Are you planning on getting pregnant? The path to a healthy pregnancy and baby begins long before your baby’s actually conceived. In fact, even the beginning of your pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last normal menstrual period, which is around two weeks before conception. Pregnancy is counted from this day since every time you have your period your body is preparing for a baby.1 Now let’s take a look at the beginning of your journey towards motherhood – the first week of your pregnancy.
What’s Happening In Your Body?
Your menstrual period occurs during this week. This happens when hormone levels fall after the previous menstrual cycle (if you’re not pregnant) which sends a signal to the blood and tissues lining your womb to break down. Your body then sheds the inner lining of your womb along with blood; usually bleeding may last between four to seven days. 23
Things To Do
You need to start taking care of yourself before your baby’s conceived to better your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. In fact, it’s a good idea to start adopting healthy practices at least three months before conception. Here are a few things that you should be paying attention to:
Get Your Weight Under Control
Being overweight or underweight can make it more difficult for you to get pregnant. A healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. Being underweight (a BMI lower than 18.5) can cause hormonal imbalances that adversely impact ovulation (the release of an egg from your ovaries). Meanwhile, being overweight (a BMI over 24.9) not only affects fertility but could also impact the health of your baby and increase the risk of complications like pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes etc during pregnancy. And did you know that being overweight can also affect a man’s fertility negatively? So, for both you and your partner, getting to the right weight is a good start to your journey to parenthood. 4
It’s always important to have a nutritious, well-balanced diet. But this becomes all the more important when you’re planning a baby. A vitamin that’s particularly important when it comes to pregnancy is folate. This B group vitamin can lower the risk of certain birth defects in your baby. Nuts, eggs, legumes, and green leafy vegetables like spinach are good sources of folate. Many cereals and breads are also fortified with folate so check their nutritional label to see if you can stock up on this critical vitamin through them. Your doctor may also recommend a folate supplement for you, so make sure you check in about this while planning a pregnancy.
Get Any Medical Issues Under Control
Certain conditions like diabetes, asthma, or epilepsy can have an impact on your pregnancy. Check in with your doctor if you have any medical conditions to understand how they could affect your pregnancy and how you can control them.
Make Sure Your Medications Are Safe
Even some over-the-counter medications that are taken commonly may not be safe during pregnancy. So if you’re planning to have a baby, talk to your doctor and find out whether medicines that you use are safe for your baby. This holds good for nutritional and herbal supplements too.
Things To Avoid
Cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs like marijuana can interfere with fertility and harm a developing baby too. Also, take care to avoid toxic substances like pesticides and fertilizers when you’re trying to conceive. And it’s a good idea to stay away from substances like rodent or cat feces which can expose you to dangerous infections 5
The Ayurvedic Way: Garbhadhana Vidhi
Ayurveda believes in preparing the mind, body, and spirit before conception for the birth of a healthy child and describes a regimen known as “garbhadhana vidhi” for this purpose.
Guidelines For Menstrual Management
Ayurveda lays down a few guidelines to be followed during menstruation – avoid exertion, sleeping during the day, and sexual intercourse during this period. It is also recommended that you get sufficient rest and consume only laghu aahar (food that is easy to digest like low-fat milk, fat-free cereals, fruits etc.) at this time.6
Purification Through Panchakarma
Ayurveda uses panchakarma treatment for detoxification and purification. Panchakarma is considered to detoxify the body, improve immunity, prepare the uterus for a healthy pregnancy, and maintain the proper functioning of doshas (bodily humors), dhatu (tissues), and mala (bodily wastes). This treatment can consist of various therapies like snehan (oleation therapy, i.e., administering fat therapeutically) , swedan (sudation, i.e., sweating therapy), vaman (emesis, i.e., vomiting therapy), vrechan (purgation, i.e., evacuation of bowels with laxatives), asthapanbasti (purificatory enema), anuvasanbasti (nourishing enema) and nasya (nasal administration of medicinal decoctions and oils).
A Healthy Diet
Both the expectant mother and father are advised to follow a sattvic diet (considered to increase longevity, health, wisdom, power, and happiness) for at least three months before conception. According to the Maha-anaarany Upanishad, this diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, curd, cow’s milk, sprouted grains, tubers, roots, nuts, and honey. 7 Sesame oil and black gram are considered to be particularly beneficial if you’re planning on getting pregnant. Sesame oil is considered to be helpful for the normal functioning of reproductive organs and useful for regularizing menstruation. It is also supposed to enhance strength and immunity. Meanwhile, black gram, which contains folic acid, iron, magnesium, and calcium, is said to promote vigor and strengthen the body. Green vegetables, cereals, fruits, milk, ghee, and dates are recommended for the male partner. These foods are considered to be nourishing.
Yoga And Pranayam
Yoga and pranayam (practicing breath control through deep exhalations and inhalations) are considered to be helpful in providing mental and physical relaxation for both partners. Certain yoga poses like parvatasana (mountain pose, where you sit cross-legged in padmasana and then raise your arms so that your palms meet resembling a mountain) and baddha konasan (bound angle pose, where you sit with your legs outstretched and then fold them inwards at your knees till your soles meet ) can be particularly helpful for pregnancy. But do remember to check in with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.8
|↑1||Pregnancy Week 1 & 2. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑2||Pregnancy – week by week. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑3||Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑4||Weight, fertility and pregnancy health. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑5||Preconception health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑6||Mishra, Lakshmi C., ed. Scientific basis for Ayurvedic therapies. CRC press, 2003.|
|↑7||Singh, R. B., K. K. Reddy, Jan Fedacko, Fabien De Meester, Agnieszka Wilczynska, and D. W. Wilson. “Ancient Concepts of Nutrition and the Diet in Huntergatherers.” Open Nutra J 4 (2011): 130-5.|
|↑8||Patil, Veena Ajay. “Ayurvedic Modality for Supraja.” International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine 6, no. 1 (2015).|