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Are Essential Oils Safe for Pregnant Women With APAS?
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  • It’s amazing how women’s bodies are made to support a little human being inside, and how blessed we are to be an instrument of this beautiful process in nature. Pregnancy causes so many series of changes and events in a woman’s body, which is why we need to be more mindful and careful of the things we put in our body, like food, cosmetic products, and most of all, the medicines we take.

    As a mom who had antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APAS), my pregnancy was anything but ordinary. I lived each day in fear and anxiety, coupled with a buffet of medicines that I had to take. It was all, of course, monitored by my perinatologist, an obstetrician-gynecologist specializing in high-risk pregnancies. It was her duty to weigh the risks and benefits of the treatment that I was getting so I could carry my two kids to term.

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    Admittedly, there were also many times that I resorted to complementary health tools to alleviate minor aches and pains. During my pregnancy, I had bouts of headache. Taking into consideration all the medicines that I was already ingesting, I did not want to pop another pill. My doctor instructed me to inhale eucalyptus oil and to apply acupressure on the space between my left thumb and index finger.

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    We all come across several home remedies, such as essential oils, quite often. Essential oils have been widely marketed in the past several years as complementary and/or alternative medicine to address a number of conditions. They’re all over the internet and would often be a pegged as a one-for-all solution without taking into consideration the medical history of the person who intended to use them.

    Using essential oils in an APAS pregnancy can be tricky

    The use of essential oils while pregnant is already a tricky issue – all the more if you have blood coagulation problems like APAS. Like other food or drinks preggos consume or products used on the body, we presume that essential oils, like any other substance introduced to your bloodstream, can potentially enter the placenta and reach the fetus.

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    But as a professional aromatherapist who regularly blends essential oils for different clients, I have seen first-hand how these wonderful products of nature have changed many lives.

    Several studies have also shown positive results of aromatherapy to address anxiety and nausea, among others. Aromatherapy using lemon has worked well to combat morning sickness, as well as citrus aurantium oil to calm a preggo’s anxiety in the early stage of labor. Used in a massage, it could improve a pregnant woman’s stress and immune function.

    But having said that, aromatherapy should always be used with caution. While essential oils can help address common ailments, they should never be used as a substitute for medication, especially for those suffering from severe illnesses and diseases. Most importantly, one has to know how to use these essential oils safely during this delicate time.

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    Safety guidelines for using essential oils during pregnancy

    If you’re pregnant and are thinking of using essential oils, think it over if it’s absolutely necessary. If your answer is still yes, it’s crucial to have a basic knowledge of which oils pose significant risks. Here are some guidelines based on what are advocated by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) in the US:

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    1. Get guidance; don’t just wing it.

    Consult your doctor regarding the use of essential oils during pregnancy. Also, consult a certified professional aromatherapist if you want to know more about the safe use of essential oils.

    2. Start during your second trimester.

    Keep it at a minimum or better yet, steer clear of essential oils when you’re in your first trimester.

    3. Use only 100-percent pure essential oils.

    If you’re applying essential oils topically (onto your skin), use low dilution at one percent. For pregnancy, that’s about two drops of essential oils for every 10mL blend.

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    4. Know the essential oils to avoid during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding.

    Some essential oils may be toxic to the pregnancy or highly irritating to the skin. These include anise star, aniseed, basil ct. estragole, birch, cassia, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, hyssop, mugwort, oregano, parsley seed or leaf, pennyroyal, sage, savoury, sweet birch, tansy, tarragon, thuja, thyme ct. thymol, wintergreen, and wormwood.

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    5. Specific oils are no-nos for women with repro-immune disorders.

    Some oils act as anticoagulants and could contribute to the effects of blood thinners APAS moms may already be taking. This can cause more intense bleeding. Some of the oils that are powerful anticoagulants are:

    • Oils containing eugenol, such as cinnamon leaf, clove bud, holy basil, garlic oil, and onion oil. A study found that the eugenol constituent in cloves may increase the risk of bleeding in patients taking antiplatelet agents such as aspirin, clopidogrel, dipyridamole, ticlopidine, heparin, and warfarin.
    • Oils containing methyl salicylate, such as sweet birch and wintergreen. A study, which included essential oils and painkillers with methyl salicylate content, showed that three out of eleven patients who were given topical methyl salicylate ointment experienced bleeding; two had bruises, and one had gastrointestinal bleeding.

    This isn’t an exhaustive list, so following the first guideline is crucial. To be safe, use gentle essential oils at minimal dilutions. And remember: Limit your use of essential oils in pregnancy and use only when necessary.

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    Balot Del Rosario is a NAHA-registered, Certified Level 2 Professional Aromatherapist. She is also the author of the book, Lost but Found, and the mom-of-two behind the blog Chronicles of The Happy APAS Mama (www.callmebalot.com.)

    Know more about the other four reproductive-immune disorders apart from APAS here.

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