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Holistic Approach to Pregnancy

“A conscious birth, builds a conscious world” Eyla Cuenca


This approach offers a different view of the body, health, and illness and opens up many new options for healing and preventative care. Most people who try the holistic approach during pregnancy find it so beneficial that it changes the way they view health and illness for the rest of their lives. This ultimately becomes a springboard toward future exploration of complementary and alternative medicine. This article takes a closer look at the holistic approach in relation to pregnancy and explores the idea of soul incarnation, some of whose concepts are often mirrored in holistic views of health and illness.


Understanding the Holistic Approach


Holism is an approach to life that integrates the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) with all of life. It is a way of looking at and dealing with life issues in their entirety and does not reduce things to components and parts. Holism is not a method of treatment separate from what it seeks to describe; it is an integral way of understanding and dealing with life – what we might call a worldview or philosophy. Holism does not simply add a spiritual dimension to the mechanistic view of the world and the human's place in it. Rather, it seeks to overcome the chronic dualism that has bedeviled Western human thought for many centuries.


This dualism has manifested in many ways and forms, but a consistent expression of it has been a separation of mind and body, and a resultant separation of the material and spiritual dimensions of life. The fundamental dualism is a separation of the human and the divine, of the world and the transcendent.


Dualistic worldviews have resulted in a devaluation of the natural world, the human body, and human history. In healthcare, the dualistic separation of mind and body has resulted in a psychiatry that too often seeks to treat the mind in abstraction from the life of the person, and a medicine that does not understand the body in terms of the life which inhabits it. Often, the chronic problems which beset humanity are rooted in the hubris that seeks to push aside the divine and limit reality to human terms and understanding – in this sense, there are no holistic or allopathic treatments, but only human treatments which are expressions of a state of being.


Exploring Soul Incarnation


In order to understand the holistic approach to pregnancy, it is necessary to have a subtle insight into soul incarnation. This information has been given to us by great sages, rishis and yoghis. This subject is very deep, and we will give a simplified version of what the great sages have given us. When a soul is due to take birth, it first comes into contact with its prospective mother, and then an impression is created in the soul of the child. This impression is known as the sanskar, and it can relate to any experience of the past life. This sanskar then becomes the causal body of the soul. A thought is the first form of energy of the soul. This thought, if intense, then becomes an action.


During a lifetime, we change our minds so many times, but it is the intense thoughts that determine our course of action and ultimately our personality. So, at the point in time when the mother and father become one in the form of the child, the soul, due to its past sanskar, will have a desire to fulfill, and more often than not, the actions of the parents will comply with the child's desire. This is the scientific reason why children are how they are, and one can understand this with hindsight.



The Physical Journey of Pregnancy


The physical journey of pregnancy, which often determines the path of the emotional and mental journey, begins at conception. The prenatal decisions and care a mother makes often reflect whether or not she is carrying out her conscious and unconscious desires of parenthood. These decisions and care continue throughout the pregnancy and shape the way in which she parents.


Because the effect these decisions have on the outcome of pregnancy and motherhood, it is crucial to the mother, child, and family's spirit that the prenatal choices are one of consciousness. A conscious pregnancy involves the awareness of the impact of one's thoughts, actions, and environment during the pregnancy and how these things affect the development of the child and the development of oneself into motherhood. A woman's ability to make informed decisions of what is best in the interest of the child is an essential part of parenting from the beginning.


Women choose to become mothers for a multitude of reasons. An array of factors determines a woman's readiness and willingness to take on the responsibility of pregnancy and parenthood. The desire to conceive and nurture a child is often accompanied by a vision of the wanted child and the yearning to parent.



“It seems that in our twenty-first century modern world, many women have become estranged from their primal brain and the knowledge that lies within it. Women too often hand their power over to the medical world long before they enter labour and have the idea someone else will do it for them.”





The body's ability to function as nature intended is largely dependent on its state of health and the presence of an optimum environment both internally and externally. The physical condition and health of an expectant mother will have a direct impact on her energy levels, comfort through the various stages of pregnancy, and importantly, the health of the growing baby. By creating an optimum environment for the growing child, we not only invest in the immediate and future health of the baby, but also prevent depletion or imbalance within our own body. The significance of this is clear when we observe mothers who have "given their all" and aged rapidly through the child-rearing years.


Firstly, it is an established fact that the body has an innate intelligence and capability to grow, give birth, and nourish a child. Pregnancy can be viewed as the one time in a woman's life where her body is actually doing exactly what it was designed to do! This is a comforting thought if we remember that, in the absence of complicating factors, all should progress normally and healthily given the right conditions and inputs.


During pregnancy, the body goes through significant changes in a relatively short period of time. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that I was actually "in charge" of another life and that the better I looked after my body, the easier and more comfortable my journey, and the healthier the baby would be. There are a few important principles to keep in mind.


"There is a power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it."

~Sheryl Feldman~


In our society childbirth is often viewed as something to be feared and even to be avoided, through elective caesarian or extreme pain suppression. In the uplifting book Kristina Turner applies esoteric knowledge to show practical ways of transforming a difficult experience into a positive and deeply spiritual one.


Kristina looks closely at the physical processes that take place in the body during pregnancy and childbirth, as well at explaining the facts behind hospital procedures and options for home birth -- providing readers with the necessary knowledge to make their own choices. She feels that birthing should be viewed as a unified process, from the nine months of pregnancy through labour to the many months of breastfeeding; all three stages contribute to developing the bond between mother and child and the child's emotional function.


Kristina writes beautifully about the sacred mystery inherent in conception and pregnancy, and guides the new mother towards being a conscious participant in the spiritual process of bringing life into this world.



Embracing Changes and Challenges


Pregnancy brings about many physical changes and challenges for the mother-to-be. The growing fetus and associated body changes are easily measured and monitored; however, the underlying transition of the mother's identity rarely receives acknowledgment.


Basing her ideas on research conducted by Stern and Karraker in 1989, Raphael-Leff (2005:122) proposes that "the developing fetus plays a key role in the mother's developing new identity." This may not be overtly apparent, and taking on a new identity may not necessarily be positive or a conscious choice. For many women, letting go of the woman they were, to allow space for the emerging maternal self, can be painful.


Raphael-Leff suggests that the reason for this mourning process is the impact of the fetus, in the here and now, taking up space in the woman's body.


Pregnancy is also a time where women experience enormous hormonal fluctuations. It is commonly thought that this is a very individual experience with hormone secretion being either too much or too little of one type of hormone and that this is what causes mood swings and emotional upheaval.


However, Homer et al (1990) argue that more than the hormonal changes themselves, it is the altered perception of hormonal balance that impacts mood and emotion. Hormonal secretions affecting the pregnant woman are, in fact, greater than at any other time over the life cycle, and in the first trimester of pregnancy, the changes in hormonal levels are rapid and extreme. This increases the likelihood of mood and anxiety disorders during this period and exacerbates pre-existing mental health issues. High anxiety and depression rates among pregnant women reflect the challenge in coping with this change in hormone-induced states of emotion.



The Spiritual Aspect of Pregnancy


Heather Esplen's reflection on "Connect with the Soul of the Unborn" provided a resonating point for me, what she describes as "3D bonding".


Soul bonding can occur while, at the same time, a parent needs to remember that this is an energetic exchange between the parent and child. Though Esplen describes the urgency and need to communicate and understand through intuition, that is not something that comes so quickly and easily for most people. What is most important is creating an environment from conception or the "blueprint" stage that will foster positive and healthy energetic growth for said child.


I can only say that when I was pregnant, I was so focused on my physical body and the changes that were occurring to accommodate this baby that I did not think about what was happening on an energetic and spiritual level. This topic causes one to pause and really think, what does that really mean? The answer to that question is likely that it is different for everyone based on their beliefs and personal experiences. Whether an individual believes in a soul or a higher being of any sort does not negate the fact that a pregnancy is a time of massive change, and for many, this is a time of seeking a higher level of understanding and/or comfort.



Connecting with the Soul of the Unborn

The best way to communicate with the soul of the unborn is through meditation, although connecting dreams are also quite common. During meditation, the mother should seek guidance from her spirit guides, as well as the child's. She should invite these higher beings to commune with her and her baby so that they can give insight as to how she can better serve her child and assist them in their own spiritual growth.


Quite often, incarnating souls choose to enter the physical realm at conception, yet they do not fully unite with the growing fetus until the second trimester of pregnancy. During the first trimester, the soul will come and go, hovering both inside and outside the mother's energy field. It is when the second trimester approaches that the soul makes a conscious decision to unite with the fetus and connect with the physical body that is forming. This occurs on a spiritual level and is all predetermined by the soul itself, according to the experiences it wishes to encounter once in physical form. A mother can actually communicate with the soul of her unborn during pregnancy to learn more about what this child will need to live a fulfilled life and all the lessons the mother can expect to learn from her child.




Cultivating Inner Harmony and Peace


The most important thing for a pregnant woman to do is to create a peaceful environment, both inside and outside herself. This is challenging because not only is her body going through constant change, both physically and hormonally, but also emotionally and mentally she may feel vulnerable as she prepares to become a mother.


The pressures and strains of modern life often do not allow enough time or consideration to be given to the adjustment a woman must go through as she prepares for motherhood. Consequently, while pregnancy does have the potential to be a profound personal and spiritual growth experience, for many women, this is not the case.


Miscarriage, depression, anxiety, and fear are common themes of pregnancy for a woman, and the potential personal growth is lost. The child too is affected by the mother's emotional state. By cultivating inner peace and harmony, pregnancy can be a joyful preparation for both motherhood and spiritual growth for the entire family. To create inner peace and harmony, it is essential that a pregnant woman take time to nurture herself. This may involve making changes to her lifestyle, work, and relationships to allow more time for herself. At this time of change, she may find herself re-evaluating what it is that she needs to be truly happy and fulfilled, and she may begin to move towards a more authentic, fulfilling lifestyle.


Sufficient rest and relaxation are important, but so is doing something that is nurturing and fulfilling, that allows the mother to be in touch with herself and who she is becoming on this journey into motherhood. A daily spiritual practice such as meditation, yoga, or spending quiet time in nature can be very nourishing and can help to keep the rampant changes of pregnancy in perspective.



Integrating Holistic Practices into Pregnancy

The integration of holistic practices into pregnancy allows us to create an ideal environment for the incoming soul and promotes the physical and emotional health of the mother and the wider family. Such practices assist the family to revisit and release patterns of the past that could impede the process of incarnation and also to look at any fears or resistance to this new incoming soul.


In identifying these, the family can resolve them in a way that brings understanding and healing, rather than perpetuating negative patterns. By creating a conscious and supportive entry for the incoming soul, this in itself can bring healing and positive change to all family members. A mother's attunement to her unborn baby is a key factor in conscious incarnation. Being conscious is about being fully present and aware of what is going on within and around oneself. The prenatal period is an important time for parents to begin to understand the needs and nature of their child.


One of the best tools a mother can use to create mindfulness is meditation. Through learning to still the mind and release extraneous thoughts, a mother can become more aware of her intuitive feelings and more open to inner guidance. This will help her to bring greater focus and perception to the specific issues surrounding her pregnancy and her child.




Mindfulness and Meditation

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is a well-known program which teaches mindfulness and meditation as a way for people to take better care of themselves and live healthier lives.


Although it was not originally developed for pregnant women, the MBSR program has since been tailored to be pregnancy specific. Kabat-Zinn's research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on the reduction of stress in pregnancy has shown it to be an effective tool for decreasing pre-term labor, as well as reducing the instance of low birth weight in infants. MBSR has also shown to increase positive mood states, decrease anxiety and depression, and lead to a greater satisfaction with life for the mothers-to-be. Mindfulness and meditation have further helped mothers-to-be to connect and communicate with their unborn babies, and even to gain insight and intuition about their pregnancies and birthing.


Internationally, within the last decade, holistic practices have gained momentum in the field of obstetrics. These non-invasive practices improve healthy outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. They include yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and guided imagery, to name a few. Holistic practices encompass a wide continuum of mind/body exercises and therapies that enhance the connection of the mother to her own body, her baby, and the experience of pregnancy. Mind/body therapies encourage expectant mothers to relax, slow down, and quiet the mind.


This in itself is an important concept for women to learn during pregnancy, as it often is the first step in letting go of the fast-paced life so many are accustomed to. Learning to relax and quiet the mind, even for a few minutes a day, can be extremely restorative and can give women the energy they need for self-care. Creating a personal and nurturing time for themselves is a large part of the early learning that takes place in many of these holistic practices.





Nutrition and Exercise for Optimal Well-being


The word holistic signifies the consideration of the whole picture. The ideal of holistic nutrition is to propose an approach that consists of pure and nourishing foods for the body. The goal is to create a balance within these three distinct aspects of human beings: mind, body, and spirit. It is believed that food is not only a source of energy but also a tool for healing and maintaining harmony in the body. With this in mind, it is apparent that pregnant women should pay particular attention to the food that they are consuming. It is often recommended that they consume organic foods free of additives and processing.


This is because at this stage in development, the baby is highly sensitive and susceptible to chemical imbalances due to additives in foods. It is often that cravings may lead to poor food choices; therefore, it is important to plan and prepare meals in advance that are healthy and nutritious. A diet for pregnant mothers using holistic principles promotes the use of grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetables, and a moderate intake of good quality protein. It is felt by holistic health practitioners that vegetarianism is the healthiest diet for expectant mothers because it avoids high intake of saturated fats and promotes a consumption of foods high in antioxidants and fiber.


These foods are said to promote an alkaline ash residue after digestion, which is said to be optimal for the body. Throughout pregnancy, it is also important to drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated and aid in the transfer of nutrients to the baby.



Creating a Supportive Environment


It is often said by midwives and obstetricians alike that the home environment plays a crucial role in determining the birthing outcome. This statement not only refers to the physical environment, but to the mental and emotional environments present, for these can easily influence the physical. How a woman feels about her pregnancy, birth and motherhood will affect her life and her child's. There are many ways in which a woman can create an environment that is supportive of her pregnancy.


She may choose to have a baby shower, celebrating the rite of passage of motherhood with friends and family. This is a way for the mother to seek the support and advice from other women who have experienced childbirth or motherhood.


Keeping a journal can be a helpful and healthy way to express emotions, and record pregnancy experiences. Sometimes negative emotions are difficult to express to friends or family, for fear it may cause them to worry. Writing is a private and effective way to address such emotions.


Creating an altar or sacred space within the home can be an expression of a woman's deepest birth wishes. Items can be placed on this altar that symbolize her strength and courage or represent the kind of birth she envisions. When times get tough, visualizing this altar can be a helpful reminder of her birthing goals. In order to prepare for the mental and emotional stamina needed to birth a baby, a woman must also consciously try to eliminate or reduce unnecessary stress in her life.


Having set boundaries and limitations for time spent at work or with certain people can bring more time and energy to focus on pregnancy and birth, which ultimately are preparations for bringing new life into this world.




With Gratitude,

Gabriela Ana

Holistic Health Coach


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GABRIELA ANA

Health Coach

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