Sunday, January 30, 2011

Watching a baby being born

For most pregnant women, the presence of a husband in the labour room has a powerful positive impact. And yet very few doctors or hospitals in Kochi encourage this

Photo: Abraham Nedumpallil and his wife Aneesha with their twin boys

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Aneesha was pregnant with twin boys, businessman Abraham Nedumpallil would frequently play one song on the mobile phone: the childlike 'Annarakanna Va' from the Malayalam film, 'Bhramaram'.

In the labour room of the PVS Memorial Hospital, Kochi, on September 19, 2009, when the children were born, Abraham saw that they were crying incessantly. Immediately, he switched on his mobile phone and played the song. Seconds after their birth, the boys looked towards the sound and fell silent.

“It was one of the most amazing moments of my life,” says Abraham. “What you must understand is that by 19 weeks, babies are tuned to the outside world. They had been hearing this song when they were in the womb.”

Abraham was one of a handful of husbands who have been present at their wife's delivery and helped cut the umbilical cord. He held the twins moments after they were born. His confidence came thanks to the Lamaze classes conducted by Priyanka Idicula, who runs BirthVillage, a childbirth education centre.

“I teach the men about the various stages of labour,” she says. Priyanka shows them many videos of birth taking place. And for most men it is a surprise. “In films and on television, whenever a woman is shown giving birth, they are shouting and screaming with the effort,” says Priyanka. “Most men have a terrified feeling about it.”

But when the men see these films, they realise that giving birth is not such a frightening experience at all. “In fact, it can be gentle,” says Priyanka. Strangely, women also have the same misconceptions. Recently, Priyanka gave a talk to 800 students of a women’s college. When asked how many wanted a natural delivery, only a few hands went up.

Priyanka teaches the men to identify and time the duration of a contraction. “The husband becomes confident, so that when contractions begin, he does not panic and rush his wife to the hospital,” says Priyanka. Since these contractions go on for a long while, the woman stays at home and is taken to the hospital only when she is in active labour.

Dr Georgy Joy Eralil, assistant professor of gynaecology at the Sree Narayana Institute of Medical Sciences at North Kuthiyathodu, near Kochi, is one of the few doctors who encourage husbands to be present at the birth of a child.

“The companionship of the husband has a calming effect on the wife,” says Eralil. “She feels that she is at home and is able to perform better. The result is a smooth delivery.”

The husband helps the wife to walk, gives her water when she is thirsty, and pacifies her when she has contractions. “Sometimes, he gives her a back massage to provide relief during her labour pains,” says Eralil. When the baby is born, it is he who cuts the umbilical cord with the help of a special type of scissors. And it is the father who takes the baby to the paediatric section.

For most husbands, it is a great experience. “One dad told me, 'I did not have a nurse telling me I had a baby boy or a girl. I took my girl myself. It is a different feeling together,'” says Priyanka. “There is a sense of empowerment because of this participation.”

Couples have fallen deeper in love as a result of sharing these precious moments. “I remember the loving look on a wife's face when she saw her husband standing nearby,” says Priyanka. “They started singing hymns as the contractions began. It was a deeply spiritual experience and deepened the relationship between the husband and the wife and their child.”

Men also develop a tremendous respect for their wives after watching the labour process. “She is a tigress,” said one husband to Priyanka with a look of admiration. “I never knew my wife could be so strong.”

But Eralil says that it is only those who have attended pre-natal classes who can behave with so much of confidence. Those who do not feel like a misfit. “There is a tendency to freak out,” says Priyanka. “Some rush out of the labour room.”

Priyanka says that very few hospitals in Kochi allow a husband to be present during the delivery. “In Tamil Nadu, a law has been passed where a woman can take a companion of her choice into the labour room,” says Priyanka. “In Kerala, attitudes have to change. Many frightened women can have smooth deliveries if their husbands are present in the labour room.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)


  1. dear shevlin, read through your post it will be very helpful if you could mention which hospitals and doctors support husband friendly labour in cochin. in the near future i will be looking for one,please help. thanks

  2. Anonymous11:28 PM

    will you please mention the hospitals that allow husband in labour room in kochi?? thank you!