Pregnancy & Birth magazine, September, 1996help_yourselfA good birth experience is something every woman hopes for. To help you achieve a shorter, pain-free labour, one expert has devised a unique birth preparation plan.Are you looking forward to the birth of your baby, or trying to bury the thought of it at the back of your mind? Are you concentrating on the joy and pleasures to come, with the birth itself being an inevitable experience to be faced?Giving birth does not have to be something to fear. There are ways you can prepare yourself, mentally and physically. Such preparation will help you to have a positive and fulfilling experience to look back on, not one which you remember with horror.Having a birth to remember is not an impossible ambition, says London-based obstetrician Dr Gowri Motha. After years of experience with both natural and high-tech deliveries, Dr Motha became dissatisfied with the way modern medicine handled labour and birth. So she devised the Gentle Birth Preparation Programme. This special birth programme aims to provide an intervention-free and pain-free gentle birth for all mothers - even first-timers - in about 98 per cent of ‘normal’ cases. It also claims to reduce the length of labour to between four to eight hours.'Gentle Birth,' says Dr Motha, 'is all about "allowing". Allowing nature's processes to flow in the body, allowing the body to flow with nature. This doesn't come automatically - women need their bodies conditioned. A woman may be fit and healthy, but not birth fit. Past injuries, postural habits, even emotional traumas, create twists and rigidities in tissues and ligaments. These impede and delay the birth process and need dissolving.'Women also need their minds reconditioned. Fear of labour and birth, which may be related to other, deeper anxieties and insecurities, is a great impediment. Women need to gain confidence in their birthing ability, they need empowering.'Since Dr Motha began her Gentle Birth Programme, 700 births have been recorded using her technique. She has also gained a reputation among her peers. Water birth pioneer, Michel Odent, says of Dr Motha that she is, 'The most special obstetrician working in this country today'. And Dr Yehudi Gordon, co-author of the Encyclopaedia of Pregnancy & Birth (Little Brown, £14.99), now has her teaching sessions in his birth unit.THE PROGRAMMEDr Motha's programme is designed to get you 'birth fit'. It consists of an eight-point plan - some of the components are essential, while others are ideal, but optional. It is best to start the programme in week 16 of your pregnancy, but, if necessary, it can be started at almost any point. Each birth programme is individually tailored for each woman, according to her needs.The programme is made up of: self-hypnosis and creative visualisation; exercise: reflexology; diet; herbs and oils; craniosacral therapy; reiki healing; and creative healing. Here, we explain what each technique involves and how it can help to achieve a gentle, pain-free birth.SELF-HYPNOSIS AND CREATIVE VISUALISATIONThe techniques, which you learn, are used during labour and birth to induce deep relaxation. You are taught visualised metaphors of softening and opening which work with and encourage the opening of the pelvis and birth canal. This deals with your fears and empowers you. Essential.HERBS AND OILSHerbs, taken in the form of teas, and massage oils are used to detoxify the body, tone the uterus and soften tissues. Essential.EXERCISEYoga or swimming will help to promote flexibility, stamina and the removal of physical distortions and rigidities. Essential.REFLEXOLOGYThe reflexes in the foot (which correspond with every part and system of the body) are gently massaged. This helps to detoxify the body, tone the uterus and remove physical distortions and rigidities. It also helps to shorten labour and deal with any arising conditions. Essential.WHOLEFOOD AND SUGAR-FREE DIETThis promotes detoxification and maximises nutritional status. Like the ancient Egyptians, Dr Motha sees sugar as a poison. Essential.CRANIOSACRAL THERAPYThis gentle form of osteopathic manipulation facilitates mobility, dissolves physical distortions and rigidities, and helps to shorten labour. Essential.REIKI HEALINGA type of hands-on healing. This works to remove physical distortions and rigidities. It also maximises other therapies. Ideal.CREATIVE HEALINGThis part of the course is difficult to categorise, but is somewhere between manipulative therapy, massage and hands-on healing. It is particularly effective for structural disorders and deals with any arising conditions. Ideal.HOW TO STARTThere are two ways of taking part in the programme: you can attend classes or you can organise the programme for yourself.The first step is to write to Dr Motha, with an SAE, at 34 Cleveland Road, South Woodford, London E18 2AL; tel/fax: 0181 530 1146. She will be able to advise on the best way to follow the programme. If it is not possible for you to attend classes, Dr Motha can supply her audio tape, The Jeyarani Way. This costs £8 and teaches self-hypnosis and creative visualisation. Dr Motha is happy to give advice by post, and supply the necessary herbs and oils.Dr Motha's video, How to Prepare for a Safe and Easy Water Birth, is also available by post, priced £20. This is useful for seeing self-hypnosis and creative visualisation sessions in progress. The sight of babies being gently born is inspiring, and is mandatory viewing for those terrified of birth. It shows a water birth but the same hypnosis and visualisation techniques apply whichever way you choose to give birth.For the other elements of the programme, most towns and cities have complementary practitioners trained in the relevant techniques - see the panel below for details of how to find a suitable practitioner in your area.WHAT IT COSTSGentle Birth lessons are not available on the NHS. On average, a course will cost about £500. This may seem like a lot of money but undergoing an interventionist birth can, for both mother and baby, be physically and emotionally damaging and take you both a long time to recover from.Most women who have followed the Gentle Birth Programme feel it was worth the investment, even if the birth didn't go as planned (see in particular Sarah Richardson's story below).A good birth is worth millions. Moreover, you'll be in great shape for those first weeks after delivery, which are arduous enough, even with the best of starts.Further helpAssociation of Reflexologists, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3XX. Tel/fax: 01892 512612Institute of Complementary Medicine, PO Box 194, London SE16 1QZ. Tel: 0171 237 5165. For details of local practitioners enclose an SAE and two loose stamps.‘It worked for me’Dr Clare Thormod, GP, starred the programme at 18 weeks. She was extremely frightened of childbirth. 'I'm a doctor; so I knew what there was to be frightened of!' she says. Dr Thormod did her obstetric training with radical obstetrician Professor Wendy Savage, but was still sceptical, especially about taking herbs. She was helped to overcome her anxiety because Gowri was also her doctor; and they shared a common training and language. 'I knew I had to have faith in Gowri, or not, and that if I had, it would be all the way.'Clare decided to follow the entire programme, despite several unconnected problems. While pregnant, she almost collapsed with a problematic pudendal nerve. Using Creative Healing, Gowri 'just put a finger on the spot and it was immediately better! And after James was born, Gowri, with one treatment, completely cured my piles! She is a wonderful woman and James's birth was absolutely fantastic. Those who have faith will gain, those who don't, won't.'Clare gave birth to James in May 1995. She had a drug-free, intervention-free, water birth at home and James was born in just four hours.Sarah Richardson's first child, Joe, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section in February 1993.She started Dr Motha's programme at three weeks into her second pregnancy. Sarah followed all aspects of the programme except the exercise and cutting out sugar.Two weeks before Marcus was born both Sarah and Dr Motha felt something could go wrong and dealt with the possibility openly, so that Sarah was prepared Although Sarah is only 5ft 2in, her baby was large and lying in a posterior position. Despite being fully dilated, Sarah was unable to deliver, and 91bs 2oz Marcus was born by Caesarean.'The programme is fantastic.’ she says. 'Gowri and I were both disappointed at the outcome but I wasn't disappointed in Gowri. I had a good pregnancy and felt very well after the birth. If you're feeling rough it can tarnish the whole experience. Feeling good also helps bonding with the new baby. I would certainly birth with Gowri again and next time around I'd cut out sugar and would definitely exercise!'Jan Davies is chief pharmacist at Newham General Hospital. The interventionist birth of her first baby, Ellen, two years ago, was deeply traumatic. Jan was six months into her second pregnancy when she first met Dr Motha and describes herself as feeling 'apprehensive'.'I was very cynical but, given the experience of my first birth, I felt I had nothing to lose.' Jan complied with the programme in every way except excluding sugar (though she did cut down) and taking herbs. 'It just went against my training as a pharmacist.'Baby Joel's drug- and intervention-free birth took just five hours twenty minutes. Although it was painful, Jan felt more flexible, more positive and more in control. As a result of post-birth haemorrhage, her haemoglobin was low yet Jan felt fine, 'so very different this time'. The second birth also helped to heal the trauma of the first.As for Joel's calm, happy temperament, Jan remarks, 'I had no idea that a good birth could make so much difference. Gowri's methods must become more widely available.'Pregnancy and Birth, September 1996back to Press Cuttings