Dr. Vijaya Krishnan

Access to Information and Freedom to make choices in Childbirth

I have been thinking about the kind of questions I have been receiving over Facebook Messenger, Emails, Phone Calls about the experiences of women in the current healthcare system. As I sit back at home and think of all those questions, something jumps straight at me, and it makes me feel sad and angry at the same time. Large majority of those have to deal with not getting answers to their questions. Why are there so many questions that are not answered satisfactorily, inadequately or even why they go unanswered.

It is a fact that many women, by nature, have a hard time in asserting themselves. This is even more evident when they are vulnerable and stressed during the time of their pregnancy. Many expectant mothers often do not have much idea about how their body changes and the reason for and management of issues such as Cervical Insufficiency, low-lying placenta etc. Many a time, their doctor does not either have the time or takes the time to explain fully all the implications of the issues.

I would think that giving more information is a good thing because women can have a better understanding of their body during pregnancy and will become more confident in their bodies’ ability to give birth. At The Sanctum, we teach our would-be moms and dads how mother nature has endowed a mother’s body with natural abilities to give birth and how to use this endowment with diligence and minimal external medication. While we are all for medical intervention during an emergency, we find that many would-be mothers and their families do not have the information that they have a right to, and are being subject to more-than-required levels of medical intervention.

The other day I met with a friend of mine, who is a well-known anesthesiologist. He specializes in “labor analgesia”, the sanitized term for epidural. While we were talking about his work, he said that there is an increasing trend among Indian women to prefer epidural during the early stages of labor. This surprised and troubled me – as the Indian economy expands and as people are exposed more to western cultures and practices, my guess is that some of the Indian traditions that deal with natural ways of pain relief and management during labor are being brushed aside. Studies have proven the long-term risks of epidural for the mother and have also proven the fact that the process of labor is actually good for both the mother and the baby.

At The Sanctum, we are proponents of natural and healthy ways for pain relief, those that have been followed by women in many cultures through many generations – breathing, relaxation, rhythms, rituals. We follow the philosophies of Lamaze International and WHO to promote, support and protect normal birth, and so advise our participants to consent to epidural only as a last resort.

Let me close by asking my readers their opinion about whether they would choose epidural if they were pregnant. How many of you actually chose epidural during your labor, and how many were actually informed of natural ways of pain relief by your medical team?

Keep those comments coming; and feel free to ask questions.