Ayurveda states that the “Prakruti” or constitution is determined at the moment of conception. Among all the standard do’s and don’ts of pregnancy Ayurveda throws in a few things that may actually feel very intuitive. I like to think that the practice of Ayurveda in itself is that of strengthening one’s sense of intuition. When a woman becomes pregnant, she is no longer caring only for herself. There is herself, and the self that is becoming a new being within the walls of her womb. She may start to feel the most in – tune with her body during pregnancy, especially if this sense of body awareness is new.
The Charaka Samhita states among other fascinating perspectives on the development of the fetus that there are in fact specific organs that are developed from the mother versus the father. The text also states that there are 5 contributing factors to the embryo’s formation including the mother, father, soul, wholesome regime, and rasa.
Rasa refers to how nutritious the food that the mother is taking in. Western science and midwives recognize the importance of this factor as well. A wholesome regime means that the pregnant woman is taking in beauty, peace, and harmonious actions through all 5 senses (Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight, and Sound.) As in all Ayurvedic treatments, the practitioner works through the 5 senses with the patient to modify any disharmonious actions into harmonious ones. In regards to the soul, Ayurveda relates the act of creation of a new being to that of the creation of the universe, through this act the soul is united with the body. Sankhya philosophy describes this union as Purusha (Consciousness) joining with Prakriti (matter) and becoming Jiva (a living being).
In Ayurveda, the body’s transformation into pregnancy is cared for by consuming Vata-reducing foods. Vata is the dosha governed by the elements Air and Ether. To counteract and ground these elements precautions are taken so that the mother does not end up with a Vata imbalance (anxiety, excessive fear, constipation, irregular habits) Ayurveda encourages taking in nutrient-dense, warm, and grounding foods. In this case, the mother takes in foods well-spiced (not spicey).
Spices to try: Fennel, Cumin, Thyme, Dill, Cardamom, Cinnamon, and Coriander.
Common naturally occurring ailments of pregnancy and their Ayurvedic herbal/dietary/lifestyle remedies.
It is always best to check with your provider/midwife before starting a new herb or practice during pregnancy.
Heartburn: licorice or other demulcents like marshmallow root. Foods that exacerbate heartburn should be avoided like raw onion, and excessive sour foods, heavy oily foods.
Swelling: Traditional approach is to administer an enema if in the late stage of pregnancy. Enemas would be contraindicated in 1st or 2nd trimester. The colon is considered the seat of Vata, by allowing the proper flow of prana to resume, some women may find relief.
Anxiety: Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Tulsi are three wonderful nervine adaptogens and are all generally considered safe in pregnancy.
Constipation: Demulcent herbs like licorice root, marshmallow root, and small amounts of fresh ginger (fresh ginger only in 2nd and 3rd trimesters) can be taken as a decoction tea. Constipation can be caused by multiple factors during pregnancy. The uterus has expanded quite a bit depending on what stage of pregnancy an individual is in, even in the beginning stages it starts taking up more space than normal. This puts pressure on the other organs so by the time you are in your third trimester there is not a whole lot of room left for the stomach and intestines, everything is getting just a tad squished. This is one reason the ancient texts in Ayurveda suggest keeping the diet composed of warm foods that are liquid in nature like gruel and bone broth soups.
Headaches: if you are experiencing frequent and intense headaches you should seek medical advice. For the occasional headache, always check your hydration. Headaches in pregnancy can be due to dehydration, hormone surges, pressure from the growing baby and uterus, and or stress.
- Stress reduction practices like Shirodhara Therapy. This treatment consists of an hour-long steady stream of warm oil on the third eye. This therapy is typically called for when someone may have excessive thoughts in the mind. Particularly in the third trimester as your body starts to prepare for your newborn infant. The mind is always on high alert. This is natural but can lead to difficulty sleeping. Receiving even just one Shirodhara treatment can help settle the nervous system.
Immune System Function (Ojas):
Ojas is likened to your ability to withstand the world, it is a direct reflection of how well your immune system is functioning. Often times individuals with low ojas also have a Vata imbalance. During the 8th month of pregnancy Charaka Samhita states the ojas become unstable causing the mother to experience “wavering feelings of joy and sorrow” Now anyone who has been through pregnancy or been around a pregnant woman knows that the fluctuation through the emotional roller coaster, up and down can be very difficult to navigate for yourself and those close to you. During the development of ojas in the fetus, there is an instability that occurs by the ojas moving back and forth between the fetus and the mother through the umbilical cord. I happened to read this passage in the text while in my 8th month of pregnancy, and oh what clarity it has brought just knowing there is a further explanation for the insanity. Chyvanprash can be taken from 2nd trimester on. Chyvanprash is a nutritive jam consisting of many herbs known in Ayurveda to boost brain, metabolic, and immune system health.
One of the most common dilemmas my patients come across is stressing over doing everything right or feeling like they are failing because they are not checking all the “boxes” in life. If you find yourself feeling this way in your pregnancy know that it is much more important to first reduce the stress.
- Identify your stressors and identify what changes are possible/realistic to make.
- Reduce responsibilities/lighten your load/ask for help.
- Lower your standards/high expectations for yourself so you can move from a place of joy and love for you and your baby.
- Do not accept judgment from others or even yourself.
- Choose something nourishing to do for yourself, you are about to embark on a journey where you will most likely come second. A lot of parents, especially mothers, struggle with choosing themselves over their children for many years.
Remember to be gentle and kind to yourself and allow others to care for you. This is your first step to attaining your healthful pregnancy and postpartum journey.