“The day I learnt that I was pregnant was the happiest day of my life” said Jayshree Sreedharan, an IT professional working in Kochi, “ I was also determined to give my baby a head start in life by opting for totally natural healthcare during my pregnancy.” Jayshree decided to do what her women in her family have been doing for generations- they have all followed an Ayurvedic practices for pre-natal care.
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old system of holistic healing, has a well-documented regimen for the care of expectant mothers, called Garbini Parichaya. It prescribes practices and special diet for each month and stage of pregnancy. Jayashree consulted a well known vaidya or Ayurvedic physician near her hometown of Kottayam in Kerala. He explained to her the basic guidelines for an easy delivery that had to be followed during the nine months of pregnancy.
Guidelines for Easy Delivery
The vaidya explained to Jayashree that during the first three months of pregnancy, the fetus is in a formative stage and is nourished directly by ‘upsnehan’ or percolation; therefore, a mother-to-be should take plenty of liquids as well as fruits with a high juice content, coconut water, and milk. Ayurveda considers milk an ideal constituent in the diet of pregnant women as it is a source of calcium, lactose and butter fat. Milk also has moderate amounts of protein with anabolic properties that impart strength. While milk and a light diet is recommended during the first month, in the second and third months, milk medicated with life-building herbs such as Vidari, Shatavari or Asparagus, Yashtimadhu or Licorice and Brahmi, which helps in calming the nerves, are prescribed along with honey and ghee.
Supplements and Massage
From the fourth to the seventh month, medicinal supplements such as Ashwagandha, Kraunch beej and Guduchi are given to strengthen the uterine muscles and also to nourish the embryo. From the fifth month onwards, medicated oils can be applied along with gentle massage that is followed by a bath with lukewarm water. This can be continued till delivery.
By the seventh month, fetal growth is complete. Fetal organs are well formed and acquire strength by the sixth and seventh months. Skin, hair and nails are also noticed at this stage. Medicated ghee is recommended as a nutritional supplement to the diet. The embryo now gets its nourishment through the umbilical cord, and rice milk, butter and ghee along with fruits and leafy vegetables are recommended. According to Ayurveda, pregnancy is the time to consume nutritional food substances like urad dal and amla.
Fat, salt and water should be reduced in the diet from the seventh month onwards. Rice kanji with ghee is a recommended diet. Small amounts of basil can be taken as anti-spasmodic. Herbs such as Gokshura and Sariba, which are mild diuretics and urinary antiseptics, can also be taken. Ghrita preparations or medicated ghee preparations can be taken from the first month of pregnancy, as they help in easy delivery of the baby.
During the eighth month most women experience constipation. This is the time when yastimadhu and satavari should be consumed regularly and the use of dried grapes is also beneficial. During pregnancy, a women’s calcium needs go up, so least 2-3 servings calcium-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, raisins, soybeans, dates, guava and oranges should be taken every day. Interestingly, the suggested Ayurvedic diet correlates to modern nutrition recommended for pregnant women such as high protein, vitamins and minerals.
The vaidya explained to Jayashree that when you are pregnant, you need a lot of emotional support along with physical care. You should not harbour any negative thoughts such as sorrow, grief, anger, fear and doubt. These hamper the mental and physical growth of the fetus. As far as physical care is concerned, she was advised to refrain from sitting on hard surfaces, sitting for long hours, travelling, lifting heavy weights, walking long distances or doing any tedious activity. With the vaidya’s expert guidance, her family’s loving support – and of course Ayurveda’s natural and gentle yet strength-giving regimen, Jayashree can confidently look forward to a trouble free pregnancy, smooth delivery, and the totally soul satisfying joys of motherhood.