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Yehudi Gordon: A Profile

MONDAY 8th December 2003

Tinkling music, aromatic oils, warm pools and candlelight - these could be the trappings of a luxury health farm except that, into this particularly sumptuous spa, baby comes too. For John and Lizzie's is the most fashionable of maternity clinics and its founder, Yehudi Gordon, is birthing guru to the rich and ready-to-hatch.

Celebrity births

Heather Mills McCartney is only the latest celebrity bump to attend the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth for her confinement. Cate Blanchett, Jerry Hall and Elle McPherson have all been reassured by the laid-back luxury of this North London haven, as well as the calm bedside manner of Gordon himself.

While opinions differ on the safest way to deliver a child, Gordon believes in leaving such a choice with the mother, saying "there are very few shoulds when it comes to having babies". However, recent speculation about the long-term effects of Caesarean section, along with this doctor's own ability to instill confidence in his clients' approach to childbirth, has meant that his unit enjoys a much higher percentage than the national average of natural delivery.

Obstetrics, yoga and birthing and pools

The softly spoken South African is celebrated for his "legendary intuition and ability to dispel neurosis". Originally a research academic, Gordon turned to obstetrics in the 1970s and was a pioneer of the active birth movement, which suggested expectant women get out of bed and bring gravity to their aid. A decade later, he introduced water births to the UK and, to this day, encourages his clients to use yoga and birthing pools to take control of their own labour.

At £5,000 a throw, Gordon's attentions are beyond the reach of many an anxious new mother. But there are signs that the doctor's techniques are being copied elsewhere on the NHS, and his message is clear in his book, Birth and Beyond, described by another famous client, Emma Thompson, as "the ideal preparation for the thunderbolt of parenthood".

For Gordon, birth is "only a moment in time", and he is equally concerned about conception, preparation and postnatal life. He makes it clear that a new parent "needs almost as much love and attention as a new baby". A trip to John and Lizzie's may prove increasingly chic for well-heeled mothers-to-be but, under the auspices of Yehudi Gordon, it will remain very much a family outing.