The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that no community should have a caesarean rate higher than 15 per cent. In India, preliminary studies peg it at 50 per cent and it is possibly as high as 80 per cent in some private hospitals.
After taking these statistics into account and talking to women who have undergone traumatic experiences in Mumbai, Birth India, an organisation for the welfare of women, was established.
Ruth Malik, a founder member, says, “Initially, we met to discuss birth stories; some were nightmarish.. others beautiful. We were mostly concerned with the alarming numbers of caesareans occurring around us and its effect on mothers, babies and families.. that was how the organisation came to be formed.”
Birth India’s motto: to help India’s women become empowered and create a climate of awareness especially in pre and postnatal care. It believes that a woman’s healthcare is important to her and her baby, because it directly impacts her ability to mother.
The organisation aims to highlight the benefits of natural birth and wants to educate women so they can make informed decisions. It also serves as a support body to practitioners who wish to come together and support each other; and in turn educate, inform and empower those around them about their health choices. Malik says, “Women still don’t feel comfortable or capable of voicing their concerns or complaints. They think that it is impossible, too hard or not within their rights to challenge or question a doctor or any other staff members. Additionally, many women feel and are told that as long as the baby is healthy, the way they were treated is justified. All we are saying is ask the question.. be aware.”
A major obstacle is lack of awareness. While a small percentage of the population are interested in educating themselves on these matters, thousands continue to looking for alternatives and remain uninformed.
Birth India started off humbly. Today, it is home to many professionals including parents, OBGYNs, childbirth educators, pre-natal yoga instructors, doulas, midwives, cranial sacral practitioners, nutritionists and many others from various professions and backgrounds. Red Miller, a qualified midwife and member of Birth India says, “Seeing parents stand up for holistic care when everyone else around is pressuring them to do the opposite is commendable to say the least.”
The organisation functions on the donations of members and the general public who believe in their philosophy. First up on its agenda.. to present a realistic view of the situation of birth in the countr. This, while being a positive and safe platform for women to voice their concerns, ask questions, gather information, and even heal.
As Miller says, “Without knowledge we have nothing. And there is no bigger joy than working with couples and families who are determined to make choices and then being part of the medium. ”
In the future..
Up next.. a natural childbirth mela on April 18 — a first for India. Miller says. “April is the International Caesarean Awareness Month and we are marking it by sharing healthy pregnancy and birth knowledge with the general public.”
Activities include free demonstrations of belly dancing during pregnancy as well as pre-natal yoga pregnancy fitness. One can also meet natural birth practitioners, hypno birthing teachers, midwives, water birth providers, childbirth educators and nutritionists among others.
As for the future.. the organisation hopes to continue building awareness via their website birthindia.org and events. Malik says, “Believe in yourself, educate yourselves and stand up for your rights. You are important to society.”