Aromatherapy During Pregnancy

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Aromatherapy has been practiced for at least 4000 years and was popular in Ancient India, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Aro­matic essential oils are produced by special glands in the leaves, stems, bark, flowers, roots or seeds of certain plants.

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These oils contain many active ingredients in a highly concen­trated and potent form that, because they are volatile, readily evaporate to release their powerful scent. The oils are collected in a variety of ways.

Those extracted by simple pressing (e.g. bergamot, lemon, orange) are known as ‘essences’, those extracted by distillation are known as ‘essential oils‘, while those obtained by enfleurage (pressing petals between glass sheets coated with animal fat) and solvent extraction are cor­rectly known as ‘absolutes’. The term ‘essential oil‘ is com­monly used to describe them all, however.

Every day when you are breathing and sniffing, over 10000 different aromatic chemicals are wafted up towards receptors at the top of the nose.

These aromas are detected by hair-like nerve endings that, unlike those involved in other senses, are directly connected to the brain, so messages from the nose are passed directly to the limbic system without being filtered by higher centres.

Smells can therefore have a profound effect on emotions and behavior as they can trigger primitive responses that have not been modified by intellectual input.

The limbic system is also one of the most ancient parts of the brain and is directly linked to other centres involved in learning, memories, arousal, emotions and hormone secretion.

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As a result, the sense of smell can trigger powerful responses such as hunger, nostal­gia, fear and mood changes, as well as playing an important role in the recognition and bonding interactions that occur between mother and baby.

 

Essential oils are highly concentrated and—with a few exceptions—should always be diluted with a carrier oil (e.g. avocado, calendula, grapeseed, jojoba, sunflower or wheatgerm oil) before being placed on the skin.

Once in contact with the skin, some of the oils’ constituents will be absorbed to have a medicinal effect in the body. Excess of some oils may be harmful—especially during pregnancy—so always choose oils carefully (preferably with the assistance of a qualified aroma­therapist) and follow the instructions that come with the pack.

 

Where possible, use natural rather than synthetic essential oils. Natural oils generally have a fuller, sweeter aroma that provides a greater therapeutic benefit. Similarly, 100 per cent pure essential oils, whilst more expensive, are more desirable as they have not been mixed with alcohol or other additives.