Postnatal period is filled with happiness & contentment on one hand and with physical & mental fatigue due to delivery on the other hand as the lady has become weak or emaciated after loss of blood and body fluid during delivery. Acharya Kashyapa narrating stage of labor says that her one foot is situated in this loka and other in Yamaloka. The lady after such a difficult process of delivery is advised suitable regimen to regain the lost vitality and helps her body to revert back to pre- pregnant state. This is explained as Sutika Paricharya in Ayurveda. The duration of ‘Sutikakala’ is usually 1½ months (45 days) after delivery. So postnatal care with regulated diet and mode of life should be followed during this period.
Puerperal woman should be given powdered pippali, pippalimoola, cavya, chitraka, sunthi with ghee / warm jaggery water for 2 – 3 days till lochia rubra (abnormal blood) is properly excreted. From 3rd to 7th day, – Vidarigandha group (vidari, gokshura, shatavari, punarnava, sariva, kaunch) mixed with ghee or milk should be administered. Massage with bala taila and oral administration of fats with medicines and decoctions should be done for 3 to 7 days after delivery. From 7th or 12th day cooked shali rice and medicated meat soup with barley, jujube and horse gram is advised.
Abdomen should be massaged with Bala taila and wrapped properly with clean cloth. This wrapping helps in compression of abdomen thus prevents vata from aggravation. Liquid rice gruel mixed with ghee is advised. Irrigation or bath with hot water in the morning and evening is recommended. Puerperal woman should avoid exercise, coitus and anger.
From the fifth to the seventh months, drugs, which give strength to the uterine muscles and nourishment to the embryo, are advised. Ashwagandha and Guduchi are particularly good in this regard. They help to ensure optimal condition of the placenta and uterine tissues as well as of the umbilical cord. The diet should be one of rice, milk, butter and gee. Fruits that are orange or yellow in color are advocated such as mangoes, apples, carrots, amalaki etc. Leafy vegetables are also advised.
Foods to avoid include heavy to digest foods such as wheat, meat (esp. red meat) and refined sugar. These foods severely decrease the digestive fire (agni) and produce mucus and toxins (ama). Deep fried foods are also heavy to digest and highly vata increasing. Excessive intake of sour foods, sauces, vinegars and hot spices like chilies increase Pitta and heat in the body and also reduce the digestive power.
Fermented or fermentation increasing foods such as alcohol, cheese (esp. old and hard ones) and yeast containing foods, sauces and beer. All fermented foods are sour in nature and therefore have pitta increasing qualities. Ice cold foods and drinks, fast food, canned food and microwaved foods are devoid of real nutritional value, deplete the digestive fire and produce toxins in the body.
General advice on diet during postnatal period
Cooked vegetables should be included in diet whereas raw vegetables / salads should be consumed in less quantities preceding lunch.
Pulses like yellow and split green gram, pigeon pea and red lentils are easy to digest, balancing and nourishing to the body. Chickpeas, black-eyed and kidney beans should only be taken very occasionally and must be thoroughly soaked and well cooked. Tofu can also be enjoyed.
Grains including rice, oat, rye, maize, millet, amaranth, quinoa and flours made from the above grains and buckwheat can also be used. Porridge made without milk, but with cinnamon and cardamom, coconut flakes, soaked raisins or stewed fruit is easy to digest, highly nutritious, warming and energizing. It is better to avoid bread.
Seeds and nuts such as pumpkin, sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds, pine nuts, almonds (without skin), walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios should be eaten in very small amounts as they are heavy to digest and Vata increasing. They are best soaked and made into a paste or milk. The flesh, milk, cream and flakes of coconuts can be used liberally.
All sweet fruits such as apples, pears, apricots, grapes, cherries, plums, sweet berries, fresh figs, dates and also pomegranate are good. Dried fruits are okay, but they are best soaked.
Of all dairy products ghee (clarified butter) is the best - it can be cooked with and added to practically everything. Milk should be taken warm preferably, spiced with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon or turmeric. Good alternatives to cow‘s milk are soya milk and rice milk. Fresh cheeses are easier to digest then hard, old ones. They are best enjoyed with some black pepper to stimulate digestive fire.
One should avoid white meat. White meat is okay for consumption i.e. chicken and turkey. Fish is very hot in potency; so one can chose to eat fresh water fish rather than sea fish.
Refined sugar should be replaced by jaggery (solidified sugar cane juice), raw cane sugar, date sugar, molasses, rice syrup or honey. Honey is not heat stable and becomes poisonous for the body when heated, cooked or baked.
Black tea and coffee can be drunk, but herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee are better. Ginger tea made from fresh roots is warming, Agni (digestive fire) increasing; removes mucus and toxins but ginger tea should not be drunk regularly.
Most essential is the use of spices. Cumin, coriander, fennel and saffron are the best for balancing all doshas, increasing Agni (digestive fire) and should be used liberally. Black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, mustard seeds, nutmeg, all fresh herbs (particularly fresh coriander) and onions can be used. Garlic and ginger should also be used in moderate quantities. Asafoetida reduces Vata and should be added when cooking pulses, cabbage and beans to reduce their gas producing properties.
Great emphasis has been laid on postnatal care i.e. Sutika Paricharya in Ayurveda, as during this period the mother restores her health and strength. Thus Ayurvedic regimen during postnatal period will help to restore Agni (Digestive and metabolic fire), normalize Vata dosha, optimize the quality of breast milk and impart strength to the body.