The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Birth-fixing to beat Mars
- Astrologers, not doctors, determine time of delivery

Bhopal, Feb. 4: The Bachchans may have struggled long and hard to wash off Aishwarya Rai’s Mars curse, but couples in Madhya Pradesh are wiser.

They know that prevention is better than cure.

Over the past two months, more and more would-be parents in the state have been opting for “birth by appointment” — that is, manipulating the time of delivery to suit astrological charts.

“The chief objective is to ensure the child isn’t born a manglik like Aishwarya,” explained M.S. Srivastava, head of the Bhopal-based Jyotish Vichar Sangh.

Bhopal housewife Munni Rawat summoned her family astrologer, Rameshwar Shukla, as soon as daughter-in-law Mamata developed labour pains. She ensured the girl was born at an “auspicious” time with the horoscope predicting a long life, marital bliss and wealth.

Mukesh Dixit, geography lecturer at a Bhopal college, had wife Kamla’s caesarian section put off for two hours last Friday on his astrologer’s advice. Else, the baby would have faced “financial and health problems” later in life.

Srivastava said that for the past two months – coinciding with Aishwarya’s astrological jinx becoming public knowledge— he has been flooded with requests to work out auspicious times for birth.

One way to advance the birth-time is through unnecessary surgery or induction of labour. If the patient was to undergo a caesarean anyway, it’s possible to alter the date or time both ways.

One cannot prevent or delay birth once the natural process of labour has begun, but if labour fails to take place on the expected date, it’s possible to prolong the delay by waiting a few extra days before intervention.

“There’s a risk in such (prolonged) waiting – the foetus can even die -- but with ultrasound and cardiac monitors we can monitor the foetus while we wait,” said Dr Sonia Malik, an obstetrician in Delhi.

In Bhopal, medical opinion is divided.

Dr Meenakshi Verma, an obstetrician, said she “personally” believed that whether a delivery needs intervention – such as the application of forceps or surgery or induction of labour – should be decided solely on medical grounds.

But, she said, 60 to 70 per cent of labour cases now come to her with the request to rig the time of birth. “We have little choice but to oblige them.”

Dr Anita Aggarwal of Chirau hospital, however, is firmly against the trend. She said that even early deliveries can cause harm – they deprive the new-born of the physiological benefits a longer intrauterine life would have given it.

She suggested that most obstetricians agree to oblige the families out of fear they may lose the patient and, therefore, business.

But the practice seems to be catching on. “Even in Delhi, we get plenty of requests for births at specific times of the day based on astrological concerns,” said Tripat Chaudhary, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Delhi’s Fortis La Femme hospital.

Dixit, the college lecturer, defended the trend saying astrology was “an integral part of social life”, so childbirths could not be immune from its influence.

“In most homes, astrology decides the time of marriage, a business launch or an expensive purchase. Why leave out childbirth' What’s the harm if we lessen the baby’s future complications'”

(With inputs from G.S. Mudur)

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