GARBHASANSKAR - An Ayurvedic View On Pregnancy & Motherhood

Charak samhita states-
'Evam kurvati hi arogya-bala-varna-samvahana-sampadam upetam jnatinam shreshtam apatyam janayati'

If a pregnant woman is taken care of as advised, she will give birth to a child who does not have any diseases - a healthy, physically strong, radiant and well nourished baby. He will be superior to all in the race.

Ancient Indian medicine has recognized the need for the mental, spiritual and physical preparation of the mother-to-be for the momentous event of childbirth. Ayurveda describes this theory as "Supraja janan" or eu-maternity. This "Supraja janan", as conceptualised in Ayurveda, involves the preparation of the couple planning pregnancy, three months prior to conception. Pregnancy should be by choice, and not by chance. The beginning is by pinda shuddhi or the purification of the gametes (sperm and ovum). If the couple is not in a state of mental stability and calmness, even if they are physically fit, they cannot give birth to a healthy child. This mental calmness and stability ("Sattva Guna") of mind is closely related to ones food habits and many other factors. Abstinence from spicy foods and addictive substances is advised.

It is now universally proven that the foetus is not just a mindless mass of flesh, but a highly responsive and evolving human being, capable of receiving, understanding and responding to external stimuli. It, therefore, follows that the foetus has a right to receive positive and enriching feedback or garbha sanskar.

As we can see from this article, the wealth of ancient Ayurvedic wisdom included the holistic principles of safe and healthy motherhood. Its goals were the same as our modern obstetric physicians

» proper formation of the embryo,
» fetal development without anomalies,
» a comfortable full-term pregnancy,
» a timely and non-traumatic delivery,
» and maintenance of the health of the mother.

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. There are very specific recommendations to bring about a state of balance in the consciousness, mind, body, behavior, and environment of the pregnant woman.

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. 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.

When the Vata dosha is in balanceed state(the mind-body operator that governs movement and many mental functions), 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. In Ayurvedic 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.

There is another major problem many women of today's world are forced to face. This is the problem of depression, which can occur during pregnancy and also after delivery. Depression, if neglected during pregnancy can lead to serious trouble during postpartum period. Parent counseling is very much necessary to avoid this. According to ayurveda, this is due to the imbalance of vata dosha. The vata dosha should be treated carefully during pregnancy. Yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, mantra chanting, and pacifying herbs, and panchakarma are the different means which help to control depression. The medicines, i.e., the herbs which are used to treat depression act on vitiated vata dosha. These herbs pacify the mind, give strength to mind, and help the brain to think rationally.

Beej shudhi:

Any disease or uterine abnormality must be cleared up before the pregnancy to ensure optimal health for the child. Any infections or venereal diseases in the man must be cleared as well before conception. Through a practice known as pancha karma, both partners take measures to make sure that their bodies are brought into balance

kaal-proper timing:

Ayurveda teaches that proper timing for conception is essential to avoid imbalances being passed on in the child. Specific body constitutions should conceive their child at specific times of the year: For those with Vata constitution, summer and spring is recommended for conception. Kapha parents should conceive in the fall and Pitta parents should conceive in the winter. A couple should never make love during an eclipse, especially for conception purposes.

Conceiving the Child

Ayurveda teaches that making love to conceive a child is a sacred act, so intercourse to conceive a child should be focused on a time when a "wished result" will occur. Excessive intercourse is believed to weaken the life force of the parents, which can in turn cause the child to have a weakened immune system. Too much sex is said to also cause a diminished sperm count, which is counterproductive.

During the lovemaking process, the desired child should be visualized. The surroundings in the room should reflect qualities that the couple wishes the child to have. The couple's emotional state should reflect love and peacefulness. Neither partner should be angry, grieving or in love with someone else. Ayurveda teaches that any of these mental states may block conception or negatively affect the development of the child-to-be.

The most "balanced" position for a couple to conceive a child is with the woman positioned on her back. Any drugs or alcohol used during conception are believed to directly affect the well-being of the child. The woman must make sure that she has not fasted or overeaten; nor should she be thirsty.

masanumasik: monthwise medication and lifestyle guidance:

• Specific Ayurvedic treatment for each month of pregnancy.
• Treatment for various illnesses during pregnancy, e.g. hypertension, diabetes, hyperacidity, fever, urinary infection, etc.
• Extensive guidance regarding diet during pregnancy
• Panchakarmas during pregnancy.
• Garbh-sanskara - Guidance for physical, emotional, intellectual development of baby which includes meditation, therapy with music, chanting of mantra.
• Parent counseling - For birth of intellectually and physically healthy baby, counseling and treatment for couples before conception

: 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.

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.

Ayurvedic Medicine considers pregnancy to be a serious responsibility.

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 Ayurvedic Medicine 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 Ayurvedic Medicine 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. Antenatal care means the care to be taken during pregnancy each month. In Ayurveda, it is called as Masanumasiki chikitsa. The word masanumasiki means month-to-month treatment. According to Ayurveda, there is different medicinal treatment for each month of pregnancy. Thus there are 9 different groups of medicines i.e. herbs for each month of pregnancy. If there are vitiated doshas, these should be purified with the help of panchakarmas. Then only, the couple is suitable for conception. This purification is called pindshuddhi. After conception, oral medication is started according to the month of pregnancy. As per Ayurvedic concepts, in each month a separate dhatu (body building substance) is formed in the body of baby. To help this dhatu to grow in normal way, medication is started. E.g. in the fifth month of pregnancy, the intellect of the baby begins to develop. In sixth month, it gets sharper. So, specific medicines which act on the intellect are given to the mother in fifth and sixth month. Medicinal treatment is not the only thing which is stressed upon in Ayurveda. Apart from treating the course of normal pregnancy, different illnesses which may occur can also be treated with Ayurveda. Hypertension (high blood pressure) in pregnancy which is very common now a days, hyperacidity, excessive vomiting, diabetes in pregnancy, edema, premature birth, intrauterine growth retardation are some of the problems in pregnancy which can be treated and prevented with the help of Ayurveda.

Regarding diet, pregnant lady should eat satvik food (which is not very hot, spicy, sour, or which does not vitiate the doshas), like milk, ghee, rice, wheat, and fresh and homemade food. Furthermore, diet should be planned according to individual prakruti (constitution). To know your prakruti and get appropriate diet consult, email at info@swasthyaayurved.com , mukundauti@gmail.com

One may wonder if panchakarma could be done during pregnancy. The answer is yes, and, there are some panchakarmas like basti that are mandatory. Mild panchakarmas could be done to treat some illnesses during the pregnancy. As mentioned above, body of the mother should be cleansed even before conception.

When the baby is growing in the womb, it is exposed to emotional and physiological changes of mother and her surrounding. In Ayurveda, the importance of proper behavior of the couple before and after conception is emphasized. The couple should stop consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or other harmful substances like tea coffee, fastfood, wafers. The couple should have affection and respect for each other. Garbhasanskar is done in order to make the atmosphere blissful. Part of this is done with listening to different ragas in classical indian music and some mantras for baby development.

There is another major problem many women of today's world are forced to face. This is the problem of depression, which can occur during pregnancy and also after delivery. Depression, if neglected during pregnancy can lead to serious trouble during postpartum period. Parent counseling is very much necessary to avoid this. According to ayurveda, this is due to the imbalance of vata dosha. The vata dosha should be treated carefully during pregnancy. Yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, mantra chanting, and pacifying herbs, and panchakarma are the different means which help to control depression. The medicines, i.e., the herbs which are used to treat depression act on vitiated vata dosha. These herbs pacify the mind, give strength to mind, and help the brain to think rationally.

This is just an outline of antenatal care. This is a vast subject and every point can be elaborated to great lengths
Rules concerning diet, activities, behavior and mental activity (ahar, vihar, achar and vichar respectively) are also laid down

garbhini paricharya:

General Rules from Inception of Pregnancyto Delivery
The mother-to-be should -
• Always try to be in a happy mood
• Be clean, neat and well dressed
• Wear simple clothes
• Sleep under a roof in a clean environment (not infested with insects such as mosquito's etc.)

The food she eats should be tasty, more of it should be in a liquid form, moist, nourishing, enriched with all the six rasas (tastes) and treated by deepan drugs which are known to increase appetite and digestive power.

She should always avoid -
• Excessive sex particularly during early and late pregnancy
• Overeating or fasting
• Sleeping during the day time and staying up late at night
• Tight clothes and tight belts
• Witnessing or listening to things which give rise to feelings of sorrow, anger, horror or agony
• Travelling in a vehicle on rough roads
• Squatting for a long time or sitting in an uncomfortable position or on a hard surface
• Lifting heavy things or remaining in a bending position for a long time
• Oleation massage etc. unless positively indicated
• Beholding natural urges unless in an emergency
• Dry, stale, fermented, heavy, hot or strong food, alcohol and meat (fish is allowed)
• Visiting abandoned and remote places
• Leaning into a deep well.
• Not touch or contact maimed or deformed persons
• Avoid long walks
• Not indulge in anger, fright, or other agitating emotions
• Refrain from the use of cosmetics and constant cleaning of the body

1st trimester:

During the first trimester, stress is laid on stabilizing the pregnancy and nurturing the uterine bed through rasa and rakta dhatus. The embryo gets nourishment directly by percolation (upsnehan). Hence more jaleeya (liquid) substances such as juicy fruits, coconut water, milk, and so on are advocated. In the first month, sipping cold milk and maintaining a light diet, and during the next two months, the intake of milk medicated with herbs like Vidari, Shatavari, Yasthimadhu, Brahmi and so on, which are jeevaneeya (life-building) and garbhasthapak (helping nidation) are advocated. Honey and ghee are also recommended. Daurudh:By the end of the third month, the body parts of the foetus become differentiated, sensory perceptions and motor reactions start developing, the heart starts beating, and is said to express its desires through the mother's blood. This is the period when the woman craves for certain foods/flavours. The needs of both the foetus and the mother are identical. Hence, Ayurved recommends that her cravings be fulfilled as far as possible, if not contraindicated. Brahmi helps in calming the nerves and is also a good prajasthapan (sustainer of pregnancy). From the fourth to the seventh month, drugs, which give strength to the uterine muscles and nourishment to the embryo, are advised e.g. Ashwagandha, Kraunch beej and Guduchi. They help to prevent intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Nourishment starts through the umbilical cord by the kedar kulya method. The diet should be one of rice, milk, butter and gee. Fruits which are orange or yellow in color are advocated such as mangoes, apples, carrots, amalaki etc. Leafy vegetables are also advised. During the seventh month, the abdominal skin gets stretched giving rise to itching and striations, which are, called kikkis. This should be treated by taking sips of the infusion of berries or butter medicated with Manjistha, the application of the pulp of sandalwood and lotus or of a paste made of Neem, basil and Manjistha, or oil medicated with Karveer leaves or jasmine. From the seventh month onwards, there should be less fat, less salt and less water in the diet rice kanji with a little ghee is advocated. After the completion of the seventh month, herbs, which are mild diuretics and urinary antiseptics such as Gokshuru and Sariva, are advocated. Basil in small quantities is advised; it is also anti-spasmodic. As soon as the pregnant woman enters the ninth month, she is supposed to move to the Sootikagar (delivery area) which is specially prepared for delivery. After an asthapan basti (simple enema), she should undergo anuvasan basti (retention enema of oil boiled with some herbs) which may be repeated. Tampons soaked in the same oil are kept in the vagina to make the pelvis soft and elastic, and enhance the excretory functions of apan, vayu (urination, defecation) and expulsion of the foetus. The skin and nails become soft, and her strength and complexion are rejuvenated. Spotting of blood during any month of pregnancy is considered to be serious and should be dealt with as advocated under Masanumasik Chikitsa, which describes the treatment month wise. Even three thousand years ago, thus, Ayurved had stressed the importance of safe motherhood. It aims at excellence in the formation of the foetus, its development without anomalies, a comfortable full term delivery, and maintenance of the health of the mother. Today, with a better understanding of the physio-pathological processes and the advancement of allied sciences, we have put together a safe motherhood program for women in the form of a package namely, combating anemia, immunization of the mother, regular antenatal check up to detect any pathology in the foetus or the mother, to predict the course of delivery and, take appropriate interventions if necessary, and finally, the delivery by a trained person. But, if we really wish to bring down maternal mortality in a big way, the Ayurved approach can certainly contribute in a significant manner. Some areas where integration can be thought of are - : Postpartum depression and fatigue are well known in modern life, 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. : 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.