Birth and Birth-time
When the female cervix (śukrapraveśinī peśī) dialates to about 10 cm active labor begins. During a normal healthy birth the fetal head is facing downwards helping the cervix to flatten and dialate. Birth feet first (breech) is generally avoided due to possible delivery complications, and only about 3-4% of births end up being breech . Women are reccomended to perform certain yoga postures to insure the head emerges first.
While in the womb, the fetus does not breathe or digest, the placenta (aparā) does all this for the fetus . Carbon dioxide and waste products from the fetus are sent back through the umbilical cord (nābhi nāḍī) and placenta to the mother’s circulation to be eliminated. The fetal lungs are collapsed and are not used for breathing since all oxygen and nutrition is supplied through the umbilical cord. The fetal heart is pumping blood through the body but only using two chambers, this ‘fetal circulation’ changes at birth. With the first few breaths, the collapsed lungs expand into air filled sacs. This change of pressure at birth allows blood to flow into the lungs activating all four chambers of the heart to begin to work.
The first few breaths are the hardest for the newborn as the lungs need to open and fill with air for the first time, and often the first few breaths are short and irregular and may take a few hours to stabalize. The baby should breathe within 30 seconds to one minute after delivery. Often the baby will need some physical stimulation, though labor itself can stimulate the first breath. What is it that makes the baby take its first breath? Some say it is the lack of oxygen coming from the placenta, or sulfactants, or pressure, but this natural function of life happens and must happen as soon as we leave the womb/enter the atmosphere.
At the moment of birth the fetus oxygenates its own blood and takes an independent body. In Jyotiṣa, the body is represented by the lagna. Sanjay Rath says, “the moment of separation of the body of the created being from that of the mother is the time of birth as it is at this moment that an independent body (Lagna) has come into being.”  ‘Individual life’ is the time we utilize to tie down the exact degree of the birth chart ascendant (lagnasphuṭa). The allopathic medical system uses the moment the infant’s body is completely out of the womb (bhū patana) as the birth time. Some systems use the first breath/cry, others the cutting of the umbilical cord. There is no agreement among scholars about this exact moment, therefore rectification is always essential. Let us now understand the arguments for and against the various birth time determination.
Fire: The sighting of the head (śiro-darśana), also called crowning, as the birth time is the first time any part of the infant is outside of the womb. Before crowning, the fetal head is slightly visible but is going in and out slowly stretching the vaginal canal (garbhamārga) to be ready for exit. This is called the ‘ring of fire’ where the nerves of the mother are stretched and compressed- at first burning then becoming numb. When the head has come out to a position in which it does not go backwards again, this is called crowning. Labor may take over 24 hours but once the head has crowned the infant is born in approximately one to ten minutes after this. It is the first time that any of the infant has left the womb, like the first step of one leg out of the house to begin a journey. The argument against using this as the birth time is that the infant is not fully out of the womb, nor breathing on its own, and therefore not a separate entity. In cases where the birthing infant is not aligned properly it is possible for the doctor to push the head in and realign the child (before it starts breathing). In one situation, the child’s head came out and was pushed in twice until the shoulders were in the proper position for delivery.
Air: The first breath as the birth time is generally taken from the first cry. It is hard to hear the first inhale, but the first exhale is loud and clear. Death is officially defined as the “cessation of vital functions including heartbeat, brain activity and breathing”. In general, the last breath leaving the body is considered the moment of dying. In this way, the first breath entering the body would be birth. In yoga it is believed that destiny gives us a number of breaths not years, so ‘individual life’ would be the first breath to the last breath. The first breath inflates the lungs, changes the fetal circulation to normal four chamber circulation, and allows the infant to live separate from the placenta and mother. The argument against using this as the birth time is that an infant can completely leave the mother and not start breathing for some time. In water births, the child can be born under water, allowed to open its eyes, use its senses and move about for over a minute before being brought up for its first breath. In some situations the breathing needs to be induced. What if the infant dies without ever having taken a breath- it was born. Other times, the infant can cry when not completely out of the mother’s garbhamārga, and therefore not be separate from the mother yet.
Earth: Bhū Patana literally means descending to the Earth, and is taken as the infant’s complete exit of the womb. This is what is used in modern allopathic medicine, as the focus is on the physical body leaving the mother. Where as the first breath takes into account the independent working of the prāṇa. The complete physical exit is easily determined. Satyācārya reccommends this time for its ease of determination . The argument against using this as the birth time is primarily that the other indications are better: crowning- she’s already been out, first breath- out doesn’t mean taking in oxygen and pumping her own blood, cutting the umbilicus- is the final separation.
Water: Cutting of the umbilical cord (nābhi nāḍī) independant from the placenta (aparā) has the largest range of variation in time. The placenta delivery is five to fifteen minutes after the infant’s delivery (it is called the afterbirth). The placenta is created within the first divisions of the zygote to blastocyst and is the same genetic material as the child. It implants into the uterine wall to regulate nourishment. Once the baby leaves the womb the uterus begins to contract and pushes out the placenta. The umbilical cord pulsates strongly for about five minutes after birth and can continue for about twenty minutes. In allopathic hospitals, the cord is cut directly after birth whether there are fluids flowing or not and before the delivery of the placenta itself. The cutting of the cord is a human action, and not nature itself. In cases where the cord is rapped around the infant’s neck it has to be cut immediately- even before the child completely exits the womb. More holistic births will not cut the cord for five to twenty minutes after delivery when the pulsation has stopped. Some individuals wait for the umbilical cord to naturally fall off which takes about four days, this is called a lotus birth. In Chinese medicine, the umbilical cord is burnt (not cut) after it has stopped pulsating. The argument against using this as the birth time is that it does not inhibit ‘individual life’ from existing if the cord is not cut, nor does it show full delivery if it is cut. Excluding the lotus birth (variation of four days), the average time of cutting the umbilical cord can vary from not out of the womb to twenty minutes. Also, the placenta itself is created from cells in the original blastocyst- not from the mother herself. Therefore cutting the umbilicus is separation from the placenta not the mother.
Different traditions give priority to one of these birth times. There is no consensus. There is one thought about using the ‘yuga’ tattva of the prāṇapada lagna to indicate which time should be used; for fire signs (satya yuga) use the śiro-darśana time, for eath signs (kali yuga) use Bhū Patana and so on. One must be aware of the possible variation when rectifying the chart. Below is the example of my daughter and son’s birth times to show the variation between times. My daughter was born in an allopathic hospital setting where we were unable to let the umbilical cord stop pulsating before it was cut as we had wished. My son was born at home, so there was no rush to cut the cord, but his breathing didn’t happen till seven minutes after his birth (making him quite purple); he literally waiting till the navāṁśa changed before he started breathing.
|My Daughter’s Time
|My Son’s Time
When the infant is born the senses are wide open and receive everything with extreme intensity. It is best to avoid bright lights, intense smells, and loud noises (particularly mechanical noises). Some traditions teach for the mother to not leave the house for forty days and then chose a beneficial muhūrta when they do so. If the mother sings while the child is in the womb and also when it is outside, it creates a nourishing environment that has familiar sensory stimuli, which is emotionally comforting. The singing of the Mother is the best medicine for the infant as it increases the energy of the Moon, and the first year is the Moon naisargika daśā.
Birth and Death: the cycle of life
At the moment of birth, death is inherent, the cycle of life includes death. Birth and death are moments where the individual soul enters the physical world and leaves it. The moment of birth is a result of all previous actions from the past lives. Karmas that were not balanced in the previous life and unfulfilled desires that were unable to fructify, due to the present life karmas, are guided to take place by this life’s combinations supporting those karmas to be experienced. For example, if a native has extreme poverty yogas then no matter what positive service they gave, their money situation could only become minimally better. But on the next birth a new stage is set and strong desires left unfulfilled are given fertile soil to bear fruit. In the Bhagavad Gītā, Arjuna asks Kṛṣṇa, what happens to the individual who has faith (śraddhā) and strives towards the changeless foundation (sthitiṁ sthirām) in the path of yoga, yet does not succeed. He is told that such an individual will be born into a family of wise yogins, which is a great blessing and hard to achieve. In this way, the individual will learn the knowledge of the last life, and be carried on- even against his will- to attain the supreme goal (parāṁ gatiṁ) .
Some situations are blessings from a previous life, other situations are punishment from past actions. There is a story of a boy who had a crippled leg who came to see Satya Sai Baba with his mother to be healed. They made it to have special time with Sai Baba and watched as he healed many other people that day. When it came to their turn, they were told that it was not the best path for them to be healed. That in a previous life the boy had been a crooked judge and this was his punishment, and that the mother was the secretary of that judge. In this way, circumstances in early childhood are not the karma created in this life but are purely the results we have earned in the past incarnations.
The life process starts with a conception chart guiding our formation, then individual life gets a birth chart with what we are destined to experience. The yearly charts are based on the birth chart and can be calculated for the whole life from the beginning. The chart cast the moment an individual dies, called a Puṇya Chakra, will show how soon an individual is reborn and what karma they did in this life that needs more work. The moment of death determines the next life and its incarnation. The karma entering this world is seen in the birth chart, how we worked with this karma is seen in the puṇya chakra. Death to birth is the journey between bodies (puṇya chakra to birth chakra). Birth to death is the journey of embodiment. From the physical perspective it may seem like a long journey but from the soul’s perspective a lifetime is a fleeting moment. In soul awareness, one realizes the short time of incarnation and makes the most beneficial use of embodied time. Every individual is born with strengths and weaknesses and as astrolgers we are here to guide people to attain their highest potential in all four aims of life. Only that which is not born does not die. This unborn, undying nature is the Amṛta- the immortal- the supreme goal (parāṁ gatiṁ).
This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 in Science of Light Vol II
 Gaskin, p.384
 Gaskin, p.298
 SJVC, Question on birth time, 23 February 2002
 Satya-Jātakam, Upodghata 5
 Bhagavad Gītā, VI.33-45