Like a brilliant piece of music or a grand flower, you have changed and blossomed into a miraculous new form; you are pregnant. You may find yourself reaching for a way to celebrate this time in your life but may be unsure of what to do. Traditionally within western culture the existence of a rite-of-passage for pregnancy and motherhood rests primarily in the form of gift registries and baby showers packed with cake and gifts and games to decipher which flavor of baby-food is in the diaper. You may have done a belly cast to immortalize your pregnant form, or held a Blessingway with ceremony and blessings from close friends, midwives, and family.
You might also have considered adorning your belly with henna, an ancient form of body art. Henna, or Mehndi, has been used for centuries to adorn those in preparation for rite-of- passage ceremonies; it is believed that henna repels the evil-eye, and wards off malevolent spirits. But, did you know that henna has also been used historically both prenatally and during postpartum? Various South Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African cultures adorn expectant mothers; within Indian culture a great celebration and Mother Blessing is held where the mother to be is rubbed with spices and oils and adorned with henna on her hands and feet; songs are sung to her by the women of her family about the journey of motherhood. Henna is then applied postpartum to assist in the bonding process with Momma and Baby, and to initiate the new mother into her new role within the community. Cultures that practice postpartum henna have markedly lower rates of postpartum depression.
Contemporary western Prenatal Henna is applied to the belly; symbols that are resonant within your pregnancy can be incorporated within the design to create a motif that is both aesthetically pleasing and spiritually profound; common symbols include a Tree of Life or a Mandala. Henna Bellies are often done in tandem with Blessingways and can be applied by a Professional Henna Artist (insert hyperlink: http://www.bloominglotushenna.com), Midwife, Doula, or family member. The design will last an average of two weeks depending on the duration of application and aftercare; 100% natural, body-art-quality henna paste that is mixed freshly with care to prenatal tolerance should be the only henna used. To create a pregnancy-safe henna-paste, the only ingredients needed are all-natural henna powder, water, and sugar; some essential oils may also be used assuming they are safe for use prenatally. Pre-made henna cones/tubes or henna-paste containing irritating and potentially toxic essential oil blends should be avoided at all cost; this henna has to potential to cause dermal blistering and scarring, and possible preterm labor. If you are mixing your own paste or hiring a pro, be sure to do your research about the safety of essential oils during pregnancy and remember to ask your professional artist what oils are used in their henna.
It is important to note also, that some individuals may not tolerate the application of henna to any extent as it may cause serious physiological complications; those who suffer from Advanced Anemia, Hyperbilirubinemia, a G6DP Deficiency, or a significantly repressed immune system should not receive henna. For more information about the traditions and possible risks of Prenatal and Postpartum Henna, visit the Henna Page.
Henna can be the perfect way to celebrate your pregnancy; it’s 100% natural and botanical, temporary, and customized specifically to you and your preferences. The application of a Henna Belly can help bring strength and reassurance as you journey towards birth, reviving your attention to the beauty of your body and of your relationship with your new baby.
Perhaps, it’s just what you were looking for?
Ana Warren is the owner/operator of Blooming Lotus Henna (insert hyperlink: http://www.bloominglotushenna.com), specializing in Prenatal Henna; her work has been featured in The Mother and Sacred Pregnancy Magaine. She offers monthly Henna Belly Discount Days at the Alma Education and Moment Space and her work can be seen in the Madrona room at the Alma Birth Center. When not painting bellies, she survives as a photographer at Ana Warren Photography, and works hard at raising the next generation of empowered women in her 4 year old daughter, Nora Ember.