You may be familiar with Ayurveda as a means for self-care and self-understanding. However, for those who wish to apply Ayurveda for family health, you may be curious about Ayurveda for pregnancy and childbirth. How can Ayurveda help guide expectant parents through a healthy pregnancy and childbirth? Ayurveda for pregnancy and childbirth is an expansive and deep topic. Here we will take an introductory look at some general principles when it comes to Ayurveda for pregnancy and childbirth.
Purification Versus Tonification
In Ayurveda, foods and herbs are broadly viewed as tonifying (strengthening) or purifying. Tonifying, nourishing foods will tend to increase Kapha dosha , whereas purifying foods will tend to increase Vata dosha. Purifying foods and herbs play an important role. For those with signs of ama (undigested food matter/toxins), purifying or reducing foods and herbs are generally advisable. Also, there are certain times of year in which it is appropriate to have a relatively purifying diet. For instance, the transitions into both spring and fall are good times to engage in a kitchari cleanse. The depths of winter, on the other hand, are not a good time for cleanses and purifying foods.
On the other hand, Ayurveda suggests tonifying foods and herbs for those who are weak and in general for Vata individuals. Also, building and strengthening foods and herbs are suitable for cold climates and cold times of year.
A Time For Nourishment
When it comes to Ayurveda for pregnancy and childbirth, it is best to focus on nourishment. It is fine to engage in cleansing practices and to enjoy more purifying foods and herbs prior to conception. However, for the best outcomes for mother and child, it is best to focus on strengthening and nourishing during pregnancy and postpartum. Ayurvedic practitioner, author, and scholar Dr. David Frawley (2000) suggests a mild nutritive diet during pregnancy, as well as avoiding extremely hot and bitter herbs and spices. Also, herbs that are purgatives or that strongly promote elimination and menstruation are to be avoided or used with extreme caution(1).
Ayurveda For Pregnancy And Childbirth: General Guidelines
With a focus on nourishing the body and mind, Ayurveda recommends these practices for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
It is common for women in the modern world to work until very close to delivery time. However, it is best to monitor one’s work and stress levels and to do what one is able to not become overly worked, stressed, or depleted. This is true on a physical and emotional level.
Emphasize positive impressions.
While it is always good to focus on settings, interactions, and activities that promote a sattvic state, this is even more true during pregnancy and postpartum. Traditionally in Ayurveda, the family adorned pregnant women with special jewelry and garments. However, most importantly, expectant mothers should be treated with kindness and consideration and offered the help and support that they need (2).
Focus on nutritive foods and herbs.
As mentioned earlier, very strong, bitter, hot, and purifying herbs should be avoided. On the other hand, certain nutritive herbs are indicated during pregnancy. Among those herbs suggested are shatavari, ashwagandha, bala, and kapikacchu (1). Furthermore, during pregnancy, Ayurveda advises the tonic jam, Chyawanprash, as well as nutritive, sattvic foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, organic dairy, ghee, and ghruta.
Pregnancy and childbirth are essential times. It is always key to have proper health care, nutrition, and guidance during pregnancy and childbirth. These are a few Ayurvedic guidelines to offer the reader food for thought in practicing holistic wellness during pregnancy and childbirth. For more individual guidance, it is wise to seek out an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner to complement your medical team.
(1) Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehenseive Guide. Lotus Press.
(2) Halpern, M. (2012). Clinical Ayurvedic Medicine. California College of Ayurveda.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.