Pregnancy is the most sacred and transformative period a woman can go through in life. It is a period dominated by change and growth. Not only physically, but also emotionally. It is therefore of utmost importance that we take care of ourselves and our babies. We need extra rest, time to bond and feed ourselves (and our little one!) with nutritious organic foods.
Why is it that in modern society we deny this fact by keep on going as we were used to before we were pregnant? When I was pregnant myself, I got the feeling that people see it as a sign of weakness to take a step back. I even sometimes felt embarrassed to say that I was laying on the couch doing absolutely nothing. Well of course I was making a child, but from the outside it may have seemed lazy.
Now I have gone through this journey, I can absolutely recommend taking that step back in order to create space in your life which soon will be filled up with your baby. Besides, if you take a step back and spend some extra time on self-care, you may cure or even prevent certain pregnancy ailments.
Nurturing the mother
Since Ayurveda is mostly concerned with sustaining life on Earth a huge emphasis is put on the care of the mother during the pregnancy. Not only should we prevent stress and tiredness of the mother, but we should really nurture them throughout the whole process.
Furthermore, we should keep in mind that change is driven by movement which is managed by Vata Dosha. So even when your Prakruti (birth constitution) differs you should follow a Vata Balancing lifestyle during this period.
Here are some simple Ayurvedic recommendations to take care of yourself (and your baby!) during this sacred period:
- Morning sickness? Make yourself a very strong ginger tea and/or squeeze a lemon in some lukewarm water to drink directly when you wake up.
- Drink plenty fresh 100% organic and pure coconut water as it is considered to have the same qualities as plasma and improves your amniotic fluid.
- Let your baby guide you in what you eat. It is from utmost importance that you eat what you desire. You are eating for two bodies now and your baby will tell you what you need. No strict diets! Instead, honour your unique cravings.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with emphasis on warm, well-cooked (Vata balancing) meals with lots of vegetables and protein. Favour basmati and brown rice, oats, pumpkin, beets, couscous, eggs, (soaked) nuts, carrots, green beans, dates, sweet potatoes and avocados. Avoid all processed foods, salads and dried figs.
- Nausea during the day? Chew on Ginger Candy. Sometimes called Golden Ginger or “Gemberkandij” in Dutch.
- Use plenty of healthy fats and oils in your diet. Like organic full-fat cow’s milk, nuts (all are good especially when soaked overnight), avocado, (homemade) organic almond milk, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin & sesame) and emphasis olive-, sesame- and hemp seed oil on your food.
- Cooking with ghee (clarified butter) helps promote digestion, which can be irregular during pregnancy when Vata Dosha is dominant.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Ideally warm herbal teas like Chamomile (calming and helps with emerging heartburn), Nettle (good for your kidneys and contains high levels of Vitamin C), Raspberry Leaf (strengthens the uterine) or Ginger (warming). Some brands even make herbal teas especially for pregnancy. Try it out! But watch out with white and green teas as they contain theine.
- Boost your baby’s immunity and build their tissues by drinking at least one glass of warm cow’s milk (or almond milk if you don’t do cow’s) with a teaspoon of ghee in it. This also supports a sound nourishing sleep.
- If you feel you need it eat some (fat) fish and meat, then go for it.
Ayurveda is not against eating meat but uses it as a medicine, meaning that when there are times in your life that you feel that you need it you can have it. For me this was a huge step as I was used to a vegetarian diet. But the moment I put my principles aside and started to eat fatty fish (like mackerel, eel and fresh smoked salmon (yes, when it is fresh you can have it while pregnant!)) and meat now and then I could really feel the benefits for my body and growing baby. Actually, I even had sometimes cravings for it. Remember bullet point 3? Eat it when you feel like and especially when your B12 levels are low chicken soup is very beneficial.
- Buy yourself high quality pregnancy vitamins which contain the most essential vitamins and minerals (folic acid, B12, iron, Vitamin C & E and calcium) to support your pregnancy. I used Solgar’s Prenatal Nutrients for this and find them very good. From the 7th month forward start to take extra calcium, magnesium & zinc (Solgar has a good combination) as your baby’s bones will be built in this period.
- Get enough sleep throughout your whole pregnancy. Allow the fatigue to be there. Your body is designed to make babies and give birth. Let your body be in charge and not your mind. Surrender will be your guiding principle. During the end of your pregnancy you can also nap during the day. If you have difficulties with sleeping these days make yourself a warm spiced milk before going to bed, use plenty heavy blankets to cover yourself with and put a hot water bottle against your lower back. All to help you grounding.
- Eat as much sweet fruits (like blueberries, raspberries, peaches, ripe bananas & melons) as you like. Cooked pear and apple with soaked prunes are also very good. Ideally you shouldn’t mix fruits with something else as this will counteract your digestion and may cause fermentation in your stomach which in the end will create toxins.
- See if you can avoid coffee as this will make both you and your baby restless. Nevertheless, I find it honest to mention that I had difficulties with this point myself. After struggling with it for a while I decided to just have it on some days.
- Keep on moving, but not as you were used to before. Be gentle. A good way to get your exercise is to go for a swim. Otherwise conscious walking for 30 minutes in a slow and steady pace while focussing on your breath is also really beneficial. Stop running or jogging as this will put too much pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.
- Low in iron? Eat plenty of green vegetables, some meat or fish (if you are okay with it), pumpkin seeds and quinoa. If this still isn’t enough (your midwife can tell you this by taking a blood sample) you may want to take a supplement. I used Nano Iron (2 shots a day) and this really brought my iron levels up.
- Give yourself a daily grounding self-oil massage (Abhyanga). Preferably with warm sesame oil with some essential lavender oil drops in it. You may find out that this is – due to the heavy qualities and smell – too much (especially in the beginning and end of your pregnancy). This was also the case for me, so I switched to Weleda’s Rose-, Pregnancy- or Lavender Oil (depending on my mood). All other nicely smelling organic oils are good. Go with you what you like, but do not forget to also oil up your perineum to prevent it from tearing while giving birth.
- Make time for a regular yoga practice as this will help you to connect with your body and your baby, to build up strength (which you need especially towards to end of your pregnancy when your belly becomes bigger) and to help you build up endurance (which you will need while giving birth). You can either practice at home or go to prenatal classes. But be sure that you are soft towards yourself and your baby. 25-30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week is more than enough.
- Last but not least, meditation is highly recommended at this time. Not only to help you relax better, but also to really feel your body and connect with your baby.