Monday, February 26, 2007

Ayahuasca and Pregnancy

Someone recently brought a question up regarding the use of ayahuasca and pregnancy. My feeling, based on experience, is that pregnant women should not drink ayahuasca. The physical purging could be difficult or disastrous for a fetus. I wouldn't recommend taking the chance.
The person posing the question went further to ask whether husbands of pregnant women were allowed to drink ayahuasca. Again from my experience, though different traditions have different guidelines, this was never an issue with Julio, my teacher of nearly 25 years. My own wife was pregnant when one of our sons got terribly sick. While he was in the intensive care unit in Lima--after he'd been stabilized--I went to Iquitos and took a boat out to see Julio to see what long-range curing he could do for Marco. And Julio had no issue with the idea that Chepa, my wife, was pregnant at the time. So I don't think, at least in some places, that it is taboo for the husband of a pregnant woman to drink.
On the other hand, some curanderos have a real issue with pregnant women being present or close by during ceremony, even when not drinking. It's felt by some that spirits can too easily enter into either the pregnant woman or the fetus, both of whom are very vulnerable during that period. Knowing how easily spirits enter into humans who are not as vulnerable, I'd go along with this one, just to be on the side of safety. A spirit tagging along with your body is not always easy to toss off and could, I imagine, be very frightening to some. I wouldn't want my pregant wife being in that position if it was avoidable.
The other part of the question, though I wasn't specifically asked, regards women who are menstruating being at ceremony. In my experience, this is sometimes verboten, sometimes frowned upon, and sometimes not an issue. With Julio, he didn't mind, but both he and I knew that if one of my guests were having her period there was a very good possibility that only she would have any effect from the medicine. Julio would explain it as though she were wide open compared to the rest of us, and the spirits would naturally gravitate to the most available human. And the scenario mostly played out that way: the bleeding woman would have profound, even life-changing experiences, while others would feel nothing at all. (I've heard some curanderos say they believe a menstruating woman will bring evil spirits but I've never witnessed that myself.)


Selina Leclair said...

When I was six months pregnant with our first child, my husband took ayahuasca. I did not because I felt at that time it was not the right thing to do. Nothing untoward happened to me, except that after seeing me, my husband "just knew" that everything was going to be OK.

Between my first and second child, I drank the tea perhaps four or five times and was able to sort out a lot of personal problems. The tighest knots of useless thought loops unravelled like slippery yarn and dissipated, leaving me light and renewed, with never a thought for the things that had pressed upon me so heavily.

When I conceived my second child, there was a period of approximately 3 weeks where my instinct told me something was changing, but I wasn't certain that I had conceived. During that time, I drank and experienced such a gentle cleansing and peaceful dream. When I awoke, the doubts had been washed away and I "just knew" that I should not drink again until the child was born.

Peter Gorman said...

Great post. And what you describe, both from your husband and your own experience, is what I would expect the medicine to provide. I'm glad you had the sensitivity to both hear and listen. Good for you. Have fun with the children. They're the best, eh?

Eakesmeyer said...

I participated with a Daime church in Acre, Brasil for the past year. During the year, i witnessed pregnant women partake in the sacrament and deliver healthy children (where we studied, no one, i repeat no one, vomited). Elder members of the church who had both received Daime throughout pregnancies and delivered with its help were interviewed. All noted its benefits. It is important to mention that taking Ayahuasca (the name outside the religious context) without the guide of a church elder is completely different than using Daime under the guidance of the church.

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jenner said...
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jenner said...

Do you think it's ok to try to conceive shortly after the husband drinks ayahuasca? (my husband took part in a ceremony this weekend, drinking twice) We are trying to conceive and this is my fertile week.. should we wait until next month? or do you think this is OK to continue trying with the ayahuasca still in his system. What is your opinion. I had a miscarriage 5 months ago and am a little more cautious now. I am also so anxious to become pregnant, I don't want to wait another month if we don't have to. But I want to be smart and safe about making a baby.

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Richie Benaud said...

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Anonymous said...

When I was pregnant, I wanted very much to drink Ayahuasca. We waited until late in the pregnancy (close to my due date) and I drank very light doses on a regular basis. It calmed my nerves, eased pre-labor pains, and it was an excellent way to connect with my unborn. I was able to "see" my infant inside my uterus, communicate with her in a very profound way, and prepare for motherhood with the aid of the medicine. I am not saying it's for everyone, but I loved drinking ayahuasca while pregnant.

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