Pregnancy and Your Changing Body: How Ayurveda Can Guide You Through This Amazing Chapter of Your Life
Pregnancy can seem ominous—especially during the first trimester when everything is changing so fast. Nourishing your body, staying grounded and supported should be high priorities during this time. Thankfully, Ayurveda can help.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, my body changed so fast I couldn’t believe it! I just felt bloated all the time…then the weight gain! Food cravings came next, “why was I craving Mexican food?” Ironically, my now adult son absolutely loves Mexican food so who knows?
Gradually, as my body changed I embraced these and other changes—like the constant sound blood pounding in my ears!
My OB/GYN assured me this was a normal part of pregnancy. I realized this was just all part of my incredible journey into motherhood. In addition, knowing I was eating healthy, exercising and doing all the right things gave me a definite sense of peace.
At the time, I wasn’t following Ayurveda, but I was trying hard to have as natural a pregnancy as I could—with certain limitations of course! I was aware of the connection between Western medicine and the holistic world, which helped me trust in my OB/GYN.
Fast forward to today and, while I was not familiar with Ayurveda then, it is clear that it has played a huge role in guiding me through my own pregnancy. Meditation, stretching and breathing were all encouraged by my doctor.
What is Ayurveda?
Literally translated Ayurveda, means the science of life.Ayurveda is a traditional healing system that originated in India, about 5,000 years ago. It is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Western medicine borrows many of its remedies and treatments from Ayurveda.
Here are some ayurvedic tips to help you cope.
Doshas and pregnancy
Your dosha is your dominant mind/body constitution. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. While all three are present in everyone, we all have a dominant dosha from birth.
Vata dosha means movement, and pregnancy is rapidly changing and moving. As such, pregnancy so embodies this dosha. Pregnancy is associated with high vata directed towards the baby.
Some ways to balance vata are to eat a diet focusing on sweet, sour, and salty rasas (tastes). Incorporate yoga into your day to promote a calm state of mind, and to balance the apana vayu (downward and outward flow of energy). Avoid activities that include sudden movements—like jumping and lifting heavy objects during pregnancy.
Focus on grounding, positive activities like meditation and self massage. This should be a time of nurturance and calmness. Avoid stress as much as possible.
Other habits to indulge in include sitting in silence (put those cell phones and computers away), oil massage, and nurturing your senses. Put yourself in a warm, relaxing bath, add essential oils and afterwards give yourself an oil massage—focusing on areas of tenderness or areas that demand more TLC.
Yoga can be not only relaxing to the body but relaxing to the mind. According to Nina Spears of baby-chick.com, these are some yoga poses that encourage pelvic and hip-opening; butterfly pose, squats, hip flexor stretch, pigeon and seated straddle.
Sleep and pregnancy
Can you sleep too much when you are pregnant? Well, that depends on the quality of sleep you are getting. Are you getting up several times during the night, or having disturbed sleep? The recommendation for pregnant woman is to get 7-9 hours of sleep. That said, your body needs the rest so listen to your body!
During the first trimester, rising progesterone levels and increased blood volume are the cause of feeling so sleepy. In the third trimester, extra baby weight, as well as the emotional anxiety of labor, and the stress of parenthood can also contribute. Functioning without adequate sleep can lead to many things, including your ability to focus, think clearly and of course your emotional well-being. Check out healthline.com for more information.
Eating and pregnancy
You may be breezing through the first trimester. Or, you may be constantly nauseous, fatigued and craving weird (or maybe wonderful) foods. Or, you may be wondering what food choices are best for you and baby. Just remember: what the mother eats, drinks, feels and does affects her little one’s life for many years to come.
Your agni, or digestive fire, is in a weakened state during pregnancy and many changes are occurring both physically and psychologically. It is important to eat Sattvic, simple foods, with the focus on nourishment for both mom and baby.
Some pregnancy superfoods are grounding and deliver prana or cosmic life force. These include organic dairy, nuts, whole grains, beans, fruit and fresh cooked vegetables.
During pregnancy and postpartum, Vata dosha is off balance because of all the changes that have occurred. Avoid spicy foods while maintaining regular and consistent eating times. Avoid leftovers…aim for fresh food as much as possible. Limit raw or cold foods, and try not to over or under eat.
Kiera Nachman of Motherly says, “incorporating fats and oils into your diet, as well eating sattvic foods are beneficial.” Try nourishing the mind and body through oil massage. This increases the qualities of purity and clarity in your mind.” (ref: https://www.mother.ly/lifestyle/ayurveda-for-pregnancy)
Eating disorders during pregnancy are more common than previously thought, according to pubmed, Understanding eating disorders and using screening tools should be incorporated into antenatal care for the best possible outcome. While most babies are born without complications, the risks of women with anorexia or bulimia can be higher incidences of c- sections and post-partum depression.
If you think you have an eating disorder, and are concerned about your pregnancy here are some resources to check out. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/pregnancy-and-eating-disorders
Just remember that no matter what you are going through with your pregnancy, Ayurveda has solutions. What do you expect from more than 5,000 years of holistic practice?