Ayurveda and Pregnancy
According to Ayurveda, pregnancy and delivery can be the most rejuvenating experience of a women’s life, during which every cell of the mother’s body can be transformed. Unfortunately, in the west we did not get that memo and mothers often pay dearly with health concerns after a pregnancy.
During pregnancy, a downward-moving energy called apana vata supports the development of the fetus. When the mother-to-be is balanced, there is enough apana vata to go around. In cases of stress and tiredness, however, the upward-moving vata – called prana vata – has to step in and is redirected downward to support the needs of the baby. Without the prana needed to feel the joy of pregnancy, this can leave the mom exhausted, depleted, tired and even depressed postpartum.
There are 10 classic strategies to be used during pregnancy that can support the health and well-being of mom and baby, and keep the prana and apana vata in balance.
1. Favor Your Cravings. The most important advice is to eat what you naturally desire. Follow a well-balanced diet, with meals including adequate amounts of protein, healthy starch and veggies. Remember, you are eating for two body types, so you should not follow a strict diet for one body type. Honor your unique cravings in moderation, especially after the fourth month when the cravings you experience are more likely those of the baby.
2. Balance Vata. The major theme during pregnancy is to balance vata, the energy of the nervous system. This is best done with a diet of fresh, plant-based, whole or sprouted grains and non-processed foods. Warm, freshly cooked foods with healthy oils of olive, ghee and coconut are good. Avoid eating leftovers as much as possible.
3. Foods to Avoid:
- Hot spicy foods
- Uncooked leafy greens – as they can cause gas.
- Undercooked beans and lentils – which can also cause gas.
- Artificial flavors, preservatives and chemical additives
4. Enjoy These Three Tastes. The three tastes that balance vata are sweet, sour and salty. During pregnancy the sweet taste should be most emphasized, because it is the most sattvic or wholesome for the baby. This includes sprouted breads or those cooked without oils, whole grains, rice, fruits and healthy starches like sweet potatoes, quinoa, cooked beets and carrots. These foods are emphasized on the Winter Grocery List.
5. The Right Milk Does a Baby Good. Drink warm, vat-pasteurized (heated under 135 degrees F), non-homogenized milk with ghee made from grass-fed cows. One cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of ghee twice a day is said to boost immunity and the complexion, or “ojas, ” of the baby.
6. Daily Massage with an Ayurvedic Herbalized Massage Oil. These oils feed the microbiology on the skin, as well as calm the skin-based sensory nervous system of the mom. The calmer the mom, the calmer the baby. This can be self-massage, or an opportunity to get massaged by a loving partner. Gently massage the abdomen and, in the 8th and 9th months, spend extra time on the nipples to prepare for nursing.
7. Five Tips to Conquer Morning Sickness:
1. Roast cardamom seeds, powder them and eat a small pinch through the day.
2. Snack on dry crackers or toast. It helps to always keep a little food in the stomach.
4. Sip tea made of 1/4 tsp. ginger powder and/or fennel seeds and hot water.
5. Try sleeping in a semi-reclined position by putting a pillow between the box spring and the mattress.
8. Get Gentle Daily Exercise. A great way to get this is to walk for 30 minutes each day with slow, deep nasal breathing.
9. Rest Up. In the 8th month, you should get as much rest as possible. This is a delicate time when the subtle nutrient fluid called “ojas” that supports vitality, complexion and immunity is passed between the mother and baby.
10. The MOST important pregnancy principle is to remember to be happy. The partner’s job during this time is to keep the mama-to-be happy. Of course, the mom must practice daily acts of happiness as well. The partner should avoid travel, be home in the evenings and fulfill every desire of the mother-to-be.