Ayurvedic Postpartum Care
The postpartum time, also referred to as the fourth trimester, in Ayurveda is known as the Sacred Window. It is said that the way the first 42 days after delivery are spent have a direct impact on the next 42 years of life.
So, what is Ayurveda and how does it relate to postpartum? Ayurveda is a centuries old practice originating in India known as the ‘Science of Life’ and offers a holistic and individual approach to health and wellness. Having an understanding of our constitution and the elements at play within us can help guide us in our day to day lives. This will help us find and maintain a balance of the three Doshas leading to greater overall well-being. The three Doshas are Vata (air/ether), Pitta (fire/water), and Kapha (earth/water). During birth and in the immediate postpartum (and longer if we are not adequately cared for) Vata is known to be high, vitiated, or out of balance. When Vata is unbalanced we can be fearful, anxious, angry, have trouble sleeping, become depressed, feel overwhelmed, and disconnected. When Vata is left unchecked this can lead to greater un-wellness and dis-ease.
There are 4 pillars of care for postpartum healing. Rest, Nutrition, Meditation and Breathwork, and Body Care. Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
In Western culture taking time to rest is often seen as a weakness. We are expected to get up and keep doing all the things. Ayurveda views the first six weeks postpartum as the most critical in ensuring our long-term health. Birthers are supported in resting so as to give their body, mind, and spirit time to balance and process everything they have just experienced. It is advised to have complete rest for at least two weeks, and try to stay off of your feet as much as possible for the remaining 4 weeks. The only task birthers should be doing during this timeframe is bonding with their baby.
The focus for postpartum nutrition should be on the following: warmth, comfort, nutrient dense, easy to digest, and well-spiced. This will aid in healing and rejuvenation and will help to promote good digestion for both the birther and their baby. Foods like soup, porridge, stew, rice pudding, dhal, kitchari, stewed fruit, and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, and black pepper will provide much needed warmth and nourishment. It is also important to increase your healthy fats intake which will help to balance hormones quickly, build your milk supply, and improve your mood.
Meditation and Breathwork
Mindfulness techniques are a wonderful practice to utilize in postpartum. Practices like meditation, breathwork, journaling, or gratitude lists helps to focus the mind and calm the nervous system. This takes us out of the fight or flight response and into a more relaxed state where we can be calm and think clearly. The best way to do this is to integrate mindfulness into your day. As you are feeding the baby, taking a shower, or going for a walk, you can bring your awareness to your breath and feel it flowing in and out of the body; you can do a counting meditation, inhaling to 5 and exhaling to 5; you can simply take notice of your surroundings…what do you see or hear? Even 10 minutes a day can have a profound effect on your mental well-being.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Ayurvedic care is bodywork. There are 3 key components of body care in postpartum. The first is massage. Warm oil massages known as Abhyanga are lovely to receive anytime, but especially in postpartum. One of the best ways to soothe and lower Vata is through touch. Massage is a wonderful tool for both the birther and their baby. Even 5-10 minutes of self-massage every day can have profound effects on your energy, mood, sleep, and overall well-being. Massaging your baby helps their digestion, enhances bonding and communication, promotes deeper sleep, tones muscles, and releases tension from being in the fetal position.
The second component is herbal baths. A special blend of herbs that are healing and soothing for postpartum are made into a tea which can be added to the bathwater, used as a sitz bath, placed in a peri bottle for use after going to the washroom, or used diluted around the umbilical cord for healing. The third component is belly binding. A long piece of cotton muslin is wrapped around the body firmly but gently from just below the hip bones up to the lower ribs. This can help with stability in the hips and pelvis and reduces the feeling of emptiness in the womb. It is a gentle support for the muscles and organs.
Incorporating these practices into your postpartum care will help you to feel strong, empowered, and well: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Receiving proper care allows you to feel calm, radiant, and aligned, avoiding depletion, aging, overwhelm, anxiety, and depression.
As many of us no longer have a village around us to support us, it is necessary to create this for ourselves however we can. Before baby arrives make a list of everyone that you can call on for support. Family, friends, and neighbours can take turns preparing meals, cleaning the house, assisting with older siblings, and anything else that needs to be done. If you don’t have family nearby, hiring a postpartum doula is a great way to ensure you get the rest you need to not only fully heal and recover but also to thrive in your new role as a parent.
There is no greater transition in life than giving birth and becoming parents.This is a sacred experience for all involved: the birther, the partner, and the new baby.
Throughout pregnancy, the birthing process, and in the immediate postpartum time there is much we can do to connect with ourself, our partner, and our baby to bring conscious loving awareness to our experiences.
Ayurveda and Yoga philosophy offer much guidance and wisdom to help create a calm, loving, and supportive environment while navigating the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual challenges of becoming new parents. Whether you are preparing for the arrival of your first baby or second, third, or fourth; each birth is an initiation, one that needs to be acknowledged and honoured. No two pregnancies are the same, just as no two babies are the same. Each birth is an opportunity to create a conscious connection within ourselves, with our baby, and with our partner, embracing the change in family dynamics.
“To mother a child is one of the most momentous and influential jobs in a woman’s life. It is referred to as a maha-dharma or ‘great duty’, above all other dharmas in life. The dharma of motherhood includes serving as a positive role model for your children, guiding and supporting them, building confidence and compassion in them, instilling strong values and ethics, and encouraging their growth and development as individual beings.” ~excerpt from Yoga Mama Yoga Baby, by Margo Shapiro Bachman.
The Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, advises to treat a pregnant person with gentle attention and care. While pregnant, whatever we take in, including thoughts, emotions, experiences, and foods, are transmitted to the baby. Positive OR negative. How can we create and maintain more peacefulness and joy in our lives and live more harmoniously? We need only to look to the qualities of Sattva (one of the 3 natures of the mind), which are clarity, alertness, compassion, balance, love, and awareness. One of the primary goals in Yoga and Ayurveda is to cultivate more sattva.
So, how can we experience more sattva within ourselves, our relationships, and our surroundings? Here is a list to get you started.
Each moment is an opportunity. What are you choosing to focus on?
“The health of every family begins with the mother. She is the tree from which the healthy fruit must come” - Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Preparing for birth
“Birthing is the most profound initiation to spirituality a woman can have” - Robin Lim
“When we enter the world of birth, we step across the threshold from the mundane to the sacred. Pregnancy and birth are a space between worlds - a liminal space - a place where you are no longer not a parent and not yet one either. This betwixt and between is sacred space within which powerful and profound events occur - often uninvited.” ~ excerpt from Transformed by Birth, by Britta Bushnell Phd.
So how does one ‘prepare’ for birth? How can you tap into the sacredness of this experience?
Begin by going within. Still the mind, flow with the breath, allow yourself to feel all of the sensations with wonder and curiosity. Remain soft and open. Trust the process.
It can be helpful to make a list of birth preferences prior to going into labour. Set some time aside during the pregnancy to sit quietly and imagine yourself in the birthing space. What does it look like and how does it feel? Who would you like present at the birth? How would you like the atmosphere? (Music, lighting, noise). What positions would you like to try during the birth? Are you ok with pain medication, and if so, what type and when? Writing out your preferences is a great way to keep others informed of how you would like your birth to look. A quick online search will pull up lots of templates for you to use as an example. Keep in mind that with any ‘plan’ it’s important to remain flexible. Unexpected circumstances can arise, or you may change your mind about something once you are actually in labour. That’s okay! Being flexible and going with the flow are necessary skills to have for your soon-to-be new role: a parent!
Preparing for postpartum
Ayurveda refers to the first 42 days postpartum as the Sacred Window. How a birther is cared for during these 42 days can have an impact on them for the next 42 years.
The first 42 days are a sacred and tender time. Birthers need to be surrounded with love and deep layers of support as they step into their new reality, honouring and validating this wondrous journey they have embarked upon. Birthers need to feel empowered, strong, and capable; to be able to tap into their intuition with a deep knowing.
Nurturing, loving, and caring for new mothers gives them the time, space, and energy to tap into their inner strength so they can take care of themselves, their babies, their families, and ultimately…their greater community.
Ayurveda provides us with the 4 Pillars of Care, which are REST, NOURISHMENT, HERBS, and BODY CARE. The birther is as delicate as their new baby. They are at a crossroads and require deep rejuvenation - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If they are able to receive the level of care needed they will have a greater chance of thriving and coming out the other side feeling strong, empowered, calm, radiant, and aligned.
So, how can you ensure that you will be wrapped in the layers of support you need so you can take the time you need to heal and transition into your new role? A postpartum plan is essential. There is so much to consider and everyone’s needs will look a little different. Taking the time to think about the help you will need or desire, talking it through with your partner, and writing it out will help you to come up with a plan that works for you and your family. I have a free planning guide available that you can download by visiting www.wiserootstherapies.com/ebook. This ebook is a great starting point. If you’d like to delve even deeper into postpartum planning, I highly recommend the Build Your Nest workbook by Kestrel Gates. She goes into great detail about all aspects of postpartum planning with a lot of great reflection questions to help you discover exactly what your particular needs are or will be. I also offer individual sessions to create a personalized plan that will work for each family. More information can be found on my website.
Hi! I'm a Mama of 3, an Ayurveda Spa Specialist, Pre and Post Natal Yoga Teacher, Postpartum Facilitator, and Postpartum Doula. I am passionate about caring for birthers during the Sacred Window of postpartum, and educating others on how to care for the new families in their lives.