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July 14, 2014

Ayurveda for Babies & New Moms. ~ Ragnhild Rannie Boes, Ph. D.

Mother and child hands

A new Mom’s Situation

Having a new baby is an important turning point in any woman’s life.

“The time just after childbirth is the most vulnerable time in a woman’s life” says Duke University psychiatrist, Diane Dell.1 All of these changes in her life are overwhelming and unpredictable.

Mary’s story could be similar to that of many new mothers. All throughout pregnancy, she had been preparing with doctors’ check-ups, childbirth education classes, etc. She had been looking forward with great expectations to this most important time in her life—the arrival of her new baby.

Now that she is home from the hospital, she is on call 24/7 with her baby. Her sleep is like cat-napping and she rarely gets a full night’s rest because she is constantly needing to nurse or change her baby at night. She feels great joy, but also many pressures and demands.

Her husband just got a new job that takes up his time and her family is far away; she needs help, but feels lonely and isolated. This is a time when the baby blues and postpartum depression are likely to set in. A recent study of 10.000 new mothers found postpartum depression in 14 percent of these women.2

Ayurveda can offer many benefits to both mother and baby during this time of transition.

A few words about Ayurveda

Over time, the knowledge and practice of this ancient Vedic system of healing and natural medicine has become fragmented, scattered and distorted through incorrect translations and practice. The importance of mental techniques and meditation was lost.3

A collaboration between leading experts in Ayurveda, modern medicine and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi restored Ayurveda and put together this body of knowledge, techniques and recommendations which is now known as Maharishi Ayurveda.4 Its goal is to prevent disease and promote health through effective, natural health approaches.

What is the Mother and Baby program?

The aim of the program is also to strengthen the tender baby’s physiology after the strains of birth, as well as being specifically designed to assist new mothers in their rejuvenation after giving birth, ridding of fatigue and preventing postpartum depression.

The program covers many aspects of a mother’s health care that are not generally part of care for new mothers in our society, such as daily oil massages for mother and baby, suitable diet, herbs, meditation, rest and exercise, daily/seasonal routines. The Mother and Baby program is part of Maharishi Ayurveda and provides more comprehensive care for new mothers and their babies based on ancient Vedic wisdom and modern Western medicine.5

Starting the program

The program may last for up to six weeks after childbirth. Following personalized recommendations by a practitioner of Maharishi Ayurveda, a specially trained female technician will give treatments about two hours a day in the home of the mother. She gets a full body oil massage, while friends or family look after the baby. The parents will learn how to do a specific Ayurvedic baby massage which helps the baby’s physiology, digestion, and sleep.

It is recommended that mothers stay inside for the first six weeks to allow for rest and recovery.6 This is because it usually takes six weeks for the internal organs and tissues to heal after childbirth.7

To optimize rest, practice of the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique is recommended. This generates a state of restful alertness, where mind and body are at rest, yet fully awake and alert, and allows for better mind/body coordination and health. Research shows that it is works well reducing psychological stress and birth complications and promotes harmony in family life.8

Anxiety and worry are common feelings among new mothers. TM has been shown to be twice as effective in reducing anxiety as comparable recommended relaxation techniques9 and had the greatest effect in people with the highest levels of anxiety.10 It also works well in reducing and treating depression—even in severe cases such as war veterans.11

Another recommendation is the creation of a support group. People such as the father and a close girlfriend can be helpful in contacting friends and family to relieve her of household chores and look after older children in the family to allow the new mother time to care for her baby and herself.

What advice does the Maharishi Ayurveda Mother and Baby Program include?

  • Daily massage with warm sesame oil followed by a warm bath and rest.
  • Breastfeeding the baby and giving them a daily Ayurvedic baby-massage.
  • Staying inside for up to six weeks.
  • Practicing TM twice daily and limiting visits from friends and family.
  • Letting cooking, cleaning, shopping be done by others when possible.
  • Foods should be easy to digest, warm, freshly and well cooked and organic.
  • A soup-based diet with the biggest meal at lunch.
  • Quiet meals in comfortable company.
  • Quiet maternal activities and reduced TV time at night.
  • Early bedtime (about 9.30 p.m).12

What we learned from Research on the Mother and Baby program?

I conducted the first parts of research on the Mother and Baby program.13 Eighteen women were in this program, which included the TM technique, here called Group I. A group of 13 women, who received usual, standard care after childbirth, was called Group II.

They were interviewed six weeks and twelve weeks after childbirth; the interviews were content analyzed to detect any changes over this six week period.

Harmony in the Family

Half of the mothers in Group I experienced enriched family life at week six, compared to 25 percent of mothers in Group two. This was still the case at week twelve, while the experience of harmony in the family had dropped to zero percent in the other group.

Ragnhild R. Boes,

 

Overall health.

Health rating “excellent” remained at 72 percent in Group I over this six weeks period, while it dropped from 38 percent to 18 percent in Group II; health remained stable over time in Group I mothers.

Feelings of emotional stability 

Emotional stability did not change much in Group I mothers during these six weeks while the experience of an “emotional roller coaster” is not uncommon after childbirth. To feel stable emotionally is critical during this time of transition for the new mother and may help protect against postpartum depression.

Long-term effects

Interviews were scheduled for six weeks and twelve weeks after childbirth, when the treatments were over. We then see the long-term effects of the Mother and Baby program, the effect that remained after the treatment.

***

These group differences stand out. The mothers in the Mother and Baby program experienced more harmony in the family; they also had higher and more stable health ratings and greater emotional stability.

These differences are noteworthy, since this group of mothers was an average of almost seven years older than mothers in Group II. About half of them were age 35-45 and the majority was first-time mothers. First-time mothers and mothers in this age range are at increased risk for difficulties after childbirth.14 However, mothers in Group I had a more stable recovery.

Sample experiences of the Mother and Baby program:

“After this program I feel refreshed and really full of love for my family.”

“Right away, the first day we did the massage, it was such a deep level, all those tensions and worries seemed to disappear.”

“ I feel more confident as a mother, more integrated with the experience. “

“ I am very happy, blissed out. There are many challenges, but I am in bliss.”

“I am more relaxed and feel confident that I can take care of any situation arising.”

“Dad takes the baby in the evenings. He loves the baby so much. It has enriched our lives. “

“I am more emotionally stable than the first two weeks. Do not get upset so much. Do not feel overwhelmed – feel stronger. Go biking for exercise and fun.”

“I did not experience that postpartum depression and I really think it that it had a lot to do with that.”

“It has helped me feel happier and more cheerful.”

We know, when mother is happy, so is her baby; a baby senses at a deep level the state of well-being of its mother, and is affected by it.

A Final Note

This program has the potential to make the transition into motherhood easier and to bridge the gap of lack of care for new mothers during this time that is so critical for new mothers. The subjective experiences of the mothers in this program and the study itself show a more problem-free recovery after childbirth.

New mothers need a practical and well-structured program for a fast and complete recovery after childbirth. The Mother and Baby program could help reduce or prevent postpartum difficulties as a means of prevention.

This knowledge and advice can easily be taught or practiced at hospitals as postpartum classes for new mothers to help them regain energy, vitality, and happiness after childbirth. Nurses and midwives can use this knowledge in follow-up sessions with postpartum mothers at doctor’s offices, childbirth educators and the like. When applied more widely, these guidelines and knowledge could lead to a reduced need for costly community health care interventions; a positive health contribution to the family and to society as a whole.

***

References

1. Dell, Diane (2002). In U.S. News & World Report, 3/18/2002, Vol. 132 Issue 8, p. 23,

2. Wisner KL, Sit DK, McShea MC, Rizzo DM, Zoretich RA, Hughes CL, Eng HF, Luther JF, Wisniewski SR, Costantino ML, Confer AL,Moses-Kolko EL, Famy CS, Hanusa BH. (2013). Onset timing, thoughts of self-harm, and diagnoses in postpartum women with screen-positive depression findings. JAMA Psychiatry. May;70(5):490-8

3. Sharma, H., and Clark, C. (1998). Contemporary Ayurveda: Medicine and Research in Maharishi Ayurveda. New York: Churchill Livingstone.

4. Sharma, H., and Clark, C (1998), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1994) Maharishi Vedic University, Maharishi Vedic University Press, Holland & Maharishi.

5. Sharma & Clark (1998); Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1994); Lonsdorf, N., Butler, V, & Brown, M., (1993).

6. Lonsdorf, N., Butler, V, & Brown, M., (1993). A woman’s best medicine. G. P. Putnam & Sons, N.Y., New York.

7. Lonsdorf, N., Butler, V, & Brown, M., (1993). A woman’s best medicine. G. P. Putnam & Sons, N.Y., New York.

8. Tulman, L., & Fawcett, I. (1988). Return of functional ability after birth. Nursing Research, 37, 77-81.

9. Epply, Abrams, & Shear, 1989; Chen, M.E. (1984). A comparative study of dimensions of healthy functioning between families practicing the TM program for five years or for less than a year. Dissertation Abstracts International 45(10): 3206B. Aron, E.N., Aron, A. (1982). Transcendental Meditation program and marital adjustment. Psychological Reports 51: 887–890; Heidelberg, R. (1979). Transcendental Meditation in Obstetric Psychoprophylaxis, University of Free Berlin, Germany. Collected Papers on TM research, vol. 3, pp 1792-93.

10. Epply, K., Abrams, A., Shear, J. (1989). The differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology (45):957–74.

11. Orme-Johnson, David W. and Barnes, Vernon A.. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique on Trait Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. May 2014, 20(5): 330-341. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0204.

12. Brooks J.S., et al. (1985). Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of post-Vietnam adjustment. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64:212–215. Elder C, Nidich S, Moriarty F, Nidich Rss. Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study. Permanente Journal,. 2014 Winter;18(1)

13. Freeman, M. (2002).Postpartum care from Ancient India (2002). Midwifery Today Issue 61, Spring

14. Boes, R. (1999). Mothers’ adjustment after childbirth: examining effects of the Mother Baby program of Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health on mothers’ postpartum health and recovery. Maharishi University of Management. Doctoral Dissertation, Dissertation Abstracts International 60(6B): 293–4.

15. Dollberg, S., Seidman, D. S., Yarrow, A., Sevenson, D. K. & Gale, R. (1996). Adverse outcomes in older primipara. Journal of Perinatology, 16, (2), 93-97.

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Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Flickr / Robert Freiberger

 

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Ragnhild Rannie Boes, Ph. D.