I wrote this intending to post it in the blogs section but I see that has recently been stopped so instead posting it here as I am keen to share my experience of natural birth. Hope this is of use to some.
Going Natural in Urban India
Couples in Indian cities are today offered an amazing array of options at childbirth, as birthing boutiques ad seven-star hospitals cash in on the empowered modern woman's desire to have her baby just the way she wants it. Everything from a top-end luxury birthing suite to stem cell banking is on offer - provided you have the money.
If it is a natural birth, though, that heads the mother-to-be's wish list, she may find her options limited. Urban India has high rates of caesarian sections â€" just how high is a matter of debate but some say up to 80%, and they are certainly above the WHO recommended rate of 10-15%. And even normal vaginal deliveries are often accompanied by high levels of intervention and pain relief. There seems to be little value attached to natural birth among either the medical community or parents-to-be. Facilities to help women achieve a natural birth, such as water birthing tubs, are almost non-existent; professoinally qualified midwives, who do so much to promote natural birth in other countries, are equally hard to find; and there is little general awareness about what natural birth is, or about the benefits it brings mother and child.
Despite all of this, it is of course perfectly possible to give birth naturally in the Indian urbanscape, and indeed many women do. There are four things though that the parents-to-be (yes, fathers, you should be as involved as the mother is â€" you'll get far more out of it that way and after all what could be more magical than not only attending but helping bring about the natural birth of your child?) need to do:
First educate yourselves. Understand what pregnancy and birth involve - what will happen, what might happen and how to deal with all eventualities. Too often, parents end up doing things they regret â€" for instance performing a non-necessary ultrasound scan, inducing a birth even before the due date has passed and so on â€" simply because they don't know enough to enable them to make an informed decision.
The second is physical preparation â€" for the mother that is, but husbands are welcome to join in... The body needs to be fit and well-nourished and for that exercise such as yoga, walking and swimming are recommended alongside a sensible diet (eg: there is no need to 'eat for two').
The third is mental preparation. While yoga and pranayama do help psychologically as well as physically, many women may find it helpful to prepare their minds more fully. In particular, both partners need to try and dispel the fear that many feel about childbirth â€" the fear of a painful labour, of something going wrong, of the birth not turning out the way you want. Fear causes the body to freeze up just when it needs to open out, thus blocking the baby's passage out of the womb. And fear also pushes both husband and wife to panic at the first hint of something out of the ordinary â€" and most pregnancies and labours have at least one unusual aspect - paving the way for intervention and or surgery irrespective of whether either is necessary. Hypnobirthing, which helps both husband and wife learn to induce a state of complete relaxation before and during birth, is one way of overcoming such fears and preparing the mind.
Finally, you need to choose the right doctor and the right hospital or clinic. What is important is how well you get on with the doctor and how supportive he/she â€" and the hospital he/she delivers in â€" is of natural birth. Everything else is a detail.
Venetia Kotamraju is a British Sanskrit enthusiast settled in Bangalore. She and her husband Gautam welcomed their first child, Hektor Utpalaksha, into this world in May 2013 with the natural birth they had both worked so hard to achieve. Venetia was introduced to the concept of natural birth by the Bangalore Birth Network and was taught pre-natal yoga by Bhaswati Seal of Srimoyi Yoga, and hypnobirthing by Shreya Badrinath. Utpalaksha was delivered by Dr Praveena Shenoi in Cloud Nine, Indiranagar. Venetia's labour was a relatively short four or five hours and, though not pain-free, definitely manageable thanks to the techniques she had learnt in her yoga and hypnobirthing classes. Dr Shenoi and the staff at Cloud Nine stuck to their word and let nature take its course. Venetia is happy to be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org should any parents-to-be want to know more about natural birth and her experience in Bangalore.
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