Ayurveda + Modern Science for Healthy Pregnancy
According to Ayurveda, preparing for pregnancy is as important as getting pregnant, being pregnant, staying pregnant, and delivering a healthy child.
Today, understanding these ancient principles is more important than ever. But it is important to understand modern pregnancy risks as well. In this article, I discuss some of the salient Ayurvedic and modern science tips to support healthy pregnancy.
The Inconvenient Truth: Autism, Miscarriage, Infertility
Fact: Today, 1 in 37 baby boys develop autism, according to the CDC, and 1 in 59 children in America develop autism.1
With exploding autistic statistics, the idea of pregnancy preparation takes on a whole other level of importance. It is not just autism risk that worries prospective moms and dads. Earlier studies suggest that 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, but new studies suggest that the majority of human pregnancies ending as miscarriages, as most miscarriages happen early and are not noticed or recorded. According to some of the newest reports, women in Denmark, for example, have 1.7 live births on average in their lifetimes, but 2.1 miscarriages.3,4
By contrast, Mormon women in America in the 19th century had an average of 8 live births, and 16.8 miscarriages.3,4
Infertility for young couples is also on the rise and is expected to continue to rise. Today, studies suggest that as many as 15% of couples have difficulty getting pregnant. It is predicted that by 2025, almost 10 million couples will encounter problems in having a baby.4
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The Nesting Instinct + Prenatal Stress
All mammals have an instinct to nest or provide a safe and protected home for their babies, and humans are no exception. According to Ayurveda, the nesting process starts long before pregnancy. Mothers-to-be start nesting in preparation for pregnancy. It is hard to allow this natural process in modern cultures, where women are asked to work long hours while still cooking, shopping, and caring for elders or other children while trying to conceive.
Stress, overwork, and exhaustion are linked to a host of health concerns for men and women alike. According to Ayurveda, preparing for a pregnancy starts with a sattvic environment. It includes finding ways to dial down stress; reduce workload; and surround mom with happy, joyful, and loving interactions in a peaceful, serene, and beautiful environment before conception.
Now we have science to support this ancient wisdom linking prenatal stress to issues related to pregnancy, maternal and fetal health, and human development across the lifespan.6
Making time to care for the mom before conception and spending ample time creating your pregnancy environment are key Ayurvedic pregnancy principles.
Ayurveda’s Pre-Pregnancy Tips
- Prior to getting pregnant, Ayurveda suggests to bring the body into balance. This starts with a thorough evaluation of the digestive system, followed by appropriate therapies to restore ideal digestive function. According to Ayurveda, the ability to digest well is linked to the ability to detoxify well and support a health immune response. During pregnancy, mom is doing all this for two—so the baby’s health starts with digestive health of the mom.
- Ayurveda employs many pregnancy lifestyle modifications that include eating a seasonal, sattvic, whole food, non-processed, slowly cooked (not overcooked) diet. Increase healthy sweet tastes found in hot cereals, milk, ghee, grains, seeds, and nuts, while reducing spicy or stimulating (caffeinated) foods. Avoid leftovers and chemical additives.
- Regular practice of gentle yoga, breathing, meditation, walks in nature (30 minutes each day), and breathing clean air are classic pre-pregnancy tools.
- Daily oil massage with Ayurvedic oils will calm the nervous system and support a sattvic physiology.
- Read uplifting books and be with loved ones engaged in uplifting conversation as much as possible, rather than being alone.
- There are classic Ayurvedic herbs used for thousands of years to support preparation for pregnancy. Three to six months prior to pregnancy, consider the following herbs:
Ayurvedic Pre-Pregnancy Herbs
- Ashwagandha (strength of 10 horses)
- Shatavari (woman with 1,000 husbands)
- Ojas Nightly Tonic to build ojas (vitality, vigor, and immunity)
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Western Pre-Pregnancy Tips
Fact: Studies have shown that using hair dye during pre-pregnancy is associated with abnormal birth weight. If mom has irregular periods along with pre-pregnancy hair dye, there is an additionally increased risk of low birth weight infants.7
Rule Out Deficiencies before Conception
- A deficiency of folate has been linked to birth defects.8 This is addressed with a good quality pre-natal supplement started before pregnancy.
- Get your vitamin D3 levels checked. Ideally those numbers should be between 50-80 ng/mL. A deficiency in vitamin D3 is common in pregnant women, resulting in numerous health risks for both mom and baby.9 Get a home test kit here.
- Have ferritin levels checked. Ferritin is the storage form of iron, commonly low in menstruating women. It can be dangerously low even when iron levels on a blood test are normal. In fact, iron deficiency is the number one deficiency worldwide, affecting 50% of all pregnant women.11 Iron is critical for carrying oxygen to the cells, energy, stamina, and fetal development. Ideally, ferritin should be above 80 ng/mL.10
- Check estrogen levels. Studies have found a significantly increased risk of autism when estrogen was found in the amniotic fluid.11 One study suggests that high levels of prenatal estrogens were more predictive of autism than high levels of prenatal androgens (such as testosterone). Contrary to popular belief that associates estrogens with feminization, prenatal estrogens have effects on brain growth and also masculinize the brain in many mammals.11
- Check progesterone levels. Progesterone is a hormone that easily converts to cortisol in times of stress. Moms who have not nested and are pushing the envelope under significant levels of stress run the risk of using progesterone to convert to stress-fighting hormones, leaving mom deficient in progesterone during pregnancy. A deficiency in progesterone is linked to greater risk of miscarriage during the first and sometimes second month of pregnancy.12
- Get a heavy metal toxicity blood screen. Poor digestive or liver function along with toxic exposure or a high-fish diet can build toxic heavy metals up in the bloodstream. Heavy metal exposure is a known source of birth defects.13 If heavy metals are high, learn about LifeSpa’s oral Chelation Support.
- General mineral deficiencies are common in pregnant mothers and linked to a host of birth defects in babies and health concerns for mom.14 Six months prior to getting pregnant, consider building up mineral reserves with Essential Minerals, a highly absorbable multi-mineral supplement.
- Get your vitamin B12 levels checked. B12 is a common deficiency during pregnancy worldwide and linked to severe birth defects.15 Learn about B12 Boost.
- Get your iodine levels checked. Breastmilk carries more iodine than that found in the thyroid gland. Iodine supports brain development for the infant through breastmilk. If levels are low, consider Iodine HP (one capsule every two weeks for six months prior to pregnancy).16
I hope that with these tips, you will be able to enjoy your pre-pregnancy time and transition more smoothly into carrying a child.