Amreeta Buxani, Rave (USA), January – February 2005
Daunted by the prospect of a high-tech, drug-fuelled birth for your precious child? Consider Gowri Motha’s Gentle Birth Method
In a quiet north London suburb behind the doors of a converted church-school is the most fashionable (and sensible) place for mothers-to-be. This is Viveka, the clinic that offers a holistic approach to childbirth, out of which Dr Gowri Motha runs her practice. Mothers Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss, along with a handful of other celebrities, have all been patients of Dr Motha, the obstetrician who developed the ‘Jeyarani Way’ Gentle Birth Method. “I had an incredibly positive, emotional and nurturing birth,” says model and mother Elle Macpherson.
The first thing Dr Motha will tell a new patient is that if she wants a normal birth she has to make a commitment. A commitment to her body, to her baby and to her relationship with her partner. By a ‘normal’ birth, Dr Motha means a birth that is trauma-free and if possible drug-free. “A gentle birth depends entirely upon the time and discipline that the mother and her partner are willing to put in. The most common worries that young women have today are whether they will be able to cope with the pain of labour, whether they will tear while giving birth, whether there will be vaginal trauma. The Jeyarani Way has been developed to minimise these occurrences, but on the whole it is a health promotion program with a specific emphasis on ‘birth-fitness’ which involves being physically supple, emotionally confident and prepared to face the demands of childbirth.”
The Jeyarani Way is not only for women who want to have a natural birth. As the program aims to benefit the general health of the mother, Dr Motha has many patients who know they’re going to have a caesarean birth but who want to be energetic and on their feet throughout their pregnancy. The Jeyarani Way helps keep blood pressure normal, minimises swollen ankles and feet, and reduces tension. The reflexology sessions also act as anti-depressant. The method keeps mothers active and happy all the way through their pregnancy. Women who have followed Dr Motha’s pioneering method and who have had elective caesareans are up and bouncing around within two to three days – and some of them do better than women who have had long labours and episiotomies.
The hard work is not all the mother’s job, though. The father or partner needs to be tuned into the needs of both mother and the baby throughout the pregnancy, and during and after the birth. Having a well-prepared partner bodes well for a healthy pregnancy, a gentle birth and a calm baby. The partner’s role in the pregnancy is crucial to the mother’s calmness during the birthing process. If she feels that her partner isn’t coping well, she will be worrying more about him than focusing on her own needs during labour.
Dr Motha knows that in many pregnancies, the partner’s first involvement is in the birthing room and this is usually terribly shocking for the partner and can be extremely distressing for the mother too.
Partners need to attend prenatal classes with the mother, and should be as prepared as she is. In her classes, Dr Motha emphasizes the importance of partners massaging each other – it’s vital that mothers also tend to their partners’ needs and not just the other way round.
Mothers usually consider their pregnancies a time when they can give in to their cravings and not deny themselves anything. Dr Motha disagrees with this and her nutritional guidelines are not for the faint-hearted. No wheat or sugar, a limit on carbohydrate intake and only three pieces of fruit a day. Vegetarian women would find this particularly hard as bread and pasta are completely off the menu. For vegetarians, Dr Motha suggests eating more steamed vegetables and salads but avoiding foods such as lentils and other pulses as these can cause bloating. She also suggests adding ginger to aid digestion. The reason for this strict diet is to keep the baby small but healthy, so that the birth is easier on both the mother and her baby.
The treatments include use of Ayurvedic oils, yoga from India, reflexology from Egypt, creative healing from the U.K., Bowen therapy form Australia, cranio-sacral therapy for the U.S. and Reiki from Japan. “I’ve taken the most simple and effective therapies and thrown them all together,” she says. “I wanted to create a method that people can learn easily – I’m not going to be around forever! This method doesn’t take years and years of study.”
Since the publication of her book The Gentle Birth Method, Dr Motha has had interest in her method from all over the world. She is hoping to set up Jeyarani clinics in the US and has also been invited to Germany and Australia. When she first started practising her method 17 years ago, she never imagined it would become so popular. “I had such an enthusiastic response when I did my first few waterbirths and it kept me going on a day-to-day basis. I live in the present, not for the future.”
New mothers don’t need to see a Jeyarani practitioner in person. The book has been written by Dr Motha in collaboration with one of her patients and is designed to guide a woman through pregnancy month-by month, explaining what is happening to her body and what to expect at every stage.
When asked if she goes beyond being a doctor to her patients, Dr Motha replies, “Of course, I’m a friend to them too. Some of them have even made me godmother to their children. But that’s it now, I can’t have any more godchildren. “How many does she have?” “I have no idea” she laughs. “I think I’ve got six.”