Integrating Yoga and Lamaze: How the Ethical Practice of the Yamas and Niyamas Relate to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Part 6: Saucha
Saucha: Cleanliness of Body and Mind
Cleanliness of body is relatively easy to understand, right? Take a shower, wear clean clothes, wash your hands after you use the bathroom, etc.
However, during pregnancy and birth this takes on a new dimension with regards to physical cleanliness. We also look at the internal—what you eat. It isn’t called “junk food” for nothing.
Look to your diet during pregnancy to eat natural, whole foods. Eat enough protein, fruits, veggies and grains to have a well rounded diet. Make sure you drink enough water to stay hydrated. Limit your caffeine intake. Find appropriate prenatal vitamin supplements. You may need to edit how you eat as well. Many women find that smaller meals throughout the day, instead of three meals a day, are easier to digest and help them maintain an even blood sugar level. You may also choose to consult a nutritionist or an Ayurvedic specialist to help you find the best foods for you and your baby.
During labor, you will also need to pay attention to what you consume. You should have the freedom to eat and drink as you see fit during labor. By doing so, you help avoid unnecessary medical interventions such as, IV fluids. It also means that you are listening to, and respecting your body during labor. Worry not, your body will tell you when it’s time to stop eating.
So, back to the outside of your body. Consider the personal care products and cosmetics that you use. Anything you put on your skin gets into your body, in some percentage, and if it gets into your body, some of it will get to your baby too. You can check the ingredients and the safety of your products here, in the Cosmetics Database.
Saucha is more than just physical cleanliness—it is mental, emotional and spiritual cleanliness.
When you are pregnant, you are in a heightened emotional state (ever cry at a TV commercial?). So it’s important that you pay attention to what you put into your head and your heart, as well as your stomach. Try to avoid watching TV or movies that may be scary or emotionally draining. When you release adrenalin in a fear response, your baby experiences the adrenalin too. We know that prolonged exposure to the “fight or flight” hormones can restrict baby’s growth and development and can, in some cases, cause preterm birth; hence the need to reduce your intake of stressful or scary media. This can also include those birth shows on TV. They are meant to be dramatic, not realistic. Skip ‘em.
Take a look at the other stressors in your life. See what you can eliminate, and what you can adapt to make dealing with the rest of the stress easier. Take a yoga class. Remember, when you are in a good state of mind, so is baby. You have a strong emotional connection to your little one.
Clean out the cobwebs in your brain regarding old emotional wounds and your fears surrounding pregnancy, birth and parenting.
These old wounds can have a profound effect on your labor, your perception of your birth and your perception of your parenting skills.
If you need professional help, seek it. Not only will this help make birth go easier for you emotionally, but it will increase your confidence in yourself and your abilities. When you can be in a comfortable state of being you are better able to roll with your labor and birth your baby in the best way for you.
For care providers (OBs, Midwives, Nurses, Doulas, etc.): Saucha is, of course, all the basic physical cleanliness, especially since we don’t want to transfer cooties to mama and baby! I think this is fairly well understood. What I’d like to address is the mental, emotional and spiritual cleanliness for care providers.
This means that preconceptions and past experiences must live where they belong, in the past. Part of the care provider’s cleanliness is to be present with the laboring mama in front of her. This means not comparing her to the mama last week who presented a scary complication. It means practicing “watchful waiting,” or “expectant management” rather than, “preventative management.” That would be the midwifery model of care here. It means really listening to a mother as she labors, determining what it is that she needs, not what you think she might need. Hearing her concerns, her fears, her desires and respecting them (within the reasonable limits of safety). See the mother in front of you as an individual—not a fetal heart rate monitor and an IV drip, not as a statistic or something to “hurry up” before the end of your shift.
Clean out your own mental cobwebs; reduce your own stress, take a yoga class, and see this woman through the lens of the current time and space.
Up next: Santosha: Contentment or Satisfaction
Editor: Brianna Bemel