Making a baby the Ayurvedic Way!
September 14, 2009
Women generally take very good care of themselves when they get pregnant- cutting out alcohol and caffeine for example, and taking up pregnancy yoga. However, Ayurveda gives great importance to the preparation of both partners prior to conception. The birth of a healthy child is seen as equivalent to planting a tree, for which we need a seed, soil, time and the right nourishment. This approach can be seen as the ultimate in preventative medicine with actions a few months prior to conception having lifelong effects for your child.
Ayurvedic preconception care
This begins with the right partner! It recommends choosing someone with a different constitution to your own to help balance out the qualities in your children. For example, a Vata dominant person has a tendency to dry, rough skin. A Kapha dominant person has oilier skin. Any offspring of this union is likely to have normal skin as the dryness and roughness of Vata is neutralised by the oiliness of Kapha. On the other hand, if both parents are Vata dominant, the child is very likely to have rough, dry skin. Working out which doshas you are both dominant in may also help you understand each other better, in that your approach to life and child rearing may be different.
If you’ve already met your match, shift the emphasis on making sure each of you are as balanced as possible before conceiving. Ideally begin at least 3 months before attempting to conceive as eggs take 3 months to mature and sperm take almost 4 months to generate. The first step is to detoxify the body (known as ‘Panchakarma’). The reproductive tissues in both men and women are dependant on the health of the other 6 types of body tissues that Ayurveda recognises. The health of all tissues is dependant on having good digestion (or ‘agni’) which controls how well we assimilate food into the body. Hence, the first step in producing healthy sperm and eggs is to ensure digestion is working well. This is achieved through a deep internal cleansing to balance the doshas and remove toxins (known as ‘ama’), ensuring digestion works optimally. Reducing toxicity in the body is especially important. Research has consistently shown that chemical pesticides reduce sperm count, for example.
Ayurvedic fertility programme (‘Garbhadhan Samskara’)
Once the body is nourished by a healthy diet & lifestyle, general tonics and fertility enhancing herbs can be taken. These herbs can also help offset the effects of stress in today’s busy lifestyles. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is a powerful fertility enhancing herb, whose name means ‘she who has a hundred husbands’. Ashwagandha (Withania sominfera) is a highly rejuvenating herb that both promotes semen production and strengthens the uterus. Its name refers to it giving one the strength of a horse, and it acts as a natural aphrodisiac. Chyvanaprash is a delicious traditional Indian nutritional elixir made from around 40 different herbs, ghee and honey. Its main ingredients is Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), a powerful antioxidant. It has long been used in India to promote immunity, strength and fertility.
Looking at diet, parents to be should aim to follow a sattvic diet of organic, whole foods for 1-3 months prior to conception. If you are overweight its worth shedding excess pounds before conception. The following foods are deemed to specifically nourish reproductive tissues: Saffron, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, ghee, milk and date smoothies; and asparagus. Spices such as ajwain and cumin also purify the uterus and genitourinary tract, whereas turmeric improves interaction between hormones and their target tissues.
Looking at lifestyle, it is important for the woman to rest during her monthly cycle. Ideally this time is spent on quiet activities, with as much physical and mental rest as possible as resistance is lowered. Beyond physical exercise, massage and sex, even talking and laughing in excess is considered as tiring! As stress is a major cause of reduced fertility in both sexes, taking steps to d relax body and mind is also key. The practice of yoga Nidra can be especially helpful in providing a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
The act itself…
Ayurveda advises the best position for conceiving is with the women lying on her back. The couple should also be in a happy mood! After intercourse, they are advised to take a cool bath or shower and have a restorative drink of warm milk with saffron. Sex should be avoided after overeating; with any negative feelings or with a longing for someone else; with someone who hasn’t had sex for a long time, who is chronically sick or who is suffering from obesity; and with menstruating women, or those suffering any gynaecological disorders. All good common sense!
With one in four early pregnancies ending in miscarriage, Ayurveda’s approach can help pre-empt any untoward chances of such issues. However, the benefits go beyond a trouble-free pregnancy. There is plenty of research to indicate that the state of health of parents at the time of conception has far-reaching implications for a child’s future development. More generally, Ayurveda is of the view that the more out of balance we are, the less fertile we become.
In the 21st Century, it can be challenging to live out Ayurvedic ideals but we can all take more conscious steps to live a more balanced and harmonious life. Any attempts to become more balanced before conceiving will not only benefit future offspring, but also ourselves.
To learn more about Ayurvedic pre-conception and pregnancy care, come on a one day workshop run by Joanna.