‘Evam kurvati hi arogya-bala-varna-samvahana-sampadam upetam jnatinam shreshtam apatyam janayati’
– Charaka Samhita
Translating the above verses,
‘If a pregnant woman is taken care of as advised, she will give birth to a child who does not have any diseases – a healthy, physically strong, radiant and well nourished baby. He will be superior to all in the race’
Ayurvedic tradition has the practice of describing pregnancy under definitions of ‘safe motherhood’. This can be further explicated as ‘the basis of family life which, in turn, is the backbone of all the orders of society. Hence, family life remains protected if the woman is safe and protected.’ Thus the mother forms the pivot around which the health of the entire family revolves. Ayurveda compares conception to the germination and sprouting of a seed and its transformation into a sapling. When the male and female seeds unite and the soul enters the union, it becomes an embryo (called in Sanskrit as garbha). Ayurveda gives importance to the quality of the seed and hence, to the development during adolescence, of both the male and the female. In addition to the female seed, the mother also provides the ‘soil, nutrition and the right season’ for the seed to grow. Hence, Ayurveda advises special attention to be paid to the nutrition and protection of the woman to keep her (the soil) rich and clean. It further advises that a female under sixteen years of age and a male under twenty should not bear a child. The rules of sexual intercourse are also laid down. So also, those of antenatal care: the husband and other family members are advised to take care of the pregnant woman’s diet and encourage activities that are dear to her and beneficial to the foetus or child growing in her body. Thus, the approach towards motherhood, that is pregnancy and childbirth, is a holistic one. Such concepts are excellent, but the question is: are they practiced? In fact, it needs thorough introspection on our part to find out why this approach was abandoned.