When astrology plays stork for expectant mothers

August 17th, 2008 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Ashika Mehul Dhokai gave birth to a girl at exactly 8 a.m. on Aug 8 - the time translating into 8/8/8/8 - a configuration many considered auspicious. While Ahmedabad-based Dhokai’s delivery was normal, many urban Indian women nowadays turn to doctors to time their delivery at a propitious hour. Thanks to the advice of astrologers and priests, these women and their families believe that being born under a favourable star would bring wealth and health to the child.

“We get such requests where a would-be-mother for some reason wants a caesarean section. In such cases a little variation in the time doesn’t matter, so we heed the request,” Rinku Sengupta, a consultant in the gynaecology department in Sitaram Bhartia Hospital, told IANS.

“We just ensure that the timing does not harm the mother or the child,” she said. Most mothers don’t want to give birth on a Tuesday or a Saturday as they are considered inauspicious days, she said.

Rationalists say such a practice promotes superstition and is medically unethical, but doctors say they just want to keep the woman happy.

“It is more of a religious belief. Most mothers who want a planned delivery usually consult astrologers or priests for the best timing. We just want to make a woman happy when she goes home back with her bundle of joy,” said Sengupta.

Most such cases are seen at private hospitals, as government hospital doctors won’t hear of such things.

Agreed Suneeta Mittal, the head of gynaecology at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here.

She said at AIIMS doctors mostly see critical cases - so they never do or hear of such requests. “But I know it is becoming a trend. I am hearing all kinds of reports,” she added.

Delhi-based rationalist Sanal Edamaruku said it was “unethical” for doctors to heed the demands of superstitious mothers.

“Medical ethics clearly define that medical intervention should be done only if it is medically required. Doctors cannot be doing it, but it does happen in private hospitals and clinics.

“This is absolutely baseless thinking. How could a star or time influence someone’s life favourably? This should not be supported and should be discouraged. It is an unethical practice and the doctors are promoting superstition,” he added.

According to traditional Hindu thinking, the time to conceive a child is more important than the birth of the child. “If that is what Hindu mythology says, how can astrologers preach about the right timing for delivery?” Edamaruku asked.

Two years ago, he conducted a random study among 80 children born at an auspicious hour or under normal circumstances in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram.

“We didn’t find any great dramatic changes in the lives of those who were born at an auspicious time. And this proves the theory that all this is superstitious,” he added.

He said many gynaecologists had confided in him that pregnant mothers sometimes want to delay the delivery by a day or two.

“Astrology is the deciding factor in many cases when a woman is going for the caesarean section. Astrology impacts their mindset and they are encouraged when doctors heed their demand,” he said.

Requests for delivery at an auspicious hour usually come from educated, rich families.

Aparna Srivastava, a Delhi resident, said: “My friend hails from a business family and her daughter-in-law had a baby recently. They asked the doctor to delay the caesarean operation by a couple of days as the period was inauspicious.”

Neeta Sharma, an executive in a private firm, said: “My colleague opted for the C-section because she was told by the family priest that a certain day and hour would benefit the family and the child.

“Following the advice of her family priest, she actually opted for the C-section. The hospital also readily agreed. Just imagine, people in this day and age believe in such wild ideas!”

(Kavita Bajeli-Dutt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)

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