Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
Are you a prospective parent who’s curious about Ayurvedic postpartum care? Or a doctor or midwife wondering how an Ayurvedic wellness protocol may enhance your postpartum clients’ experiences? Are you a current or aspiring birth professional who’s curious how the skills and wisdom of Ayurvedic postpartum care can enhance your ability to serve families in the early weeks after birth?
Then read on to learn what is unique about this style of care.
A brief intro to the Ayurvedic perspective on postpartum well-being
Ayurveda is a science of life that helps people achieve joyful well-being and radiant health through harmonizing their inner nature with Mother Nature. Ayurveda views the person, and all their intricacies, through the lens of the five great elements: water, ether (space), fire, earth, and air. The physiological and spiritual processes of birth push the elements of air and ether into overdrive within the birth giver. Hence, Ayurvedic postpartum care seeks to soothe these overblown elements (which together are known constitutionally as “Vata”) through nourishment and nurturing that gently increase the elements of fire, water and earth.
So we are working in rhythm with Mother Nature to bring mothers/birthers into balance on all levels (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual), inviting each individual to have a more whole experience of mothering and parenting. The essence of what this care protocol seeks to achieve is not unique to Ayurveda. The wisdom and skills that Ayurveda employs to care for mothers after birth resonate with traditions and cultures around the globe and across time.
For the purpose of elucidating similarities and differences between Ayurvedic postpartum care and the type of care commonly practiced by North American doulas who are trained in other protocols, we referenced the postpartum doula program and scope of practice from three reputable certifying organizations: DONA, CAPPA, and ICEA.
Practitioners of Ayurvedic postpartum care may refer to themselves with any of the following titles: Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver/Carepartner, Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula, Ayudoula, or Ayurdoula.
Let’s take a look at what sets Ayurvedic postpartum care apart from the norm.
Resonance between Ayurvedic postpartum care and care provided by other North American postpartum doulas:
- Providing non-clinical, non-medical care. Unless they have specific certification and licensure to offer such services, Ayurvedic postpartum doulas (just like all doulas) do not provide medical or clinical care.
- Knowing when and who to refer families to when a mother/parent’s concern or condition is out of our scope of practice to address. Akin to postpartum doulas with different knowledge bases, Ayudoulas know their scope of practice well and are committed to equipping women and families with the best available resources and referrals when needs go beyond that of our skill set.
- Maintaining confidentiality. As with other practicing doulas, Ayurvedic postpartum doulas maintain complete client confidentiality.
- Primacy of the parents’ needs and desires. While we are trained to help guide birthing individuals in a specific protocol of nutrition and self-care for the postpartum time, the clients’ needs and desires supercede our recommendations. We are here to help mothers/parents have their healthiest, most fulfilling postpartum experience possible.
- We are trained to offer basic breastfeeding support. Breastfeeding knowledge can vary greatly from doula to doula, but all postpartum doulas have at least a working knowledge of breastfeeding basics, along with an awareness of when a mother may want or need the assistance of a more skilled professional, such as a Lactation Consultant. Our perspective on breastfeeding wellness, however, may stand apart from a Western one. With roots in Ayurveda, we look at Baby’s digestion, the mother’s digestion and food choices, and the mother’s personal well-being to consider how each of these may affect breastfeeding.
- Offering emotional support. All postpartum doulas are educated in basic postpartum physiology and have an awareness of the physical and emotional states that come along with drastic hormonal shifts post-birth. We listen without judgement, and honor you and your experience just as it is.
What is unique about Ayurvedic postpartum care?
Ayurvedic postpartum care emphasizes nurturing and nourishing the mama through
- Daily oil massage (also known as abhyanga)
- Special foods and cooking methods to encourage rekindling of digestion and rebuilding of bodily tissues, as well as a sense of mental and emotional well-being
- Time-tested rejuvenative herbal foods
- Emotional support
- Gently building rhythms in the mom/parent’s days to help ground her and her family
As each Ayudoula develops a care practice that is unique to her intentions and skill set, she may choose to focus exclusively on certain parts of this protocol.
Here’s a deeper look at what an Ayudoula is trained to do:
An Ayurvedic postpartum caregiver is trained to teach mothers how to give themselves postpartum-specific abhyanga. Depending on her
other qualifications (such as Ayurvedic Practitioner or Licensed Massage Therapist), she may offer to perform daily abhyanga for her clients. Ayudoulas are also trained to teach parents Ayurvedic infant massage, which is typically offered one to two weeks after birth.
Nutritional Guidance and Cooking
Even if she does not personally prepare a mom/parent’s food, an Ayurvedic postpartum caregiver’s knowledge allows her to educate and guide whoever is preparing the family’s food, and to suggest dietary adjustments based on consulting with the mom or birthing parent. She is skilled to prepare essential rejuvenative herbal foods, or educate the mother or another member of her support team as to how to make them, should a mother choose to incorporate these foods into her sacred window nourishment.
An Ayudoula will likely consult with a mom/parent extensively during the prenatal period to understand the birther’s specific constitution, lifestyle, circumstances, and food preferences so that she can offer the most suitable recommendations and – if she cooks for the mom/birther postnatally – meals, snacks, and beverages to optimally support digestion and rejuvenation.
We may or may not offer light housework, but we will leave the family kitchen cleaner than we found it.
Wise Woman Consulting
An Ayudoula is trained to consult with a mother or birthing parent daily (or whenever she is with her client) throughout the sacred window with a focus on monitoring digestion and offering suggestions for improving the quality of digestion. Ayurveda focuses tremendously on digestion as this core physiological process impacts our total well-being in multiple ways – our mentality, sense of wellness and mood, rate and depth of healing and recovery, and breast milk quality, just to name a few.
This regular consultation also provides the opportunity to connect more deeply with a parent to ensure their needs are being met, to listen to anything the mom or parent desires to share, and to offer compassionate, non-judgemental emotional support.
Support for Developing Rhythms
Rhythms are essential for our well-being and are especially critical for grounding. Postpartum mothers and parents are in a time of great transition. As a grounded presence, Ayudoulas help their postpartum clients gently build rhythms of self-care, nourishment, and mindfulness in the days and weeks following birth.
Our education in postpartum nourishment and self-care enables us to help parents prepare for a rejuvenative and fulfilling postpartum experience.
Ayudoulas are able to help moms and families prepare for the sacred window. We are ready to help parents think of the support they may need and how to organize a network of care around them.
Our focus is primarily on the mom. We are here to mother the mother.
We focus, first and foremost, on the nourishing and nurturing of the mother or birth giver. In giving our full attention and care to the mother, we encourage ease in her recovery. In tending to the mother, she grows in her mothering confidence, knowing that her own cup is full.
This may be the hallmark of Ayurvedic Postpartum Care: our complete devotion to deeply nurturing and nourishing the Prime Nurturer/Nourisher AKA the Mother. We use the tools we have, as outlined above, along with our full-hearted presence to serve and honor the ones who give the most of themselves – body, heart, mind and soul. We believe that nourished and nurtured mothers are able to connect more deeply and fully with their baby, their children and partner, their greater family and community. Deep rejuvenation gives way to healing and integration; a genuine embodiment of wholeness. This wholeness emanates out from mother/parent to the family to the community to the greater human family. And our world is a little more healed and whole. This is the vision we work towards.
Nena is a Holistic Full-Spectrum Doula, yoga teacher, mama, and graduate of the Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver program. She lives in the Asheville, NC area.