The subject of mother and child health begins very much earlier than the time of conception. This is so, because the quality of theaarthava* (the secretion of the female genital organs) and that of the shukra (the semen) are reflected in the product of conception. A co-ordination of the four factors - menstrual period (rithu), the womb (kshetra), nutrient liquid (rasa ambu), and healthy semen (beeja shukra), and observance of a proper regimen are necessary for the conception and development of a healthy child (Sus, Sam., Sha. 2/33). Hence, to have a healthy child the contributing factors viz. shukra andaarthava, should be in their normal healthy state.
Aachaaryaas have stressed two points while describing the factors responsible for a proper conception and the birth of a healthy child. It is advised that the man and woman should be of differentgothras or clans and only then the child born to them would be healthy and strong (Chakrapaani Datta's commentary on Cha. Sam., Sha. 2/3). Also while describing the contra indications of coitus Bhaavamisra includes cohabitation with a woman of the samegothra (Bha. Pra., purvakhanda Din. 5/302). While enumerating the restrictions on who can be a marriage partner, theDharmashaasthras also specify - "Asapindaa cha yaa mathurasagothra cha ya pithuh" i.e. "(One can marry a person who is) not asapinda to one's mother and not of the same gothra as one's father" (3). The marriageable age of the man and woman have also been specified as twenty years and sixteen years respectively for getting healthy progeny. (Ash. Hru. Sha. 1/8)
Regimen during rithu kaala
To maintain a healthy womb and normal aarthava one should observe certain regimen during the rithu kaala (during menstruation or menstrual periods). During the rithu kaala the woman should avoid sleeping in the daytime, anointing the body, running, hearing loud sounds, indulging in upavaasa or any heavy and strenuous work. She should not pare her nails, should not weep or apply collyrium.
Best period for conception
The first twelve nights after the cessation of the menstrual flow are considered to be the proper (best) period for conception . (Sus. Sam., Sha.3/6). For three days after the appearance of the menses the young wife should avoid cohabitation, should sleep on a grass mat (made of kusha grass), eat mild food like plain rice, from small earthen vessels. On the fourth day she should have abhyanga snaanam (head-bath after applying oil) and water apparel. Her husband should also adopt the same regimen. Both of them wearing white apparel and garlands, with happiness of mind and an attraction for each other should enter into cohabitation (Cha. Sam., Sha.8/5).
Attraction for each other and happiness of mind are essential for the birth of a healthy child and that is why our aachaaryaas have stressed on such points. It is most important that the man and wife are both in a good mental state i.e. with feelings like - anger, fright, jealousy or hatred. We can find examples in epics like Mahabharatha about instances where the mother either due to aversion or due to fright is not in a balanced state of mind, resulting in the birth of defective children like Drutharashtra (who was born blind) and Paandu (who was born weak and defective).
Cohabitation during the daytime is held to be harmful. The Prasnopanishad states that "Praanam vaa ethy praskadanthi ye diva rathya sanyujanthe; brahmacharymeva tadyadrathrau rathya sanjujyanthe" i.e. "Those who cohabit with their wives in the daytime lose their vitality and those who restrict this to the night time remain brahmachaaris" (4).
Factors from Father and Mother
According to Aayurvedic Philosophy the human body is composed of five mahaabhoothas. The sources of these mahaabhoothas are said to be the mother, father, rasa and aatma. Some of the mental faculties are also derived from the previous birth (poorva jenma vaasana). Some of the qualities of a person are derived from saathmya, satwa and rajas. The qualities derived from the mother are : skin, blood, muscles, fat, umbilicus, hrudaya, pancreas, liver, spleen, kidney, urinary bladder and bone marrow. The parts derived from the father are hair (scalp), beard, moustache, body hair, teethy, bones, veins, tendons, arteries, semen and nails. The rasajabhaavas are the origin of body or manifestation of different body parts, growth of body, attachment of life or strength with body, contentment nourishment, enthusiasm or zeal, energy or strength, health, unhealthy state, complexion, maintenance of body and greedlessness.
Features development from the aatma are birth in a specific species, knowledge about oneself, manas, respiration, retention and ejaculation of respiration and flatus, appearence, voice, specific complexion, happiness, sorrow, longing and hatred.
The factors contributed by saatmya are freedom from diseases, absence of idleness, absence of greed, normal voice, normal complexion, normal seed, constant happiness, brain, perspicuity of indriyas, high quality of ojas, longevity, strength and energy. Factors related to the previous birth are bakthi, good conduct, memory, cleanliness, charity, courage, feebleness, wealth, wavering mind and jealously.
Hence for baby to be born with all the good qualities it is essential that all these factors viz., the mother, father, rasa (the product of digestion of the motherís food) the aatma etc. Should be in good state.
Garbha and its formation
When the shukra (of a healthy man) comes into contact with the aarthava (of a healthy lady with unaffected garbhaashaya), during the fertile period, then the jeeva (soul) along with the mind descends into it to form the garbha. This garbha is nourished by the wholesome rasa (final product of digestion of the motherís food) and maintained by proper regimen (of the mother). Thereafter the garbha is formed with all the gyaanendriyaas and karmendriyaas (sensory and motor organs) and endowed with the excellence of strength, complexion and mental faculties, by the time of delivery (Cha. Sam., Sha.3/3).
Time of delivery
After the completion of eighth month the foetus is mature enough for delivery i.e. from the first day of the ninth month one should be prepared for delivery at any time. (Cha. Sam., Sha).