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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >5 Benefits of Coconut Oil for Pregnancy

5 Benefits of Coconut Oil for Pregnancy

May 16, 23 9 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

With pregnancy and postpartum comes a lot of changes inside and outside of the body. It can be hard to find products that are pregnancy safe and actually provide benefits. Fortunately, there are some natural options, such as coconut oil, that can be used for many different purposes. 

What is coconut oil?

There are many different uses for coconut oil that have been discussed in the media in recent years. Coconut oil is made by pressing either fresh or dried coconut meat. [1] Most virgin coconut oils come from fresh coconut meat that has to be pressed and then boiled to separate the water from the oil. Coconut oil is 100% fat (majority of which is saturated fat) and only contains traces of different vitamins and minerals. [1] About half of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has been shown to help with energy production in the body. [2] Aside from this, there isn’t much nutritional value in coconut oil, but it does have some other uses that may be beneficial for pregnancy and postpartum. 

Is coconut oil safe for pregnancy?

Virgin coconut oil is thought to be safe for mom and baby during pregnancy as well as when breastfeeding, although you should always speak with your healthcare provider before using any new products. [16 is 3 ] Coconut oil is nontoxic, hydrating, and has antioxidant and antibacterial properties making it a useful and safe option during your reproductive journey. [3-4 is 4-5]

Precautions and potential side effects

If you think you might be allergic to coconut oil, you may want to avoid using it until you can speak with a healthcare provider about an allergy test. Coconut oil shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts (one tablespoon contains close to the daily allowance of saturated fat) but can be consumed in small amounts when baking and cooking or used on the skin, hair, etc. [1] Using coconut oil topically has been shown to provide many benefits for the skin, including moisturizing a growing belly! [3-4 is 4-5] 

Pregnancy safe products

The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Pregnancy

There are many options for using coconut oil that may benefit your skin, hair, oral health, and more. 

1. Benefits oral health

Did you know that oil pulling may actually improve your oral hygiene? If you don’t know what oil pulling is, it refers to the practice of swishing a small amount of oil around the mouth for up to 20 minutes and then spitting it out. [5 is 6] The theory is that the oil helps to “pull” out the bad stuff in your mouth, such as bacteria, leftover food, and microorganisms. This is not a substitute for brushing and flossing, but may be used in addition to positive oral hygiene habits to improve oral health. Research does show that oil pulling has been associated with improved oral health by improving symptoms of oral thrush, reducing plaque and gingivitis, and decreasing oral microbial count. [5-6 is 6-7]

2. Aids in wound healing and skin hydration

Coconut oil is a very hydrating product that has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and healing properties when applied topically (on the skin). [8-9] Pregnancy and postpartum can both cause various issues and noticeable changes to the skin, including dry or itchy skin, stretch marks, sore or cracked nipples, dermatitis, and more. [7 is 10] Data show that coconut oil is useful in combating dry skin during pregnancy as well as treating cracked or painful nipples, wound healing, improving skin hydration, strengthening the skin barrier, and more. [8-9] Using small amounts of coconut oil on the skin while breastfeeding is safe for baby as well (did you know that a lot of infant formula contains coconut oil?) [17 is 11] While no one should ever feel like they need to treat or prevent stretch marks, some research suggests that keeping the skin properly hydrated can aid in elasticity and potentially help with reducing stretch marks. [10 is 12] Additionally, a study found that using coconut oil on or around the rectum can ease the discomfort caused by hemorrhoids, a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum. [11 is 13] 

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3. Perineal massage

A perineal massage is a technique that may help stretch and prepare the perineum (the patch of skin between the genitals and anus) for labor and delivery. While it’s not guaranteed to prevent tearing, data does suggest that perineal massage helps to decrease episiotomy rates, postpartum pain, and severe perineal tearing or trauma. [12-13 is 14-15] Perineal massage can be done with water-based lubricant, coconut oil, olive oil, or other products safe for pregnancy and vaginal use. Learn how to perform a perineal massage to prevent vaginal birth tearing. 

4. Lubricant

Coconut oil is also thought to be safe to use as a lubricant in a pinch. Coconut oil has antifungal properties, meaning it may be useful for preventing or fighting off yeast infections. [14 is 16] It’s also great for soothing and moisturizing the skin, which may aid in pleasurable sex. It’s always preferred to use a doctor-recommended lubricant designed for intimate use, but organic coconut oil can also do the trick. Just keep in mind that anything oil based can erode latex condoms, so stick to a water-based lubricant if you are relying on latex condoms for pregnancy or STI prevention. 

5. Hair health

The hydrating properties of coconut oil can also benefit your hair health. Pregnancy can impact the hair in various ways. Some will have thick, shiny, hydrated hair during pregnancy, others may have dry and thinning hair during or after pregnancy. [7 is 10] Whatever condition your hair is in, coconut oil may actually help to hydrate and revitalize it. [15 is 17] A study found that applying coconut oil to the hair pre or post-wash was able to reduce protein loss in damaged and undamaged hair follicles. [15is 17]  Shop Biotin to support hair health

What to look out for

When using any product, pay close attention to potential additives and ingredients. Try to use products with pure, virgin, or organic ingredients and stay away from products with a long list of additives or chemicals. It’s also important to know the signs of an allergic reaction. Keep an eye out for hives, red spots or a rash, watery eyes, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc. Always speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about a product, its ingredients, or strange symptoms. 

Important takeaways

  • Coconut oil is 100% fat (majority of which is saturated fat) and only contains traces of different vitamins and minerals.
  • Virgin coconut oil is thought to be safe during pregnancy as well as when breastfeeding.
  • Oil pulling with coconut oil has been associated with improved oral health by reducing plaque and gingivitis. 
  • Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and healing properties when applied topically.
  • Coconut oil may help with cracked or dry skin, wound healing, protein loss in hair, and strengthening the skin barrier.
  • While using a doctor recommended lubricant is recommended, coconut oil may be a safe alternative to lubricant. Just remember to avoid using any oil-based lubricants or products when using latex condoms. 
  • A perineal massage may be useful when preparing for childbirth. Coconut oil, lubricants, almond oil, and other plant based oils may be used to perform perineal massage. 
  • Keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction and be sure to use pure products with no additives. You should alway speak to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. 

 

References

  1. Coconut Oil. The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed May 2023. URL
  2. Dayrit, F.M. The Properties of Lauric Acid and Their Significance in Coconut Oil. J Am Oil Chem Soc 92, 1–15 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11746-014-2562-7
  3. Varma SR, Sivaprakasam TO, Arumugam I, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(1):5-14. Published 2018 Jan 17. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012
  4. Syafputri M, Amir A, Syukur S. Effect of Virgin Coconut Oil on Prolactin Levels and Breast Milk Production in Postpartum Mothers. International Journal of Science and Healthcare Research. Vol.7; Issue: 2; April-June 2022. ISSN: 2455-7587
  5. Ahmed M, Hwang JH, Choi S, Han D. Safety classification of herbal medicines used among pregnant women in Asian countries: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):489. Published 2017 Nov 14. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-1995-6
  6. Naseem M, Khiyani MF, Nauman H, Zafar MS, Shah AH, Khalil HS. Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017;11(4):65-70.
  7. Shanbhag VK. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene - A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;7(1):106-109. Published 2016 Jun 6. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004
  8. Chew YL. The beneficial properties of virgin coconut oil in management of atopic dermatitis. Phcog Rev 2019;13:24-7.
  9. Şahin E, Yildirim F, Büyükkayaci Duman N. Effect of Tea Tree Oil and Coconut Oil on Nipple Crack Formation in the Early Postpartum Period. Breastfeed Med. 2023;18(3):226-232. doi:10.1089/bfm.2022.0260
  10. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. July 2022. URL
  11. Delplanque B, Gibson R, Koletzko B, Lapillonne A, Strandvik B. Lipid Quality in Infant Nutrition: Current Knowledge and Future Opportunities. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2015;61(1):8-17. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000000818
  12. Bogdan C, Moldovan ML, Man IM, Crișan M. Preliminary study on the development of an antistretch marks water-in-oil cream: ultrasound assessment, texture analysis, and sensory analysis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:249-255. Published 2016 Sep 6. doi:10.2147/CCID.S107298
  13. Jesmani, Elahe & Ebrahimzadeh, Samira & Kordi, Masoumeh & Rakhshandeh, Hasan & Mazloum, Seyed & Ghomian, Nayereh. (2019). The effect of Coconut oil ointment on the symptom of Hemorrhoids in pregnant women: Randomized clinical trial. Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility. In Press. 10.22038/ijogi.2019.42679.3902. 
  14. Ugwu, E.O., Iferikigwe, E.S., Obi, S.N., Eleje, G.U. and Ozumba, B.C. (2018), Effectiveness of antenatal perineal massage in reducing perineal trauma and post-partum morbidities: A randomized controlled trial. J. Obstet. Gynaecol. Res., 44: 1252-1258. https://doi.org/10.1111/jog.13640
  15. Abdelhakim, A.M., Eldesouky, E., Elmagd, I.A. et al. Antenatal perineal massage benefits in reducing perineal trauma and postpartum morbidities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int Urogynecol J 31, 1735–1745 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-020-04302-8
  16. Varma SR, Sivaprakasam TO, Arumugam I, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(1):5-14. Published 2018 Jan 17. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012
  17. Rele AS, Mohile RB. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. J Cosmet Sci. 2003;54(2):175-192.

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