Pregnancy and motherhood can take a huge toll on a woman’s body and mind. And that’s before we even mention the sleepless nights and lack of me-time. Of course, if you’re a new or expectant mum, you’re probably devoting all of your energy to your child. But this week marks UK Maternal Mental Health Week, so don’t forget to also think about what you need too. After all, in order to be the very best mum, you need to be the best version of yourself. The theme for 2022 is Journey to Recovery so, here, we reveal some Ayurvedic tips for pregnant women at each stage of pregnancy - and beyond.
The first trimester
The start of your pregnancy is characterised by light and airy Vata as your body makes space for something new. While this is an incredibly positive time, it can leave many feeling anxious which can also be felt by the baby. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends that you should slow down and focus on stress management tips like breathing, walking and yoga to balance Vata out.
Positions like the Warrior Pose, Mountain Pose and Downward Dog can bring a sense of stability back into your body, and means you can stay active without too much strain.
An Ayurvedic diet of oily foods and warm spices can help to ground excess Vata levels. Think stews, soup and roasted vegetables. Yoghurt, butter and ghee in moderation are also favoured as the rich oils and fats go straight to the reproductive system to care for the baby.
The second trimester
You can thank fiery Pitta for any morning sickness and nausea in the first trimester, and it can also rear its head in the second trimester. Other common symptoms include heartburn, indigestion and heightened emotions. To cool this, Ayurveda advises a daily routine of restorative yoga, stretching and journaling.
This is time to focus on your mind. Taking time out, looking for the positives each day and connecting your mind and spirit is a great way to calm the fire. Don’t worry if you’re craving certain foods either as Ayurvedic doctors say you should honour them.
If you’re struggling with heartburn or indigestion though, you might want to avoid spicy, fried and acidic foods. Instead, cucumber, coconut and high-quality milk can help to ease any symptoms and cool down Pitta.
The third trimester
When you’re coming up to full-term, it’s not uncommon to feel heavy, lethargic and tired. This is grounded Kapha making you feel drained and stuck. Gentle movement and a daily routine can help you to feel more free and light.
While Ayurveda says it’s important to slow down, a short walk each day or even yoga in the morning can be good. This can help your body and mind to remain strong without putting your muscles under tension. Stretching can also be great for back and neck pain.
After 8 months of pregnancy, your digestive tract may feel irritated and you may suffer with regular gas, heartburn and indigestion. A comforting diet with little acid and spice can keep things calm though and ensure you’re healthy and nourished.
The postpartum stage
The effects of pregnancy don’t just come to an end the moment your baby is born. In fact, it’s even more important to ensure that your body and mind are supported during the postpartum stage - where excess Vata dosha can be rife.
After birth, your body now has an empty space where the baby was and you probably lost a lot of fluid too. This can all result in anxiety, depression, restlessness and insomnia - and occasionally even mental health problems. As the excess air moves around the body and rises, Ayurvedic practitioners say this can also result in shoulder pain.
With this in mind, Ayurveda recommends a grounded lifestyle with established routines for waking, sleeping and eating to restore some normality. Plus, using massage oils daily will moisturise your skin and keep blood moving which is essential for recovery.
There’s also what’s known as the First 42 Days of Postpartum, which is crucial for the health and wellbeing of both you and your baby. For the first seven days, Ayurveda says you should rest, remain reclined and take in lots of fluids. The next seven should be spent at home but moving gently, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from family members. At three-four weeks, you can begin to leave the house. And after six weeks, life should be returning back to normal - albeit a little more gentle than before.
Ayurvedic herbs for motherhood
There are a whole range of Ayurvedic super herbs that can be used throughout different stages of your life to bring harmony back to the mind, body and gut - and, for a pregnant woman, it’s no different.
- Shatavari - This wonder herb has been proven to strengthen the uterus, stimulate breast milk production and improve immunity and strength after childbirth.
- Ginger - You might already have this one in your cupboards! When used in pregnancy, Ginger can reduce feelings of sickness and actual vomiting. It’s great for your digestion, as is Turmeric.
- Cardamom - Another popular household ingredient, Cardamom is great for relieving symptoms of morning sickness. This can be mixed with warm water to make a refreshing tea.
- Tulsi - Also known as Holy Basil, Tulsi is rich in vitamins, increases blood flow, balances the nervous system, prevents anaemia, reduces joint and muscle pain and boosts immunity.
- Fenugreek - These seeds can support healthy lactation and provide relief to aches and pains, which can be common after carrying a baby.
Don’t be shy to reach out if you have any questions. And, if you’ve been affected by Maternal Mental Health or are just looking to join a like minded community, head to our Instagram for more inspiration and to join the conversation.