Some rightly worry about taking antibiotics to fight skin irritations or other bacterial infections when pregnant or breastfeeding. For fear of lessening the natural immunity of their developing children, some turn to a natural alternative medicine with proven antibacterial qualities, which is tea tree oil. This derivative of the plant Melaleuca alternifolia is reputed to effectively conquer numerous ailments. Medical experts recommend a doctor's approval when using tea tree oil in pregnancy or while breastfeeding though, since as of 2011 it has not been proven unequivocally that this essential oil is completely safe for the very youngest developing humans.
Using tea tree oil in pregnancy, first and foremost, must only be done topically. Medical authorities empasize that this herbal extract is toxic when ingested by mouth, but it is unclear at exactly what level in humans. Therefore, all people, pregnant or otherwise, should only use it to treat visible conditions on the skin and potentially the genitals.
If a doctor approves, tea tree oil in pregnancy could naturally help the body heal various bacterial infections. Numerous studies have proven its effectiveness as an antiseptic and antifungal agent. According to the University of Western Australia's Tea Tree Oil Research Group (TTORG), no known natural substance is a better antiseptic. In 2011, the Mayo Clinic maintains that more study is necessary, but that the oil is clearly effective for a range of fungal and vaginal infections as well as for improving common acne.
This does not mean using tea tree oil in pregnancy or at any other time will not result in adverse effects, similar to the occasional reactions that will be experienced with synthetic antibiotics. Allergic reactions could result in a rash, hives or even some swelling, particularly if highly concentrated solutions are used. Those allergic to eucalyptus also are advised to exercise caution, since that plant's oils are commonly paired with commercial tea tree oils.
The TTORG maintains that tea tree oil may someday replace conventional antibiotic creams for treatment of skin irritations. Since it is toxic, however, it will not replace orally administered antibiotics. Using tea tree oil in pregnancy may not be advisable for other reasons too, besides the unknown effects on fetal development. According to the Mayo Clinic, a problem could stem from another benefit of tea tree oil — its suspected easing of the force of contractions. This, in turn, could prolong delivery or even endanger the baby and mother.