Novel Ways to Welcome the Bundle of Joy

Kochi: Five years ago, on June 8, 2012, TIME magazine carried a feature headlined ‘Why India is Still One of the Most Dangerous Places to Give Birth.’ It averred that India’s economy might be booming, but when it came to providing adequate healthcare to pregnant women, the country was lagging behind even its poorer neighbours. Interestingly, the same feature also lauded Kerala for its achievements in the healthcare sector, especially on the mother and child care front. “Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have already reached the UN Millennium Development Goal of bringing their maternal mortality rate down to 109 women per every 100,000 live births, while several other states – Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat and Haryana – are close to achieving it. These states have done the best at tackling problems like child marriage and female illiteracy – two factors that also contribute heavily to maternal mortality rate. Kerala state, for instance, boasts a female literacy rate of 92 per cent, as well as the lowest maternal mortality rate in the country at 81 deaths per every 100,000 births,” says TIME.

With more mothers-to-be coming forward to celebrate birthing by experimenting with unconventional ways, a new breed of institutions have sprung up catering to their preferences. Let us take a look at some of these new birthing avenues

In 2017, we have around more than a dozen specialised hospitals in Kerala exclusively designed to cater to expectant mothers and their newborns. In Kerala, around 63 per cent deliveries are conducted in private sector hospitals. In the public sector, most of the deliveries take place in hospitals providing secondary and tertiary healthcare, while not many happen in primary health centres.

“Earlier, almost all deliveries used to take place at home, with the help of an experienced self-taught midwife. Back then, there was little or no option for hospital deliveries and going to a hospital for delivery was considered scary. Gone are those days. Now women have options to choose what kind of delivery they would like to have,” says Dr. Krishnadevi, a veteran gynecologist who has around 40 years of experience in the field.

Women have strong views about where and how they would like to give birth to their babies. Birthing is no more the usual affair for young women. They spend their time and energy on finding out various options and facilities to make the delivery a memorable event of their life. No wonder why we have more number of mother and childcare hospitals across the state compared to neighbouring states.

It was in 2010 that Kerala welcomed its first ‘water baby’ though this kind of birthing has been prevalent in the West for quite some time. On January 8, Honey Sony gave birth to ‘Jaanvi’ at PVS Hospital in Kochi. “I did not even feel that I have delivered. There is total freedom when you deliver in the pool. I ate water melon, just before the delivery,” recollects Honey.

Priyanka Idicula of Birth Village, which claims to be the only midwifery-assisted birthing centre in Kerala, says that the baby, lying in the amniotic fluid, would be happier if he or she arrives into our big world through water.
In 2016, those who advocated birthing assisted by medical professionals raised an ‘issue’ which, according to them, lent credence to their views. An alternative birthing method went wrong, leading to the death of the infant at a naturopathy hospital in Malappuram. On October 18, Haseena Mohammad lost her child during a water birth.

“Water births involve a number of risks. First of all, there is the glaring issue of hygiene. The chances of cross infection are alarmingly high in this case. Only after a thorough cleaning of the tub, can it be reused. The risk is greater in case of HIV-positive patients. Secondly, there is no mechanism to monitor the heartbeat of the baby under water. This is highly risky for the baby. Due to certain complications of the mother, the oxygen supply to the baby may be affected during the process of labour. This will go undetected,” says Dr. Anupama, the then Chairperson of Women’s Wing of the Indian Medical Association (Kerala).

With hospitals reporting rates of Cesarean delivery and induction upwards of 30 per cent, many women are opting for different methods of birthing to avoid what some describe as ‘over medicalised’ birth. Having a baby is hard work and any woman who has gone through this life-changing experience will agree with this. “Over the past few years, the process of labour has been so badly hyped up that women today feel scared to give birth naturally. It is no wonder that Epidural has become a must nowadays,” says Priyanka Idicula.

Apart from birthing centres, the mother and child care hospitals across Kerala are also offering specialised birthing suites for expectant mothers. Most of the birthing suites look more like a cozy room of a three-star or five-star hotel and more women are opting for such stylised birthing compared to the dull, conventional birthing. Since birthing has become an occasion for celebration, birthing photography is also gaining importance.