ml. Clean nipples & breast thoroughly before putting baby to the breast.
To Increase the flow of breast-milk-Always start with with small amounts (1 cup of tea per day) or add culinary amounts to foods & gradually increase amounts until maximum recommended dose is reached or until the desired effect is achieved.
Teas of fenugreek (plant & seeds), fennel (seeds), nettle, milk thistle, goat's rue (dried herb only) & alfalfa as a fresh salad herb.
Essential oils- 15 drops of oil fennel oil in 30ml vegetable oil to massage the breasts once daily. Use circular motion, start under the arms, move inwards & downwards then up between the cleavage. 15 drops of geranium or 10 drops of Clary sage are alternatives. Do not use a blend of oils, choose one essential oil only for this & clean breast/nipple thoroughly before feeding baby.
For exhaustion-Oats in any form for exhaustion, constipation, insomnia, depression.
This information is for educational purposes only & is not intended as a guide to self medication. We recommend that any use of a natural remedy follows the advise of a suitably qualified healthcare practitioner.