Ayurveda has a strong belief that the in utero period lays out a long-lasting foundation for one’s entire life. Thus, it is of great importance that the mother nourishes herself, as well as the baby-to-be during this stage of life. According to Ayurveda, everything the woman feels and does during pregnancy will have an effect on the fetus, which in turn will lay out the little one’s life for years to come. Therefore, in order to have a healthy baby (and beyond), we must first begin with a healthy, balanced mother during pregnancy.
In general, pregnancy as well as the postpartum period is a time where Vata dosha is set off balance due to the incredible amount of changes going on physically, as well as psychologically. It is also a time where Ojas should be at its best, and therefore nourishment should be a main focus for both the mom and the fetus. In terms of the Agni or digestive fire, it typically is in a weakened and variable state during pregnancy and a simple, digestible, sattvic (balanced) diet should be an essential protocol for the mother to be.
From the first day of conception there is a strong interaction between the mother and the fetus. Everything the mom takes in, whether it is a food, thought, emotion, or image has a vital effect on the fetus that will determine the child’s personality and constitution (Prakriti) for years to come. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the mother immerses herself with positive surroundings. This includes loving family support, harmonious music; healthy, sweet foods; soothing aromas, pleasant images and so on. On the contrary, the negative counterparts of these should be avoided.
With the love and support of family and friends, the mother should try to remain as positive and happy as possible during this period. Studies have shown that negative emotions during pregnancy effect the growth of the baby and can lead to low birth weight. It is also said that an overstressed, anxious mom can lead to a colicky, anxious newborn. However, it is not recommended to repress negative emotions that may arise either. Finding a healthy way to process them such as talking them out with a loved one, healthy support systems, daily walks, time in nature, gentle yoga, gentle breath work, and meditation are all great tools that the mother can utilize during pregnancy.
To receive the most personalized care, an expecting mother should seek out a knowledgeable Ayurvedic practitioner in her area. Ayurveda stresses that in all stages of life, we as individuals are very unique and thus the treatment needs to be unique and personalized for each being. This idea should be kept in mind during this ever so important period. However, there are some common guidelines a woman can keep in mind during this time.
An Ayurvedic Diet for Pregnancy
As stated before the Agni (digestive fire) is weakened and Vata is increased, especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of the pregnancy. By following these guidelines, the woman should find a little more ease in her daily life during this time.
- Consume foods that are mild and easy to digest (sattvic)
- Avoid spicy foods
- Maintain regular and consistent eating times
- Avoid leftovers, stale food, and frozen food
- Try to eat whole, organic, fresh cooked foods as much as possible
- Drink 1-2 cups of bone broth each day; click here for a nourishing Bone Broth Recipe
- Avoid over or under eating
- Avoid eating out too much
- Avoid too much raw, cold food
- Favor warm, moist, cooked foods like soups, stews, kitchari and casseroles
- Try to get a balance of all 6 tastes
- Eat a diet rich in a variety of colors
- Eat foods that are tasty, nourishing and delicious
- Use digestive spices in the food such as turmeric, ginger, black pepper, pippali, trikatu, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander and brown mustard seed
- Avoid heavy, dense food and favor more liquid/semi-liquid options
- Ojas building foods include: warm milk, ghee, rice, whole wheat, raisins, dates, almonds, grapes, figs, avocados, mangos, coconut; click here for my Rejuvenating Ojas Drink recipe
- Gentle herbs can be prescribed to help strengthen the digestive fire (see below)
NOTE: Calcium is in great need during this time and increases in the 3rd trimester when the skeleton of the fetus begins to form. Supplements may be recommended as well as increasing dietary calcium. Good food sources include: milk, plain yogurt or kefir, kale, collards, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, molasses, dates, sardines, and salmon.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips for Pregnancy
- Practice a self-oil massage (abhyanga) with warm massage oil upon arising each day or before bed at night; click here for full instructions on the Self-Oil Massage
- Make time for a daily meditation, even if for only a few minutes each day
- Surround yourself with supportive loved ones
- Join a community pre-natal yoga class to bond with other mothers
- Drink warm milk with nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and honey before bed to calm the mind
- Try to get an adequate amount of rest each night; this should be neither in excess or lacking in length
- Find a healthy sleep routine; go to bed around the same time each night (9-10pm) and awaken about the same time each morning (6-7am)
- Try to avoid medications if possible, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy
- Take warm baths with soothing essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, jasmine, or rose
- Gentle yoga and pranayama (without retentions) can be practiced to help ease of pregnancy as well as labor
- If an unusual craving arises, listen to this (unless it may be a harmful craving such as alcohol or cigarettes); Ayurveda believes that this is the consciousness of the fetus coming through and therefore should be fulfilled
Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy
- Excessive exercise
- Excessive hiking or walking
- Weight loss programs
- Tight clothes around the abdomen
- Holding in of bodily urges (flatulence, burps, urination, defecation, etc)
- Day sleeping (aka naps)
- Staying up too late
- Unhealthy diet
- Too much food
- Too little food
- Processed food, preserved food, additives and refined sugars
- Alcohol, caffeine and tobacco
- Too much sex
- Excessive traveling
- Unhealthy, unsupportive relationships (i.e. friends, family, co-workers, partner)
- Disturbing images and surroundings
- Violent movies
- Unhappy emotions
- Repressing emotions
- Sleeping on the back or belly
- Lifting of heavy items
- Bending forward for long periods
- Standing for an excessive amount of time
- Working too much
Ayurvedic Herbs for Pregnancy
Although limited in options, the mother can gain much support and ease through a proper, individualized herbal regimen. Of course, this should be given only with the guidance of a knowledgeable Ayurvedic practitioner. Typical herbs that are appropriate during pregnancy include:
- Ginger (great for morning sickness!)
***Herbs should only be taken in powdered or pill form under the guidance of a knowledgeable herbalist or practitioner. Please do not self-medicate during pregnancy!
A safe and effective way to get your herbal care during pregnancy is through herbal tea infusions. In this sense, most herbs will be safe to take, as herbs have a much milder potency when taken as a tea (compared to the powdered herb in larger dosages). This is great for pregnant women, as they can get some relief for their symptoms without any negative side effects for their baby-to-be.