Garbhasanskar: Ancient Ayurvedic Practices For Pregnancy + Yoga, Diet For Pregnancy
What Is Garbhasanskar?
The Sanskrit word garbh means fetus in the womb and sanskar means educating the mind. So, garbhasanskar essentially means educating the mind of the fetus with certain pregnancy practices and routines.
Of all the four ashramas(stages) of life, grihastha ashram (household life), is the best one with its foundation being – raising children that will benefit the society and contribute towards its collective well-being as adults.
Ayurveda has long recognized the need for mentally, spiritually, and physically preparing expecting mothers to make the deliveries as safe and healthy as possible.
This usually starts with Ayurvedically preparing couples planning to get pregnant, about three months prior to conception.
Ahara (diet), vihara (lifestyle), sadavrutta (moral conduct), along with varied therapies, underlines what Ayurveda calls grabha sanaskar.
The vedas(a body of religious texts from India) mention the mantra(chant) “matrudevo bhava” which means that the mother is the highest consciousness.
In the vedas,it is believed that a child’s mental and behavioral development starts as soon as conception.
The child’s personality begins to take shape in the womb and is very much influenced by the mother’s state of mind during pregnancy.
In Garbhasanskar, sanskar is basically the modulation of the qualities of the parents.
The process of selecting and transmitting positive influences to the fetus by means of yoga, reading positive literature, positive thinking, healthy eating, and cheerful behavior is known as ‘garbhasanskar‘.
This term is nothing but an extension of the concept of achara rasayana i.e.right code of socio-behavioral conduct.
Ayurveda promotes a similar analogy in regards to pregnancy and childbirth, mainly determined by four following factors.
Ritu – Right time/period of conception.
Kshetra – Healthy uterus as well as a healthy to-be mother.
Ambu – Good quality nutrients for proper nourishment & development of the fetus.
Beeja – Healthy ovum and sperm.
A mother’s routine during pregnancy in the form of prayer (positive thoughts), mana–shakti (positive emotion), conversation with the fetus (talking) or expressing feeling (touching), is not only felt by the unborn baby but also has positive effects on the baby’s physical and mental health.
Therefore, in Ayurveda, garbhasanskar is considered a systematic way of molding the mental health of the child yet to be born. Ayurveda has given detailed descriptions of the do‘s and don‘ts of pregnancy.
The Concept Of Sanskara In Ayurveda
Sanskara here basically means those practices which cleanse the body, mind, and intellect through gunantaradhana (transformation/changes one’s qualities) are the turning points of life and need to be celebrated.
Sanskara are the main field of grihya sutras(domestic rituals). The Gautam Dharma Sutra (ancient Sanskrit text) has a list of 40 sanskara.
According to Vyaasa Smriti, there are 16 sanskaras.
Garbhadhan: The process of conception or the insemination process.
Punsavan: This sanskar is done for the intellectual and mental development of the baby in the womb.
Simantonnayan: This sanskar is done during the 4th, 6th and 8th month of pregnancy. (during this period mother starts bonding more intimately with her child)
Jatkarma: This sanskar is meant to clear bad omens from the infant’s environment. This is done for the health and longevity of the child.
Namkaran: This sanskar is done to decide the name of the infant. Usually done on the 11th day of the birth.
Nishkraman: It is done in the 4th month after birth. It is done to invoke the blessings of the five elements of nature. In this sanskara, the formal darshan (rituals) of sun and moon is done for the child.
Annaprashan: This is done during the teething period of the child. After this sanskara, the child can be fed grains.
Choodakaran /Mundan: The child’s head is shaved off during this sanskar. It is believed to strengthen the child’s intellectual abilities. Chooda means the ‘lock or tuft of hair’ kept after the remaining part is shaved off.
Karnvedha: In this sanskara, the child’s ears are pierced. This ancient practice is believed to have some relationship with the brain and the acupuncture points in the ear.
Upanayana: It is done when the child is a student, to bring the child closer to their guru or teacher. Through this, the child gets strength, energy, and splendor.
Vidyarambh/Vedarambh: It is done to start the formal education of the child.
Samavartan: It is done to mark the re-entry of the child from the gurukula back to society. It prepares the child for the future struggles of life.
Vivah: This is getting the children married when they grow up.
Vanprasth: As old age approaches, the person retires for a life of tapas and studies.
Sanyas: Before leaving the body, a person sheds all sense of responsibility and relationships to awake and revel in the timeless truth of the universe and reality.
Antyeshti: This is the last sanskara. After the person dies, the body is cremated in an antim sanskara which literally translates to ‘last rites’.
Out of these 16 sanskaras, garbhadhan, punsavan, and simantonnayan are conducted before the birth of baby, rest after birth.
Some of these ancient Hindu practices of pregnancy and childbirth are still performed in some parts of India.
Sanskara Performed In Garbha Avastha: Ayurvedic Pregnancy Practices
Garbhadhana: For conception, a normal reproductive tract, balanced hormones, sound mental health, healthy gametes, and the right age are required.
Punsavana: To ensure healthy progeny, a punsavana sanskara or garbhopacharais performed. It aims to achieve a successful conception and a stable pregnancy.
This special procedure is carried out between 8-11 weeks of pregnancy in ‘pushya nakshatra’ especially. In Ayurveda, a slew of Ayurvedic herbs and medicines are given for this sanksara.
These include putajivaka, vatankura, lakshmana, apamarga, sahachara, and others.
Simantonayana: This is performed in the fourth month of pregnancy in shukla paksha (bright lunar fortnight) with the presence of an auspicious nakshatra(a term for the lunar mansion in Indian astrology).
At the time of pregnancy, due to hormonal changes, a woman has to go through many discomforts which may cause emotional imbalances.
Effects of Mantra/Music: This has been proven that a fetus can respond to sounds. From the 7th month of pregnancy, the fetus can hear and respond to the surrounding sounds.
Let’s take a look at some antenatal Ayurvedic practices and routines (garbhasanskar) for pregnancy.
Masanumasik Garbhini Paricharya: Ayurvedic Antenatal Care
Ayurveda recommends the following supplementation for a woman during pregnancy.
First Month: Non-Medicated Milk in the desired quantity with a sweet and cold liquid diet. For the rest of the month, a milk decoction with bala (Sida rhombifolia).
Second Month: Milk medicated with madhur (sweet) herbs. Milk decoction with bruhati (Solanum melenginum).
Third Month: Milk with honey and ghee (clarified butter). Milk decoction with the herb lakshmana (Ipomeoa sepiaria).
Fourth Month: Butter extracted from milk (20g) with cooked shashti rice and yogurt. Milk decoction with shaliparni (Desmodium gangeticum). This prevents intrauterine growth retardation.
Fifth Month: Butter extracted from milk with cooked shashti rice. Milk decoction with amrita (Tinospora cordifolia).
Sixth Month: Gheemedicated with madhura (sweet potency) Ayurvedic medicine. Medicated ghrita with gokshuru ormilk decoction of kantakari(Solanum xanthocarpum).
Seventh Month: Ghrita medicated with drugs of madhura group or with prathak-parnayadior vidarigandhadi group of Ayurvedic medicines. Milk decoction along with yava(Hordeum vulgare). Sukha prasava ghee is given to pave a way for easy delivery.
Eighth Month: Rice gruel prepared with milk and mixed with ghrita. Unctuous gruel and meat soup of wild animals and ashthapan vasti followed by anuvasan basti. Maerua oblongifolia and milk are also given. Dhanwantaram or ksheerabala is also given. This lubricates the reproductive channels in preparation for childbirth.
Ninth Month: Anuvasan vasti with oil prepared with madhura Ayurvedic medicines and pichhu dharan (unctuous gruel & meat soup of wild animal). Milk decoction with shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) during this month.
Yogasanas and Pranayama: Yoga And Breathing Exercises For Pregnancy
First Trimester: padmasana, vajrasan, gomukhasan, sahaj pranayama, anuloma-viloma, bhramari,and cat stretch pose or marjari asana.
These asanas(yoga poses) strengthen your neck, shoulders, and spine which is why they are also very good for your posture.
In addition, these strengthen your entire reproductive system, and are very beneficial for women before, during and after pregnancy.
Second Trimester: padmasana, vajrasan, gomukhasan followed by shavasan, anuloma–viloma, bhramari,butterfly pose or titali asana
These asanas open up your hips and inner thighs and remove tension from the inner thigh area. In addition, they stretch your knees and pelvic area.
It is one of the most beneficial pregnancy yoga poses and if done consistently right from the first trimester, it will almost certainly ease childbirth to a great extent.
Squats or uttanasana can also be performed and are beneficial during this period.
Third Trimester: padmasan, sukhasan, swastikasan, anuloma– viloma, and bhramari.
Breathing techniques and meditation also help in maintaining good mental health. These are one of the best pregnancy practices or garbhasanskar for expecting mothers.
Benefits Of Yoga And Meditation During Pregnancy
- Relieves fluid retention which can be common in the last few months of pregnancy.
- Influences the position of the baby and turning it in advance if needed.
- Strengthening and massaging the abdomen helps stimulating bowel movements and appetite.
- Raises the level of energy and helps in slowing down the metabolism to restore focus.
- Helps in reducing morning sickness, nausea and mood swings.
- Relieves tension around cervix and birth canal.
- Focuses on opening the pelvis to make labor easier and quicker.
- It helps in postnatal care as it restores the uterus, abdomen and pelvic floor
- Also, it relieves upper back tension and breast discomfort after delivery.
This 9-month long journey is a very crucial period when protective efforts are to be taken for the healthy development of the child.
These pregnancy practices and routines are meant to make this journey as pleasant and wholesome as possible.
Main Highlights Of GarbhasanskarOr Pregnancy Practices
Pregnancy Should Always Be By Choice: Preparing the body well in advance before conceiving will help greatly in having a healthy pregnancy. Even the partner’s health is important for conception to occur as healthy sperms are required for it to happen.
The beginning is by pinda shuddhi or the purification of the gametes (sperm and ovum).
This “supraja janan“, as conceptualized in Ayurveda and involves the preparation of the couple planning pregnancy along with deha–shudhi (purificatory panchkarma therapies) three months prior to conception.
Mother and Child Bonding: Mother’s bond with the child starts right from conception. Positive thinking and attitude of both parents promotes the physical wellbeing of the child throughout the pregnancy and after.
Pregnancy Diet: Pregnancy is a long period and includes many normal to abnormal feelings and atypical taste developments.
However, at the same time, it is very important for the would-be mother to give the child developing in her womb a balanced diet on a regular basis. For this, Ayurveda has listed month-wise dietary supplements to be taken by would-be mother. (as mentioned above)
Ayurvedic Medicines: Certain herbs and medications are mentioned in Ayurvedic medical texts that are advised to be taken during each month of pregnancy.
Milk decoctions are one of them. This is taken every day before bed and is prepared by mixing 15 g of the monthly prescribed herbs/200mls milk/800mls water then boil it and reducing it to 1/4th the quantity.
During pregnancy, cramps and sleeplessness are treated with medicated oils like dhanwantharam tailam, sahacharadi tailam, pinda tailam.This ensures proper peripheral circulation.
For having normal delivery medicated ghee like sukhaprasoothi ghrita is given.
Benefits Of Pregnancy Practices And Routines
The advantages of garbhasanskar are not only that you impart good qualities to your child but also it develops a deep bond between the mother and the child. In fact, this has a great impact on the health of the mother as well.
Positive thinking and attitude promote the physical well-being of the mother.
Even today experts encourage mothers to follow some of the above-mentioned practices of garbhasanskar.They say it may be worthwhile talking to your baby, listening to music and reading them books while you are pregnant.
This will supposedly make your baby have better-sleeping habits, be more alert and confident, more content, more active at birth, better at breastfeeding, and will be able to bond with parents better.
There has been a growing interest in the subject of learning in the womb, which is the underlying concept of the philosophy behind garbhasanskar. Research indicates that a baby’s brain develops up to 60 % while in the womb.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying these Ayurvedic pregnancy practices and routines. Please do not try the above-mentioned Ayurvedic medicines without prior consultation. Do not try the Yoga poses mentioned in this article without consulting a certified Yoga instructor.
- Charaka Samhita- savimarsha vidyotini hindi tika, chaukhambha prakashana, sharirsthana- ‘8’ adhyaya jatisutriya.
- Sushruta Samhita- by Kaviraj Ambikadatta Shastri, chaukhambha prakashana, sharirsthana-‘3’ adhyaya Garbhavkranti Sharir.
- Ayurvediya Prasuti- Tantra evam stri-Roga- by Dr. Premvati Tivari.
- Prasuti Tantra- A textbook of obstetrics- by Dr.V.N.K. Usha