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Labour intensive
March 05, 2022 COMMENT comment
Labour intensive
By Ritu Goyal Harish
A pre-natal programme by psychologist Niloufer Ebrahim prepares expectant mothers for the upheavals of parenthood. We counsel couples on all issues such as accepting the reality of skin colour, the girl child, superstitions around painless births.
When Puja was pregnant With their first child, her husband Vishal and she had a gazillion questions. Their time-strapped gynaecologist consulting at a swanky hospital in Hyderabad couldn't satisfy their first-time-parent queries. "The pre-natal classes at the hospital merely informed us about procedures of labour or delivery," recalls Vishal. They turned to relatives and friends, read books, scouted the Internet but still went into the labour room with a host of doubts. It was after their bonny baby boy arrived that the real problems started.
The baby was unable to latch on and the lactation consultant proved incompetent. As a result Puja suffered – physically, the bruising was unbearable; mentally, when the paediatrician reprimanded her and called her " irresponsible"; she felt helpless and hurt.

"Pregnancy is a trying time when both partners need guidance and support," says Niloufer Ebrahim, psychologist, counsellor and perinatal educator who in a collaborative effort with Dr Jyoti Unni, consultant gynaecologist, has been running Pune's most popular program for expectant parents Positively Pregnant since 1999.

"We try to dispel myths and old wives' tales such as not to eat papaya or mango, not to buy clothes until the baby comes, et cetera. We don't challenge or reject tradition, but urge couples to make a decision based on practical and vital information." While Positively Pregnant deals with the gamut of pre-natal activities such as breathing during labour, exercise postures (pre and post delivery), counselling on nutrition, diet and breastfeeding, Niloufer and Jyoti have taken the program several notches higher.

"This is not just about pregnancy; it is about becoming a parent even before seeing the baby's face" stresses Niloufer. "Accepting the reality of skin colour, the girl child, superstitions surrounding painless births – we counsel couples on all these issues. We tell them that the real challenge is not to see through the nine months of pregnancy but to create a happy home and nurture a child for the next 20 years."

Being a psychologist helps Niloufer in understanding the intricacies of relationships. She inspires fathers to become part of the pregnancy. "We bring real issues in the open; mood swings, lack of interest in sex, inability to have sex in the pregnant woman; teach them positions, discuss second-hand smoking, fears of neglect, insecurities… chatting, offering advice and solace." Most importantly, adds Niloufer, "we make the woman love and respect her body, and help build her confidence."

With a snack thrown in (for those coming straight from work) and a fair bit of humour, Positively Pregnant, a 16-hour programme spread over eight sessions, is exactly what the doctor ordered: Uplifting, happy moments for the most rewarding experience of your life!

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