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Article: Diet in Pregnancy | Healthy Diet Plan for Pregnant Mother

Diet in Pregnancy | Healthy Diet Plan for Pregnant Mother

Diet & Regimen For Pregnancy

Author:
Vd. Rachana C. Aware, PG Scholar (Swastha Vritta)
Dr. Sanjay K. Chopkar, Guide HOD, Swastha Vritta Dept.
Vidarbha Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Amravati

Diet & Regimen for Pregnancy

Ayurveda is the best way to ensure safe and natural childbirth. Ayurveda understands all the factors that bring about a hazard-free childbirth. By following a regulated diet regimen, the pregnant mother is better prepared for a natural delivery. By helping nature take its course, women enjoy a risk-free childbirth. This paper provides a broad view of the diet and health regimen during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, Ayurveda advises the mother to follow a specific diet and regimen designed appropriately to take care of the requirements and needs of the pregnant woman.

Generally, the pregnant woman is advised to follow a diet that is predominantly sweet, easy to digest, cooling to the body, and liquid in consistency. She is also recommended a month-wise diet regimen throughout pregnancy. The rationale for such a diet is explained below.

The diet of a pregnant mother should satisfy four requirements:

  • Nourishing the mother during pregnancy
  • Supporting the growth and development of the fetus
  • Ensuring a hazard-free and smooth childbirth
  • Aiding in the secretion of breast milk

Therefore, the food substances recommended for consumption during pregnancy possess qualities that serve the above objectives. The food recommended during pregnancy is based on the month-wise requirements of the pregnant woman. During the first three months of pregnancy, the focus is mainly on retaining the fetus. Therefore, a sweet, cooling, and easy-to-digest diet is recommended for the mother. This type of food ensures that the fetus remains stable and there is no bleeding. Bleeding occurring during the first three months can lead to the loss of the fetus. This diet ensures that there is no bleeding throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.

The second phase of pregnancy, from the fourth to the seventh month, is when the fetus gains maximum growth and development. The diet during this phase enables this. During the last phase of pregnancy, the eighth and ninth month, the mother is prepared to undergo a normal delivery, which is hazard-free and comfortable. The diet and regimen of the mother are designed to make this possible.

FOOD

The pregnant woman’s diet is predominantly sweet. Among the six tastes, the sweet taste is ideal for a pregnant mother for various reasons. Sweet substances are usually cooling to the body. Sweet taste helps in the building up and strengthening of all bodily tissues. It prevents emaciation and helps prolong lifespan. It increases stoutness, helps to unite bones, and improves strength and complexion. It is good for the sense organs, skin, hair, and throat. Sweet taste gives a feeling of contentment. It is nourishing and gives stability to the body. It helps in the production of breast milk, mitigates the burning sensation in the body, and cures thirst and fainting. Sweet taste provides oiliness to the body. Sweet taste is ideal for children since it helps in growth. Substances with sweet taste control Vayu and Pitta. This taste is most important for children, the elderly, the emaciated, and the wounded. As sweet taste possesses all these qualities, it is considered the best for pregnant mothers. Some examples of food and herbs that are sweet are milk, ghee, rice, wheat, raisins, dates, bananas, jackfruit, and sugarcane. Indian asparagus (Shatavari) and Vidari, Bala, Yashti, and Gokshura are some of the herbs that are sweet in taste and rich in medicinal value. As sweet taste is the one that brings about nourishment and growth, it is included in the diet throughout pregnancy. Food that is usually cold in potency (cooling to the body), which is low in sour, salty, and pungent tastes, and high in sweet taste ensures that the pregnant mother does not have premature bleeding. It also protects her from anemia. On the contrary, predominantly pungent food (chili hot), astringent, and bitter can cause dryness in the body and obstruct the movement of feces, urine, and flatus. This type of food does not contribute to the nourishment of the mother, growth of the fetus, or secretion of breast milk. It also does not help in the easy passage of the fetus during delivery. Foods that are sour, salty, hot, and pungent make the mother anemic. Food and regimen recommended in Ayurveda for a pregnant mother ensure anemia-free pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, the mother is advised to consume nourishing foods such as milk, ghee, butter, green gram, rice, etc. Herbs that are sweet in taste and cold in potency are used during this period. In other words, she is advised to avoid food that is pungent, sour, hot, and spicy, which is one of the contributory factors for anemia. Intake of alcohol, daytime sleep, and hard physical labor are forbidden throughout pregnancy. These are also among the causative factors for anemia.

FIRST MONTH

The diet of a pregnant mother should be mostly liquid in consistent. Liquid rice porridge is easy to digest and helps in eliminating urine and feces. The most important diet recommended for the pregnant woman is milk. Milk is the best food during pregnancy. Especially during the first month, milk should be consumed in adequate quantity. The pregnant mother should consume a quantity of milk that she can digest without difficulty. It is very important to consume milk right through the nine months of pregnancy. Here let us look at the properties of milk. During the first month, milk should be consumed at room temperature. It need not be processed with any medicinal herbs. However, processing milk with Bala (Sida cordifolia) is useful. Bala is a commonly available herb with very good medicinal properties. Bala is cold in potency (or it is cooling to the body) and sweet. It bestows strength and improves complexion. It is oily or unctuous. Like milk, Bala also has the property to prevent bleeding. It is an excellent herb for regulating Vayu and for pacifying Pitta. Sweet, cooling (in potency), liquid, and wholesome diet twice during the day are the ideal food for a pregnant mother. The woman should consume food in moderate quantities. She should neither eat too much nor too little. During this month, rubbing or massaging the body with medicines, oils, etc. should be avoided.

SECOND MONTH

During this month, milk is processed with medicinal herbs that possess a sweet taste and are cooling to the body. Many drugs can be recommended. Some of the commonly available drugs usually prescribed are Bala, Shatavari, Yashti, Vidari, etc. These herbs are boiled along with water and milk till the water evaporates and given to the woman. Food during this month should be (preferably) liquid in consistency. Honey mixed with milk (at room temperature) and ghee is a drink recommended for pregnant mothers in the 3rd month. This kind of food helps the woman to fight nausea and vomiting which are the most obvious and common symptoms in the early part of pregnancy.

Some women suffer from this a great deal. It usually troubles them from around the third month. The diet during this month helps them address this problem. Honey possesses the property of preventing vomiting. Rice porridge with milk is the recommended diet for this month. There are many preparations, which can be included in the diet, especially for women who suffer from severe bouts of vomiting. For example, A paste of Dhanyaka (Daniya) with rice wash added with sugar is good for

THIRD MONTH

To help control vomiting during pregnancy:

  • A drink made with the powder of popped paddy (Laaja) mixed with honey and sugar is very good for preventing nausea and vomiting.
  • Pulp of Bilva fruit mixed with the water of popped paddy relieves vomiting during pregnancy.
  • A soup made of green gram mixed with the seeds of pomegranate, salt, and ghee relieves vomiting. During the first three months of pregnancy, extreme care is taken to prevent bleeding. From the fourth to the seventh month, the emphasis shifts to the growth and development of the fetus.

FOURTH MONTH

By this month, all body parts are fully manifested. The food for this month includes butter extracted directly from milk. (This is called Ksheera Navanitam – Ksheera is milk and Navanitam is butter.) This butter should be taken along with milk. The quantity of butter can be about 12 grams. In the fourth month, soup made from meat is a recommended diet. The meat should be free of fat. In general, the use of meat soup during pregnancy is recommended in specific months, and regular and continuous use is, however, discouraged. During pregnancy, food that is light (easy to digest) is preferred. Regular intake of meat can increase the size of the fetus. The fetus should be neither too big nor too small. This can be achieved if the diet of the mother is managed carefully. Meat soup in the fourth month is aimed at improving the growth of the fetus.

FIFTH MONTH

  • Ghee should be added to milk gruel and consumed
  • Porridge with milk and rice
  • Light and easy-to-digest meat soup

Like milk, ghee is a very important diet for women throughout pregnancy. Ghee is a substance with numerous medicinal qualities. There is no other substance that can be compared with ghee in its qualities. Ghee possesses a very special property, which is that it enhances intellect, memory, and other mental faculties. Even though it is fat, it improves the power of digestion, unlike other fats. Ghee increases lifespan and fertility. It also improves sight, voice, and complexion. It is a good tonic for children and the elderly. It gives softness to the body. Ghee is also an ideal tonic for persons suffering from emaciation, injuries, and wounds from weapons and fire. For disorders caused by Vata and Pitta, ghee is an ideal medicine. It is also used as a medicine in the treatment of poisons, insanity, consumption, and certain kinds of fevers. Ghee is the best among all fatty substances. It is cooling to the body and the best tonic for retaining youthfulness. It is capable of giving thousands of beneficial effects if it is processed in different ways along with herbs. Ghee made from butter, which is extracted from milk, is ideal for pregnant women as it also helps in preventing bleeding.

SIXTH MONTH

  • Watery kanji (rice or wheat gruel) preparations
  • Gokshura, processed in ghee and added to Kanji (gruel)
  • Ghee (made from butter derived from milk)

Gokshura is a commonly found small thorny herb, and it is found all over India. These thorns have high medicinal value and are particularly useful during pregnancy. Gokshura is cooling and strengthening the body. It is sweet and helps improve digestion. One very important property of Gokshura is that it is an excellent herb for all problems related to the urinary system.

SEVENTH MONTH

By now, all parts of the fetus are fully developed, and the fetus is nourished well. The regimen for the seventh month is the same as that of the sixth. Herb, which is specially recommended for this month, is Vidari. Ghee processed with Vidari is a valuable supplement this month. Vidari abounds in medicinal properties ideal for pregnant mothers.

During the seventh month, a pregnant woman may experience certain discomfort. She may experience itching or a burning sensation in the body. Many mistake this condition to be some allergic reaction or result of some insect bites. Due to the pressure of the growing fetus, the three doshas Vata, Pitta, and Kapha get pushed up the chest causing itching and burning of the body. During this time, the woman should refrain from scratching and damaging the skin. If the itching is very severe, kneading and massaging with mild friction may be done. The chest and abdomen and wherever she experiences itching, paste sandalwood or sandalwood paste along with Usheera (khas in Hindi and vetiver in Tamil) can be applied over her chest, abdomen, and thighs for relief. She should consume food in small quantities, avoiding salt and oil, or add salt and oil in small quantities. She should also drink water in small quantities after consuming food. Food should be sweet, easy to digest, and that which pacifies Vata.

EIGHTH & NINTH MONTH

The main thrust of the prescribed diet and regimen for these two months is to prepare the mother for the forthcoming delivery. During the eighth month, the ideal food for the pregnant woman is thin gruel mixed with milk and ghee. This helps the woman to keep good health while also nourishing the fetus. During the ninth month, food mixed with ghee and meat soup or thick gruel mixed with large quantities of fat is ideal for the woman. This gives her the health and strength to withstand the delivery. From the ninth month onwards, the pregnant woman should always apply oil on the body and never remain without it. Cotton soaked in oil is placed in the vaginal area to make the birth canal oily, soft, and flexible. This practice of placing cotton soaked in oil in the vagina was very much in vogue in the villages of Tamil Nadu until recently.

Women were actively discouraged from following this practice by modern medical practitioners because it leads to infection! During the ninth month, a medicated oil enema is administered to the pregnant woman. By this, fecal matter is eliminated and this also prepares the woman for childbirth. By the use of an oil tampon and oil enema and constant application of oil on the body, the birth canal, and perineum become soft and stretched paper thin during birth without tearing. After delivery too, the mother is recommended a diet and regimen. Her body is massaged with oil, and sprinkled with hot water, and her stomach is tied with a cloth. This prevents air (Vayu) from occupying the space left behind by the fetus. She is given medicines immediately after this, which helps to expel the dirt and clean the uterus. Initially, for a week she is maintained on a light diet. She is administered lehyams and arishtams to improve her health and secretion of milk. After a week or ten days, a large variety of food is introduced into her diet. All this helps the mother to recover quickly from her lost strength and vitality.

To understand and value the strengths of Ayurveda, the modern mind has to unlearn some of the biases that inhibit the total acceptance of the efficacy and safety of the traditional system. Also, it is time to review the role of Ayurveda in public healthcare facilities in all MCH programs and policies. Such a policy reform will reshape the future of healthcare in India.