An expecting mother is at her most vulnerable, physically and emotionally, and needs extra care during her pregnancy. Ayurveda and Yoga have a set ofaasanasand dietary recommendations, respectively, catering to the needs of pregnant women and also ensuring the healthy development of the unborn child. Ayurvedic science details nine problems (garbhopadravas) that are faced by pregnant women.
Garbhopadravas or common problems faced by pregnant women:
- Dry mouth
- Urine retention
Ayurvedic solutions to combat these problems:
To combat these problems, Ayurveda prescribes special treatments including massages with herbal oils, enemas and nutritious diets calledgarbhini paricharya, which provide a detailed account of what foods, oils and herbs are to be taken each month. Milk and ghee must be taken during every month of the pregnancy to strengthen the mother’s bones. Gentle massages and bathing in warm water helps in calming the expecting mother’s anxieties and relaxes her nerves.
Extremely spicy foods or foods containing large amounts of oil must be avoided. On the other hand, nutritious food with sufficient levels of calcium and iron can be taken to strengthen the expectant mother’s body and prevent fatigue.
Monthly breakdown of foods to be consumed:
- First month – Foods like milk with sweet herbs, dates and grapes can be taken with during this period. Since nausea is prevalent among some women, foods that are not ‘heavy’ are recommended.
- Second month – The above concoction can be taken along with milk and natural supplements.
- Third month – Honey, milk and ghee can be mixed with milk and natural health supplements along with other foods.
- Fourth month – The same supplement can be taken with milk but ghee must be replaced by butter churned out of pure cow’s milk.
- Fifth month – The previous month’s food supplement regime can be continued. Gentle oil massages with herbal oils and bathing in warm water is to be followed and can be continued till the delivery of the child.
- Sixth month – The previous month’s regime of food supplements and oil massages can be followed.
- Seventh month – As the foetus grows bigger, expecting mothers tend to feel a burning sensation in their lungs or throats. Sometimes, they might feel itchy on their abdomen and breasts. You can reduce the size of the potions of the food but eat more frequently to avoid indigestion problems. Eating something sweet and light with lower oil content is encouraged to ease digestion. Salt intake can be reduced to a minimum.
- Eighth month – Milk and rice can be eaten in a semi-solid or liquid state with ghee in addition to regular diet.
- Ninth month – Along with the diet and food eaten in the ninth month, rice gruel with and ghee can be consumed. For non-vegetarians, the rice gruel can be eaten with meat. However, it is important to avoid excess amounts of oil and spice during every month.
This food regime is based on the age old science of Ayurveda and it is advised to consult a practicing Ayurvedic doctor before following any of the above mentioned steps.
Yoga for prenatal care:
Practicing Yoga during pregnancy strengthens the mother’s spinal cord and pelvic muscles and ensures oxygen rich blood circulation to the unborn child. Most importantly, it helps the mother relax, and prevents complications during the birth and ensuring the delivery of a safe and healthy child. Yoga makes pregnant women more flexible and even ensuring that the birth is normal.
One of the most recommended Yogaaasanas for pregnant women ispranaayama, which is a breathing exercise. A pregnant woman tends to feel fatigued often and practicingpranayaamais one way she can feel energetic. Apart from creating a sense of calm in the expecting mother’s mind,pranayaamaalso helps remove toxins from the body. Filling the body with oxygen, thisaasana helps prevent anxiety, which is a common emotion among pregnant women.
There are variouspranayamaexercises that one can do. Some types ofpranayama that can be done during pregnancy are:
Bhramari pranayama/ bee breath – This is a form of breathing exercise that can be used to calm one’s mind and helps to focus. To do thisaasana, you have to inhale and while exhaling, make a buzzing sound. This can be done up to seven times in one sitting.
Baddha Konasana/ butterfly pose – This is considered to be the easiestaasanaofpranayamaand is particularly effective for pregnant women as it helps avoiding complications during birth. Thisaasana involves sitting on the floor with the soles of each feet touching each other and clutch the big toe of each leg with your thumb and index finger. This pose can be held for a maximum of five minutes and it is important to inhale and exhale while doing this.
Ujjayi/ ocean breath/ victory breath – Another simpleaasana which involves breathing in slowly through your nose, filling your lungs with air entirely and exhaling. A hissing sound must be made when you breathe in and out.
Dirgha pranayama/ three part breath/complete breath – As the name suggests, thisaasana, breaks down breathing into three parts – high breathing, mid- breathing and low-breathing.
Other yogaaasanas to do trimester wise:
First trimester– During this period of time, the foetus is at its most sensitive stage and in the need of utmost protection. Someaasanas that can be practiced during this period are:
Tadasana/ mountain pose – This pose involves standing erect on your toes while clasping your palms together and titling your head back. This pose can be held for ten seconds and you must breathe in and out while doing this. Practicing this pose helps in avoiding back aches and helps the expectant mother to relax.
Majariasana/ cat pose – To perform this pose, you have to get down on all fours and hold the pose for 30 to 90 seconds based on your capacity. This should be done while breathing in and out simultaneously. A word of caution, this pose must not be practiced after 26 weeks into pregnancy. Benefits of this pose includes, improved blood circulation and strengthening of shoulders.
Shavasana/ corpse pose – This pose is done to relax your body by lying down on your back and closing your eyes after otherasanas. However, you must lie on your side during you trimester.
Second trimester –This is when the foetus grows, so the expecting mother feels heavier and her movements are restricted or become slower to some extent and it is important not to strain your body while doing yoga or any activity. Some poses to do during this trimester are:
Virbhadrasana/ warrior pose – To do this pose; you must stand erect while your right knee is bent forward. Your hands must be held over your head and palms touching each other. This pose can be held for ten seconds while breathing regularly.
Utthanasana - Doing thisaasana helps in improving muscle strength and also prepares the body for childbirth as the uterus is exercised. To practice this pose, one must stand with each foot about a meter apart and hold your hands together while squatting slowly and rising up.
Vajrasana – Practicing thisaasana can help relieve in digestion problems and increases the blood supply to the pelvic region. To do this pose, you must kneel and place your toes together and heel apart. Your back and head must be erect during thisaasana and your hands must be placed on your knees with your palms facing upward.
Third trimester –This is the period when the foetus attains maximum growth and gains more weight. It is important for the expecting mother to take all the necessary steps to ensure that there is healthy maturing of the foetus. Someaasanas to do during this period are:
Utkatasana – Thisaasanamainly comprises of breathing and stretching, thereby preparing your body for contractions. Stand with your back against the wall while your arms are perpendicular to the floor. Bend your knee till your torso is perpendicular to your thighs. Return to the standing position after sixty seconds.
Trikonasana/ Triangle pose – This pose helps in easing childbirth as it improves flexibility in the pelvic region and hips. To do this pose, stand erect and spread your legs. Bend towards your left side while lifting your right hand up, simultaneously. Tilt your head to look at your right hand . This position can be held for about ten seconds.
Upavistha Konasana– Thisaasanais helpful in opening up the hip joints, thereby making childbirth relatively easier. Sit on the floor with your back erect and spread your legs while leaning on your hands. Press your hand on the floor and spread your legs a little more.
Practicing yoga during pregnancy has a range of benefits for the mother and the unborn child. However, it is advisable to consult your doctor before beginning yoga and if they give you the go-ahead, it is mandatory to practice them under the supervision of a qualified trainer.