Ayurveda is an ancient medical science that puts the power of health and healing in your own hands. As a new mother, you can use the principles of Ayurveda to take care of yourself during pregnancy and support the critical recovery period after your baby is born. Here are five ways Ayurvedic practices can help during and after pregnancy.
1. Helps avoid pregnancy complications.
Ayurveda is preventive medicine at its finest. Following an Ayurvedic lifestyle sets a healthy environment for your body. It allows you to fight off early stressors that could cause pregnancy-related complications.
Pregnancy can bring about complications in an otherwise healthy individual. Many women free of any diseases before pregnancy may face pregnancy-induced ailments. Examples of these are hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or cholestasis (a liver condition that triggers itchiness). This happens because stressors accumulate in the body, which creates an environment where ailments can flourish.
Ayurveda understands the causes and influences for dis-ease. Once you recognize these causes in yourself, often in the form of undue stress on the body and mind, you can change them.
Case study: A client of mine had cholestasis in her first pregnancy and was told that there was a 98 percent chance of recurrence in her second. By implementing Ayurvedic practices from 10 weeks' gestation, she was able to beat the odds of potential recurrence and unnecessary induction. She has had a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy.
In practice: Pay attention to your stools and any elimination discomfort that arises. This will give you a sense of the imbalances in your body. Working on these will actually help during the time of delivery.
2. Reduces stress.
Ayurveda encompasses many of the popular forms of stress relief that you hear about every day. Looking at all angles, Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to healing. Pregnancy stress is addressed by working with your senses of sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. Regular practice of Ayurvedic principles provides you with the tools to transform stress into calm, strength, and bliss.
Stress in pregnancy can influence your growing baby. The thoughts that you feel affect the developing mind and consciousness of your baby. Stress creates illnesses in the body and contributes to pregnancy complications. When the body experiences stress, it does not function at its best. It cannot break down food properly, body functions slow down or stop all together, the mind becomes slower and the emotions taxed.
Ayurvedic practices prepare and teach the mind to allow the body to surrender to labor and birth. Yoga, meditation, concentration exercises, and breathing practices are techniques used in Ayurveda. They help to create the mental space to observe your thoughts. This awareness provides the ability to recognize and change negative influences. You can replace the negative feeling with thoughts and practices that have a positive effect.
Case study: In my practice, I had a mom who was battling severe anxiety completely turn things around after starting a regular breath work practice. After doing it for about a week, she said that she was "addicted" to it because it relaxed her.
In practice: Take at least five minutes to reduce stress through meditation. Keep your attention on the breath for those five minutes. The breath and the body are connected, and it's calming for the nervous system when they sync. When we reduce stress, we change the body physiochemically and also support the body to nourish itself.
3. Customized food choices aid in easy digestion.
Ayurveda provides a customized nutritional road map for every unique individual. It outlines the types of foods that benefit you and your baby. Ayurvedic guidelines help increase the chances of better health and decrease common pregnancy-related complications. If your digestion is not optimum, it can affect how well your baby grows and develops in utero, and how smooth your delivery can be.
Our digestive fire is the engine of our body. Through the digestion of food, the body has the ability to use the energy that is formed for action and expression. This happens in every organ, tissue, and molecule in our body. Proper digestion happens when the body can use what it is given to maintain a healthy body and mind.
In practice: Simply replacing any cold food or drinks with warm ones can help with digestion in pregnancy. It allows the body to not do so much work to break down your food and provides a sense of warmth in the body.
4. Prepares the body for birth ...
Ayurveda influences the smooth downward motion of the baby through the birth canal. It helps to soften the tissues and drive the energy in the direction it needs to flow for a healthy birth. Ayurveda allows parts of the entire body to work together during birth.
Labor and delivery receive most of the attention during birth classes. But how does one prepare the body for the experience? Is it strength? Is it endurance? How do you connect your body and mind to allow both surrender and participation in your baby's birth?
Daily prenatal exercises prepare the body to become both strong and supple. This will allow the body to open and help your baby journey through the birth canal.
In practice: Do an oil self-massage every day. You will be surprised on how many levels this simple act of self love will have an effect on you. This compassion can help develop the conversation between yourself and your body, which is of utmost importance during birth. Additionally, many common pregnancy complaints can be minimized with daily oil massage.
5. ... and prepares it for postpartum
Finally, Ayurvedic practices during pregnancy build health and strength in the body for postpartum. This mitigates the immense physical and mental toll childbirth has on a mother. Ayurveda provides a postpartum regimen to balance the hormonal and physical changes that occur. This helps to address the physical demands placed on a mom after birth.
The postpartum period begins with a sudden drop in the corticotrophin-releasing hormone. This is the stress-coping molecule in the body. After birth, the demands are great on a mother's body. While it is trying to heal, it must also provide for a growing human being. The sudden changes in the mother's body result in a deranged movement of energies in the body. It is this imbalance of energies that cause postpartum complications. Examples of these are depression, anxiety, reduced milk supply, and digestive complaints. Specific Ayurvedic practices aim to balance these energetic variations. They create feelings of ease, increased energy, increased milk supply, and normal digestive functioning.
Ultimately, practicing Ayurveda during pregnancy allows you to alleviate common digestive issues, prevents potential complications, reduces stress, and helps you to prepare for the birth and care of your baby.
In practice: The work and effort you put forth towards your health in the prenatal period helps your body prepare for the postpartum time. It will be important for you to sleep when your baby sleeps and leave the to do list to others. This is an example of prioritizing the importance of nurturing your baby by nurturing yourself.
To learn more or get started, here are 5 Simple Ayurvedic Practices to Support Your Pregnancy (PDF) and an audio meditation for stress reduction.