Husbands, gently hold your wives’ wrists. Girls, start breathing slowly. Inhale-exhale, in-out… Four, three, two, one, smile. Relax. Repeat.”
In a sprawling room in Defence Colony in south Delhi, soft-spoken Nutan Pandit is teaching the correct breathing techniques for childbirth to parents-to-be. Most women are in their sixth month of pregnancy and they have been accompanied by their husbands.
Pandit, who goes by the rather unusual designation of “specialist in natural birth training”, watches would-be moms lie on their back with their husbands holding their hands, massaging their backs and relaxing their thighs after every simulated contraction.
Some couples are shy, some nervous, some even giggly but most following instructions closely. “I was earlier very shy but now when I see other dads follow instructions, I do them too. I want my wife to have an easy and healthy delivery,” says Kapil Nakra, a 32-year-old businessman.
“Both of us are determined to have a baby the natural way. I am not scared anymore,” says Jaya, Nakra’s wife, who had earlier wanted a caesarean delivery. Pandit, who has been schooling pregnant parents for childbirth for almost three decades, has watched things change dramatically. “There is so much more fanfare now. There are wonderful clothes for pregnant mothers, literature, mommy makeovers and fancy birthing spaces,” she says.
Delhi’s Moolchand Medicity started ante-natal classes four years ago to help young moms prepare their bodies for natural birth. “There’s a need for it as a huge percentage of our clients belong to nuclear families and have no one to guide them,” says Dr Prachi Srivastava, consultant, maternity programme at Moolchand Medicity. “A pilot study in 2009 of showed that 18 of 20 pregnant women who attended ante-natal classes had natural deliveries, which was truly encouraging,” says Dr Srivastava, who is doing a second study with 40 women. In most private hospitals in India, half the deliveries are caesarean.
Alpana Kaur, 31, is a big fan of Lamaze. “They help you relax and several misconceptions about pain associated with childbirth,” says Kaur who is pregnant with twins. “I am completely prepared to deliver my babies the natural way.”
There’s more. Besides these ante-natal (Lamaze) classes, Fortis Hospitals and Max Healthcare also offer baby showers for expecting mothers in the seventh month. “It is really important to pamper mothers as they go through a lot of emotional and physical change during these nine months,” says Dr Anuradha Kapur, senior consultant, gynaecology at Max SuperSpeciality Hospital, Saket.
“Two years ago, we had to struggle to get the dads to participate. Now would-be dads not only accompany their wives for all consultations and ultrasounds but also insist on being with them through the labour process,” she says, adding that at least 50 per cent of her present day clientele, expresses the wish to be with their partners during childbirth.
Maternity-wear is a lot sharper too. “I am not shy to flaunt my belly. There are so many stores in the city offering wonderful options for pregnant moms,” says Sniti Chauhan, 23, who is expecting her first child.