Fernandez Hospital run by Dr Evita Fernandez and The Sanctum, Natural Birth Centre run by Dr Vijaya Krishnan and her husband Krishnan Sakotai practice natural birthing in the city. Lakshmi Ramakrishna visits the hospitals to learn why expectant women rely on them.
In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that birth was actually safer for mothers and babies when utilising midwifery care for normal, low risk pregnancy and childbirth (which in fact covers over 90 per cent of women). Committed healthcare workers in the country and across the globe are working towards it and even the Union Ministry of Health broadcasts jingles for safe motherhood. Though records state that Caesarean deliveries are on the rise, people like Dr Vijaya Krishnan, Krishnan Sakotai and Dr Evita Fernandez are working and propagating natural birth as a safe option.
Dr Vijaya Krishnan and Krishnan Sakotai, who started this concept in India and Hyderabad in June 2009, say, “Our Natural Birth Centre, The Sanctum is the first and only one in India offering scientific midwifery services to expectant mothers backed by in house medical emergency infrastructure.” They say that the Healthy Mother Midwifery Model of Care celebrates birth as a normal and empowering process for which nature has perfected the mother’s body over centuries.
Dr. Vijaya Krishnan, a practicing midwife, co-founder and Director of Healthy Mother Wellness & Care (I) Pvt. Ltd. and the country’s leading official Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE), says, “We have helped high risk mums give birth naturally, including those with one or even two previous Caesareans, and even first time mothers in their 40s. We have had 148 births so far at our Centre. I had an emergency C-Sec delivery for my first baby, but the second time, it was perfectly normal.”
Holding a doctorate in Physical Therapy and Physical Therapy Education, Dr Vijaya conducts scientific midwifery based pregnancy and wellness programmes for mothers-to-be and new moms and heads the midwifery care services at The Sanctum. Her husband Krishnan Sakotai, CEO and Director and a former investment banker is responsible for Finance, Strategy and Marketing.
“We help women rediscover their own bodies’ strength and ability to give birth on its own. They are in tune with their baby all throughout their pregnancy and labour, thus laying a strong foundation for bonding and motherhood,” explains Dr Vijaya.
The couple says in unison that their care model is highly individualised, continuous and unlimited in nature and scope. “During ante-natal check-ups, we sit down with mothers and discuss their emotional fears and address their concerns. We offer a comprehensive range of services from pre-conception counselling, ante-natal check-ups, labour support, natural birth, post-partum care, lactation support and well-woman care. We also offer Lamaze classes for six weeks, three hours every weekend that helps the couple become knowledgeable and confident about all aspects of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and newborn care.”
At The Sanctum, many expectant mothers prefer giving birth in water. Explaining the theory, Dr Vijaya says, “Water birth considerably eases the baby’s transition from inside the mother’s womb to the outside world. For the mother too, being in water during labour reduces pain substantially, as water has a therapeutic effect. Pushing is less painful in warm water, as the perineal tissues stretch more easily, without giving pain. It is one of the gentlest ways to give birth.”
Another practice followed here is that the umbilical cord is not cut immediately after the delivery. “It is cut only after pulsation ends completely, because about one-third of the baby’s blood and three months of iron supply is transferred from placenta to the baby during this time. The baby is also placed in skin-to-skin contact with the mother immediately as the baby recognises the mother naturally and lactation happens. Many parents are also astonished that babies born this way are calm, open their eyes and look around – this is the way it should be,” says the midwifery expert.
Rethink on concept: Dr Evita Fernandez has been an obstetrician for more than three decades. However, in the last five years, she has been having a rethink on the concept of natural birth and of women being empowered to make the right choices.
Nutan Pandit, keen natural childbirth educator and promoter of natural childbirth, whose book Dr Evita has been advocating for two decades ran a workshop at the Fernandez Hospital in 2008. This further reinforced Dr Evita’s belief in looking at childbirth in a different light.
Today, she has Martine Cambron, who runs childbirth classes for expectant mothers at the hospital. Martine is from France and is married to an Indian. “She is the mother of nine children, all of whom she has delivered naturally,” says the doctor.
Dr Fernandez says that on an average a total of 500 women give birth every month at her hospitals. The complicated pregnancies are admitted at the Hyderguda Hospital, while the low risk mothers are delivered at the Bogulkunta Hospital, where 65 per cent of the births are vaginal. Painless birth (epidural analgesia) is offered to mothers who find the pain unbearable.
Earlier, in medical schools, students were taught that women should give birth while lying flat on the bed. Recalling an incident during her postgraduate training, Dr Fernandez says, “A Lambada (tribal woman) had come to the Gandhi Hospital for delivery and whenever she was put on the bed, she would jump off and squat on the ground. It was only later I realised that what she was doing was natural, as she was giving birth in a position most comfortable to her.”
Dr Fernandez is a keen supporter of vaginal births. “Even though C-sections are considered to be a safe procedure today, this does not mean that they are an option, when there is no clear medical indication for a C-section,” says the doctor. She has begun a focused midwifery training programme with the objective of producing competent, confident midwives who will be able to manage low risk pregnancies, labour and delivery.
Photographs by Harsha Vadlamani and Rajesh Jerry
Fernandez Hospital, Bogulkunta, Tel: 40222300
The Sanctum, 303, Plot No 57, Kalyan Nagar