Ayurvedic Guide to Pregnancy & Early Motherhood
Date Posted:11 March 2011
Dr. Kumuda Reddy has been practicing medicine for over twenty-five years. Originally trained as an anesthesiologist, she is currently the Medical Director of the Maharishi Vedic Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Reddy is the author of several books, including Forever Healthy and For a Blissful Baby: Happy and Healthy Pregnancy through Maharishi Ayurveda. We asked her to speak about the role of Maharishi Ayurveda in helping mothers have a comfortable, healthy pregnancy.
Q: How does Maharishi Ayurveda differ from the conventional approach to pregnancy?
A: In conventional medicine, the mother is given a pregnancy test and also the blood pressure, pulse rate, and weight are checked. Then she is advised to eat a generally healthy diet and to take prenatal vitamins. However, this prenatal diet doesn't give any specific recommendations for maintaining a happy and healthy pregnancy. In Maharishi Ayurveda, it is understood that pregnancy is a time when everything the pregnant mother tastes, sees, touches, hears, and smells should be nourishing to the mother and child. There are very specific recommendations to bring about a state of balance in the consciousness, mind, body, behaviour, and environment of the pregnant woman.
Q: What does Maharishi Ayurveda recommend for the pregnant woman's diet?
A: The Vedic texts recommend sattvic foods, which means pure, easily digested foods that nourish the dhatus (tissues) of mother and the unborn child. These include foods such as milk, rice, wheat, and ghee (clarified butter), fresh vegetables, fruits and grains. Sattvic foods do not cause constipation or indigestion, and they create a more settled state of mind. These foods help the mother enjoy ideal health and vitality, and also help with the growth of the baby. Maharishi Ayurveda Vata Churna is a convenient way to add Vata-balancing spices to your diet, and Apple, Mango and Peach Chutneys can help balance cravings. Vata Tea or Worry Free Tea can be sipped through the day to help balance the mind and emotions.
Q: What other techniques bring balance to the mother and unborn child?
A: Techniques such as abhyanga, the Ayurvedic oil massage are recommended for the mother. Mothers who do this once a day, on arising, find that they feel more evenness, more balance, more energy throughout the day. The massage and other techniques balance Vata dosha (the mind-body operator that governs movement and many mental functions), so the mother feels more steady, more even, less anxious. There is more happiness, even in the body itself, and more balance in the entire nervous system. Feelings of agitation, depression, or sorrow dissolve. I recommend the Moisturizing Massage Oil (VATA). In the summer, replace Moisturizing Massage Oil with the Soothing Massage Oil (PITTA).
In Maharishi Ayurveda it has been recognized for thousands of years that the mother must be very happy and feel harmony with nature during pregnancy. For this, various strategies have been recognized. One is the social environment, which means that the family tries to keep her happy, especially the husband. The ayurvedic tradition says:
"Let her hear good news, let her hear harmonious music, let her eat sweet foods, let her attend monthly celebrations to always keep her uplifted and nourished"
These things will bring the happiness in.
Q: What happens if the mother isn't happy?
A: Modern research shows that if there is grief, sorrow, or depression, those negative emotions definitely affect the growth of the baby. The baby could be born with lower birth-weight, the baby could be less happy. If the mother is very stressed, this can also contribute to low-birth-weight baby.
When the mother is not as happy or settled during pregnancy, the newborn child experiences more colic, more crying, more sleep problems. In extreme Vata imbalance, the child might develop dry skin, hyperactivity, or musculo-skeletal problems while growing. The time to nip imbalances in the bud is during pregnancy, as it is much easier to correct it then. And most importantly, it is imperative to prevent so much suffering.
Q: What other techniques are recommended for bringing balance in pregnancy?
A: The Transcendental Meditation technique is a profound way for pregnant mothers to reduce stress, experience deep rest, and bring balance to all the doshas. When there is balance in the nervous system of the mother, the baby spontaneously grows in a very happy and healthy way. If the mother is not calm and rested, there could be discomfort as the baby grows, or the child could be overly active in the womb. Or other complications could develop, such as fluid retention, high blood pressure, or spotting during pregnancy. The idea of Maharishi Ayurveda is to prevent these problems and to bring the holistic value to life to the mother and child.
Q: It sounds as though Maharishi Ayurveda considers pregnancy to be a serious responsibility.
A: Yes, the newborn is such a important divine creature, such a precious individual. You don't want to compromise his capacity for growth, his capacity for perfection, or his capacity to contribute to the world. The ideal of Maharishi Ayurveda is to develop perfect individuals, and thus to create a perfect and ideal society. The ideal is to make every baby a cosmic baby who is in tune with nature, who will bring perfection and happiness to the world. In Maharishi Ayurveda the health of the unborn child should never be compromised. The mother must take care of herself, and in taking care of herself, she takes care of the child.
Q: What is the unique contribution of Maharishi Ayurveda to the postpartum mother?
A: In Western medicine, the typical mother gives birth, stays in the hospital between 24 and 48 hours, and then is on her own. In modern medicine we do recognize that it takes six weeks for tissues to recover from childbirth, and consequently the mother usually returns to the hospital for a six-week check-up. But otherwise, there is literally no support for the healthy mother who does not have a medical condition.
In contrast, Maharishi Ayurveda focuses on the revitalization of every mother through specific diet, rejuvenation techniques, and rest.
There is a recognition in Maharishi Ayurveda that even the healthiest of mothers can experience enormous postpartum fatigue and stress. A first-time mother, especially, is facing the transition into motherhood with all of its tremendous responsibilities and joys just when she feels most exhausted and depleted. The principle of Maharishi Ayurveda is that if you help the mother rejuvenate, if you "mother the mother," then she can care for her newborn with joy and ease instead of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. She can be a better mother.
Q: What are some of the problems that can crop up if a mother doesn't receive the rest and care she needs?
A: Postpartum depression and fatigue are well known in modern life, and the traditional treatments of Maharishi Ayurveda are designed to avoid this.
If the recovery is not complete, if the mother is left feeling fatigued and exhausted, then this unfortunate state becomes the ground of future disease and discomfort. When the body is not recovered properly, it can manifest as chronic fatigue, stress, hemorrhoids, irritability, depression, digestive problems, and other chronic disorders.
Many intelligent women are able to trace their chronic health problems to the time they gave birth. Often women tell me, "This whole condition -- feeling unhappy and tired all the time, never feeling well--started with the birth of my child.
Maharishi Ayurveda prevents this kind of crack from developing in the physiology. And, in fact, many mothers who follow these simple procedures say that they feel even better than before they were pregnant.
Q: Can you describe some of the treatments?
A: First of all there is the diet. The mother's digestion is usually very weak after giving birth. Foods must be easily digestible, yet very nourishing. Rice, warm vegetable soups, milk and Ghee (clarified butter) are all part of the postpartum diet. Yet it is very specific, because certain Vata-producing vegetables will cause gas, and will show up in the baby as colic. So those foods must be avoided.
Then there is the environment. The mother needs lots of rest, so ideally other family members or neighbors should cook her meals and clean her home for the first six weeks. The mother and baby need a quiet, unstimulating, protected environment during the first few weeks after the birth of the baby.
Q: What else do you recommend?
A: A daily ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) is also a powerful way to rejuvenate the mother. There are trained technicians who will come to the home, massage the mother, give her some herbal tea to drink, and draw her a warm bath. After even a week of ayurvedic massage therapy, the mothers feel remarkably revitalized. The aches, pains, and imbalances start to subside. Instead, a feeling of relaxation and wholeness takes over.
Q: What does Maharishi Ayurveda offer the modern working mother?
A: In my own patients I see that many women have to return to work after six weeks, so it's very important for the woman to be on her feet to take care of the child and family as needed before she returns to work. Maharishi Ayurveda is the only thing I know of to do this.
Q: How does this program of nurturing the mother affect the baby?
A: The connection between mother and baby is very strong. Therefore, the mother's diet, mood, and emotions affect the baby. If the mother is feeling well, the baby feels well. It's so important that the mother be happy and healthy, for then the baby will be happy and healthy, and will have the, best possible start in life.