Here we go, once again, a pregnant lady from Rishikesh contacted us, asking for a place and a doctor that would allow her a natural birthing experience. And once again, I have no one to recommend in this region! Once again I directed a pregnant woman towards South India: Kerala and Hyderabad.

It is exasperating, infuriating even, that women cannot get any holistic support for their birth planning in Uttarakhand. Forget homebirths and waterbirths. There are just no midwives / doulas around, and even if one can be found, there are no doctors / ob-gyns as back up, who have the necessary holistic view, the commitment and integrity. Because even if doctors say they support zero/minimal intervention, they tend to change their minds last minute. Usually, money is the reason, as they can charge much more for c -sections etc. Standardised clinical birthing is also time efficient (‘cookie cutter principle’) and fairly foreseeable in terms of risks. And although women might be able to get the natural birth with no epidural, they still get episiotomy and made to stay in the bed in one position… 

The ob-gyns in Rishikesh really are a disaster, and this is not only a conclusion from my own research and experience but that of various local and foreign women, pregnant or not. Gynaecologists are rude and condescending. Not listening, not interested, not resourceful. At times not properly informed / up to date either. Ok-ish, if you just need a quick ultrasound, otherwise to be avoided. 

Women have the right to individual maternity care, but do not receive it. Instead they have no other option than to submit to standardised, rushed procedures, rough, superficial examinations and a ‘programmed conveyer-belt birthing’ with lack of choice and loss of control.

Lack of consent and direct violations of rights, occur on a daily basis in childbirth: women forced into medical interventions without consent and without plausible benefit to their baby – including forced internal vaginal examinations, verbal coercion and lack of information / explanations. This has nothing to do with ‘care’. This is plain disrespect and abuse. And it happens in both developed and developing nations.

I repeat the following although it has been said many times before. Short and longterm implications for mums and children after stressful, hurried, medicated and invasive births are well documented: 

Physical consequences (pains, reduced lactation, unhealed episiotomy etc) as well as psychological issues (e.g. on mum’s side postnatal depression, self-doubts and affected self-worth (disconnect to own body), rejecting neonate, reduced / dysfunctional bonding with baby, sexual avoidance / fear of future births, relationship disruption with partner / broken-down relationships  and on the child’s side (especially as adult): lack of confidence, relationship issues, permanent latent anger / rage, unexplained infertility, soul split / dissociation).

While these might seem to be negligible in the context of an overall physically healthy mother and child, there are significant long-term familial and social implications, e.g. inter-generational trauma, no subsequent children after traumatic labour, spreading of further horror stories, shrinking of families and troubling demographics (aging population and lack of children / youth – which is not an issue in India currently, but in Western countries such as Germany).

The maternity care system in trouble. And looking away is NOT the solution. At least women notice and begin to listen to their inner voice, demand information and facilities. Expectant parents begin to question the ‘take over’ by doctors/ nurses/ gadgets/ medication. And we can only encourage woman and mums to listen to what they know deep within, inform themselves and take heed: confidently demand what they need.

Also human right organisations are beginning to notice that high level clinical competence and technologies are NOT ENOUGH. Required are time, silence, trust and above all heartfelt care (empathy) and respect. 

Birthing is not a disease or drama, but a natural event, and the bodies of mum and baby know what to do, if given space and reassurance.

If there are any Indian ob gyn doctors, midwives / doulas, maternity care professionals and even sponsors (!) who resonate with our approach and vision, please get in touch. With joined efforts, we should be able to create the much needed birthing sanctuary in Uttarakhand. Similar to the Birth Village in Kochin / Kerala, and Fernandez Hospital / Storck Home in Hyderabad. 

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