This post was last updated on August 19, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
Childbirth is a singularity event.
The birth of the Universe itself is treated as a singularity in the big bang hypothesis, where about 15 billion years ago, there was a point when there was no space or real time. From an infinitesimally small and infinitely dense point, the big bang happened causing the birth of the Universe.
The birth of a baby is a similarly a very singular event
In a very small period of time, the pregnant woman experiences a spectacular change to become a mother and enters the post partum phase. Since this is a very dramatic, extreme event, Ayurveda recognizes the need to treat the new born baby and mother also with extreme caution, attention and thoughtful detail.
This caution and detail is mentioned to protect the Mother and Baby from infectious disease, to allow their muscles and dhatus to fully recuperate from the ordeal of child birth and build strength, and to allow only positive energy to surround the young growing child.
For example, in the Ayurvedic pediatric texts, it is clearly mentioned that the new born baby can leave the home for the first time only after the 3rd / 4th month to be taken to the temple for a brief visit and then should avoid going outside the home till the completion of the first year. The visit outside is allowed at the stage when the neck does not require support. This is also the time when baby begins to respond to social stimuli and smile back, so a visit is encouraged at this time.
Understanding Vata Aggravation is the Key
From an Ayurvedic perspective, with the birth of the child and expulsion of placenta, a large empty space forms in the womb. The nature of vata dosha which is made up of Vayu (wind) and Akash (space) is to rush in to fill this gap left behind by the newly born baby.
The aggravation of Vata is heightened further by urban living as the very nature of city life is vata promoting. Long commutes, late nights, irregular meal times, highly processed foods, excessive cell & device usage and multi-tasking are all factors that aggravate Vata.
The key to putting together a good post partum care regimen for the new mother lies in this Ayurvedic understanding of the nature of Vata aggravation and the resultant management techniques.
The Ashtanga Hridayam defines Vata as dry, light, cool, rough and very mobile. To pacify aggravated Vata, the key Ayurvedic principles are :
Diet – Food which is warm, unctuous, freshly cooked. The use of ghee, rice , moong dal, milk , warming spices like pepper are highly recommended.
Regimen : Since Vata is mobile and agitated , a fixed daily routine for waking up, meals and sleep times controls Vata
Abhyanga – One of the seats of Vata is the skin. So the use of unctuous oils through a massage helps in removing excessive Vata and therefore this is a principal Ayurvedic tool to help in post-natal care.
The 5 Simple yet Powerful Ayurvedic Ideas for post partum care and health
If this very important concept of aggravated Vata is understood properly, it gives us a deep insight into the root causes of post partum hair loss, dry skin , joint pains etc. While you can read in great depth about the Ayurvedic practices of post natal care on the Krya blog and more about the results of vata aggravation on a new mother and its effects on skin and hair, we have summarized below the top 5 simple yet powerful Ayurvedic ideas that should form part of an ideal post partum regimen
- Sequestration of mother & baby & Controlling travel : While this is a very good idea simply from the point of view of avoiding germs and infection for the newborn, it is also useful to control Vata. Travel and movement are Vata aggravating and simply eliminating all manner of discretionary travel, even short local trips, is an excellent starting point. For example , the new mother may wish to take a break and drive down to the supermarket to buy groceries. If there are clear symptoms of vata related disorders, then even this discretionary travel should be replaced with say, ordering groceries online, and say taking a short regular walk around your building. Regular western science cannot comprehend this very deep principle and only Ayurveda views travel as a cause for concern in Vata related disorders.
- Daily Rhythms : The nature of Vata is mobile and agitated, so the discipline of fixed times for major activities like Abhyanga, bath, meal times and the time of going to bed provides a daily rhythm that can keep Vata in check. Even though to the new parents it may seem that their baby’s sleep and feed patterns are necessarily chaotic, it is still a worthwhile exercise to impose some sense of routine and rhythm for the mother. For example, her Abhyanga and bath times and her meal times can still be strictly monitored to ensure a sense of routine. Regularity, order and routine pacifies aggravated Vata dosha.
- Abhyanga : We cannot overstate the importance of a regular Abhyanga in post-partum care. The use of warm, unctuous Ayurvedic skin oils balances Vata dosha which is coarse, rough, dry and light. In the abhyanga, special attention should be given to the abdominal area (for C Section moms, wait until the stitches are fully healed before attempting massage here), waist, lower back, joints ( wrist, knee & ankle) , the soles of the feet and the ears. These areas are the primary and secondary seats of Vayu and an abhyanga focused on these areas will help eliminate aggravated Vayu. The Abhyanga will improve circulation and thereby repair minor soft tissue injuries, tone the abdominal and pelvic muscles and aid digestion. Please ensure the abhyanga is done with a warm, sesame based oil to help control Vata dosha. A simple pada-abhyanga (abhyanga for your feet alone) can help relieve exhaustion, tiredness and insomnia if done just before sleeping every night and is very useful for exhausted parents.
An abhyanga is also vital for the young baby. If no help is available, this is something that can be done by the new Mother or the father and can be a very enjoyable activity for the parent and the child. If being done by the Mother, ensure her stitches are well healed and also ensure that she has had her abhyanga, bath and meal so that she is not tired when attending to the baby.
- Vata-balancing diet : Reduce or eliminate following Vata-aggravating categories
- In vegetables avoid potato, peas, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and other “gassy” vegetables
- In lentils avoid / reduce all other lentils with the exception of split, yellow moong
- Avoid processed foods like Maida, bread , readymade cereal and colas
- Avoid diuretic drinks like tea and coffee
Add the following nourishing foods like cows ghee and milk, aged rice, split moong dal, nourishing seasonal vegetables like squashes, beets and carrots. Use spices like cumin , pepper , dhania and turmeric and avoid chillies and other pitta aggravating foods
- Embrace Focus ( & avoid multi-tasking) – Ayurveda tells us that the nature of Vata is mobile and agitated , so the Vata constitution person moves around quickly, talks fast and multi-tasks. To pacify excess Vata, focusing on one task at a time, silence and present moment awareness are excellent tools. The practice of focus will help controlling the Vata aggravation faced by new mothers. Becoming a parent can be overwhelming and you may feel that there are literally a million things to do at any given moment. Remember that focusing on one thing at a time and doing whatever you do with focus and to the best of your capacity is good for you, your baby, your family and most importantly your doshas and health.
We have been focusing on post partum Ayurvedic care over the last few posts as this is such an important piece of the puzzle to answer the high amount of hair loss that new mothers face today. Motherhood has indeed changed from ancient times when a Mother had access to high quality post natal care, rest. There was also a strong availability of traditional knowledge in the form of the older generation, and given that babies were born much earlier than they are today, mother and sometimes grandmothers were also available to provide physical care and attention to the new mother and baby.
This is no longer available for many of us. We live in cities. We are having babies much later than our mothers and grandmothers used to. Many of our Mothers are not as physically fit as the previous generation and because of the nuclearisation of our families, many of us do not have access to the traditional knowledge that our families used to have to let us know what should be done.
This is the reason behind focusing on this important topic and having many guest writers write for us on the Krya blog. Ayurvedic first principles are not difficult to follow and come with a lot of innate sense. It is our hope that if this knowledge were more widely available, new mothers can pick and choose what works for them and attempt to regain health using traditional, Ayurvedic first principles. You can choose as many or as few principles to start with. Adopting even one of these principles will lead to measurable changes in your health and well being. It is our experience that awareness and taking the first step are the hardest part of any health programme. Once you begin, the changes you will see for yourself will inspire you to keep going on this path.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya follows when treating hair and skin problems. If you too are alarmed at your post partum hair fall and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.