24 Hours. A day in the life of Dr Gowri Motha, Birth Advisor

Karen Swan Macleod, Junior, Pregnancy and Baby, October 2004

Dr Gowri Motha is the founder of the Gentle Birth Method and has just had her first book of the same name published. She has treated more than 800 women at her clinic in London and also works as an infertility consultant at Holly House Hospital in Essex.

My day always starts at 7.30am when my two Burmese cats purr me into consciousness. If I have been attending a birth, I may not get in until 5am, so once I’m up, I make some tea, before doing yoga. I do the same routine my clients do, but it’s so gentle, it suits me very well and curtails my stress levels.

Even before I’ve finished stretching, my mind starts to race thinking about my clients

I’ll be seeing in clinic, due dates or whether anyone is overdue. If I have to attend a birth then I reschedule my appointments. I try to limit the births I attend to two a month, but I’ve already done three this month and another two are booked. Some mothers need me more than others so I try to be flexible.

At l0am, I divert my calls to the Viveka clinic in St John’s Wood and travel in with my team of therapists. My first client is at 11am. She is 25 weeks pregnant and suffering from emotional and physical issues from her previous birth. The episiotomy scar from her first birth is thick and tight, preventing her from having satisfactory sexual relations with her husband. She’s so terrified it will be damaged further during this birth that she’s considering a Caesarean. I do some facial unwinding, a massage using a pinching and rolling movement, which breaks down, thins and smoothes scar tissue. It can be applied to any scar and helps the skin around the area and I the scar itself heal in the long-term. We do a positive vaginal I birth visualisation, and she leaves feeling very positive.

My second mother, 33 weeks, had been exhibiting early signs of gestational diabetes – wind in the gut, sugar cravings and an overloaded pancreas – but stringent adherence to my diet (no sugar and plenty of refined carbohydrates, e.g. wheat and gluten) and intensive reflexology treatments appear to have worked. She also took digestive enzymes to help the pancreas digest food effectively (it becomes sluggish during pregnancy because of increased amounts of progesterone), helping to balance insulin levels.

My final appointment is with a mother, 38 weeks pregnant, who has rigid lower pelvic muscles. I fear she will be too tight for the second stage of labour, when the baby’s head is in the lowest part of the pelvis, I so I recommend she opts for an epidural. Many people think the Gentle Birth Method is about no intervention, but I aim for a birth that is positive for both mother and baby. I offer physical and emotional assessments, tailored pregnancy programmes and coping mechanisms for labour, but I address limits too and sometimes intervention is the gentlest option.

I grab some lunch before my yoga class at Lotus Lifestyle in Chelsea Harbour. Here, I show couples how to achieve deep muscle relaxation – a vital tool for labour – and teach Creative Healing, a specialised form of lymphatic drainage massage.

Afterwards, en route to Holly House, I make some calls to my colleagues to check up on the scan results of a client. I offer pre-conceptual care and relaxation therapy for my patients before they go ahead with their chosen assisted conception method and I like to monitor their progress. When the results are good, I’m elated. My greatest disappointment in medical school was the absence of the emotional element of health and disease. I’ve always felt medicine is not just about fixing the body but helping the patient to heal holistically. When I worked as an NHS obstetrician, I ran a support group for women who could not get pregnant, and now, as a private consultant, I have the privilege of empathising with my patients and working one on one with them.

Fifteen minutes later, I arrive at a client’s house in South Kensington for a postnatal appointment. She’s unable to visit me at the clinic as her celebrity status means she’s always trailed by the paparazzi. Even though her baby’s birth is common knowledge, home visits mean she can be treated without photographers waiting outside. I’ve treated a lot of high-profile women, and have been pestered by reporters – but I’m the soul of discretion.

I stay two hours, then go for a 30-minute swim. I arrive home just before 9pm. While supper’s cooking, I look over the paperwork my assistant has left out for me – some sketches to approve from my book publisher, updates for the website, and a new sample of the scented candle I’m developing for mothers in labour – I’ve been refining it for months, trying to capture that incredible newborn baby smell, and we’ve nearly got it now.

I go to bed at around 1am. I try to go earlier as I have to accommodate being on call and I never know when the phone will ring. When my head does hit the pillow though, I sleep like my proverbial gentle babies.

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