Charaka Samhita states ‘Evamkurvati hi arogya-bala-varna-samvahana-sampadamupetamjnatinamshreshtamapatyamjanayati’. 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.
Advice on Preconception
Just as a healthy seed bears healthy fruit, if the parent’s sperm and ovum are healthy then the child is more likely to inherit a healthy gene and immunity. Conversely if parents conceive when mentally or physically weak this may impact negatively on the child’s condition. Ayurveda suggests parents observe a preconception regime called Vajikarana. The aim of Vajikarana is to enable a couple to produce healthy offspring. About six months before conception an Ayurveda physician prescribes a personalized purification and rejuvenation regime for the couple to ensure optimal ovum and sperm quality and quantity. For a couple to produce healthy offspring, both the partners should be careful about their diet, activities, behavior and emotional status before as well as after conception.
Men are advised to take aphrodisiac herbs like Ashwagandha, Kaunch that improve virility. Women are given cleansing and fortifying herbs to improve health of uterus like Shatavari and Ashoka. The couple is advised on diet and lifestyle, suitable herbs, Panchakarma, yoga and meditation. There are also many compound formulations suggested for optimum fertility. General diet recommended include warm cow’s milk, ghee, yoghurt, black sesame seeds, black gram, green gram, honey, dates, almonds, onions and saffron. Hot spices should be avoided. Daily self massage and sufficient rest is observed. When a couple observes this advice, a healthy offspring is produced.
As plants reproduce from healthy seeds, so should we nurture the foetus with a healthy diet, lifestyle and with wisdom and kindness for others. Ayurveda compares human conception to the germination and sprouting of a seed and its transformation into a sapling. When the sperm and ovum unite and the soul enters the union, an embryo (garbha) is created. For healthy growth of a sapling, four factors namely Bija (Healthy seed), Kshetra (Proper soil), Ritu (Suitable season conducive to growth of sapling) and Ambu (Water) are necessary. In the same way for achievement of conception and proper growth of foetus, 4 factors namely Bija (Healthy sperm and ovum), Kshetra (Uterus), Ritu (Ovulation) and Ambu (Nourishing substances).
When the sperm and ovum unite and the soul enters the union, it becomes an embryo (Garbha). So also, those of antenatal care - the husband and other family members are advised to take care of the pregnant woman's diet and encourage activities that are dear to her and beneficial to the fetus or child growing in her body.
The development of the fetus in the uterus is discussed in the Charaka Samhita in the section called Garbhava Kranti, and special regimens are prescribed for each month in the subsection Garbhini Paricharya. Aurveda explains the basic guidelines for an easy delivery that has to be followed during the nine months of pregnancy.
General Rules from Inception of Pregnancy to Delivery
The general rules of antenatal and postnatal care are explained in Ayurveda texts. The husband and other family members are advised to oversee the pregnant woman's diet and encourage activities that are healthy and enjoyable to her and beneficial for the child developing in her body. Guidelines regarding diet, activities, behavior and mental activity (ahar, vihar, achar and vichar, respectively) are also detailed. The goal is the protection and nourishment of both the growing fetus and the mother.
In general a pregnant woman should eat cooked, liquid, unctuous, nourishing, warm, fresh, organic meals enriched with all six tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent in the right proportion and supplemented with herbs and spices which increase appetite and digestive power. The food she eats should be delicious to her. In the latter phase of pregnancy the stomach is squashed hence small, frequent meals are usually more digestible. She should avoid skipping meals, fasting and eating on the run or in stressful circumstances. Try to eat at regular times in the day. Don’t eat too late at night and leave 1-2 hours before going to sleep. Foods to avoid include red meat, alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine, garlic, mushrooms, fermented foods, leftovers, dry food, heavily processed and artificial foods.
The mother-to-be should always try to be in a happy mood, be clean, neat and well dressed, wear simple clothes and ornaments, engage in peaceful and benedictory activities, and listen to relaxing music. She should also avoid excessive sex particularly during early and late pregnancy, overeating or fasting, speaking in a loud voice, sleeping during the day time and staying up late at night, wearing tight clothes and tight belts, sights which give rise to feelings of sorrow, anger, fear or pain, chemical cosmetics, long walks, negative emotions, traveling in 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, beholding natural urges, and visiting abandoned places.
Everything (diet, mood, emotions) that affects the mother impacts on the baby thus she should surround herself with positive influences and avoid detrimental stimuli. 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. Techniques such as Abhyanga, the mild and therapeutic Ayurvedic massage are recommended for the mother to be under the guidance and supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic physician. The massage and other techniques balance Vata dosha, prevent fatigue and relieve tension.
Treatment of Diseases in a Pregnant Woman
Any disease occurring in a pregnant woman should be treated with drugs that are mild in action, compatible and safe to the fetus. Panchakarma (detoxifying procedures) should not be advocated, except Anuvasana basti (oil enema) in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy.
Ayurveda also describes nine diseases, which are caused because of the pregnant status of the woman. These diseases are peculiar to pregnancy and are called garbhopadravas. They are nausea, anorexia, vomiting, and dryness of mouth, fever, edema, anemia, diarrhea and retention of urine. Their specific treatments are also elaborately described. As far as possible, medication should be avoided during the first three months of pregnancy. Only symptomatic treatment with very mild herbs and a suitable diet should be offered.
Thus, Preconception and Pregnancy care through Ayurveda will not only help in birth of a healthy child with strong immunity but also make a positive difference in the health of the mother-to-be.