Meet a Health Hero Semifinalist: Dr. Radhi Kakarla

Radhi Kakarla, founder of HATCH Motherhood, is one of our 10 Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge semifinalists.

Radhi Kakarla

Radhi Kakarla is the founder of HATCH and one of our Health Hero semifinalists.

» You can vote for Dr. Radhi Kakarla here from September 4th through October 2nd. 

Name: Dr. Radhi Kakarla

Role: CEO, medical director, and founder of HATCH Motherhood, a facility providing education, services, and support for women on their motherhood journey.

What motivates you to try and make Philadelphia a healthier place?
I believe that the journey into motherhood has been undervalued and underserved and support for woman is lacking not only in Philadelphia, but is a national problem.The United States is behind most developed countries in regards to maternity and postpartum services. As an OB/GYN I am in a unique position to partner with women before, during, and after their pregnancies.

Navigating through your pregnancy as a first-time mom can be overwhelming, confusing, and lonely. In my 20-plus years of experience working with women transitioning into motherhood, I noticed that the majority of my patients had the same questions and concerns surrounding appropriate fitness routines, nutritional guidelines, emotional resiliency program recommendations, etc. to prepare their body/mind/spirit for the biggest transition in their lives. I have seen that healthy, educated, empowered moms equals empowered families, and it is my mission to ensure women feel knowledgeable and supported about the decisions they are making throughout their pregnancy.

All moms want to have the best pregnancy possible for their health, their body, and their babies but sorting through fragmented, misguided misinformation can cause more harm than good. As a result of my experience and my passion to help empower every women to have her happiest and healthiest pregnancy possible, I founded HATCH.

HATCH is a membership-based fitness and wellness maternal community center catering to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of pre and postnatal women. We provide expert-backed prenatal and postnatal fitness classes, education courses, and workshop series to empower your mind, protect your body, lift your spirit, and provide you with the tools and support to have your best pregnancy and feel prepared and supported for your postpartum recovery.

As an avid supporter of the Maternity Care Coalition which assists women all over Southeastern Pennsylvania, I have seen the need for these types of services to be accessible to all women. My passion for adequate care and support during this incredible and pivotal stage in a woman’s life, motivates me to work harder to make this type of support more readily available within our community. Giving mom the tools to take care of her body, educate her and give her coping mechanisms to be prepared for life’s changes then supporting her for 18 months can change the outcomes of families. At the end of the day, the Mother is the center of the home.

Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
My parents grew up in India and my grandfather was an avid yogi and ayurvedic practitioner. My mother (who is a pediatric allergist) would show us all these crazy things she could do as a result of having a daily yoga practice growing up. When it came time for me to redefine my health and wellness routine, two children and a full time job later, I looked to yoga. Initially it was for the physical
benefits. My neck and back hurt. I had no flexibility and felt stiff and tight all the time. Yoga was the natural next step.

I did a little internet sleuthing and found Jai Yoga in Haverford (now Yoga Shala). It was the hardest “workout” I had ever experienced. I willed myself to practice at least three times a week, and it took years for it to feel easier. In the process, I found Julie Pogachefsky and Erica Bleznak. I started to do a weekly private with Julie. That’s how it all started. The yoga practice led to breath work, meditation, Thai massage, rolfing, and many other ancient therapies.

I had finally come full circle (or at least a semicircle). My community grew. My willingness to try different healing modalities as a “practitioner of western medicine” became a bit of an obsession. As a result, I realized there is a lot more to health than what we are providing.

What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I would recommend resourcing pregnancy and postpartum services that are out of the scope of OB/GYN practices for all women with a focus on supporting working mothers. Sheerly due to bandwidth at doctors offices, appointments at most last for 15 minutes. Though many doctors would prefer to spend more time with a patient to ensure they are getting the attention and support they need and deserve, most doctors simply cannot handle to volume and time it would take.

By implementing programs or centers that curate all necessary support programs for pre and postnatal women, we can have reliable referrals. Having access to maternal health resources educates women and helps ease new mom anxiety. The added benefit is that the doctor gets an educated patient. This allows for more time for the doctor to address medical needs and get to know their moms.

When you support and empower women to make healthy decisions for their mind/body and spirit at at time when they are most willing to change (during their pregnancy) I believe we can truly change not only the outcomes of their pregnancy, but overall family outcomes leading to happier, healthier families in Philadelphia.

What’s the most important part of your health or wellness regimen?
Yoga, meditation, and friendships. Fitness is my way to stay connected socially and physically. I try to treat feeling good and taking care of myself as a job. I schedule it into the day and do what I can to make myself accountable.

One of my first fitness “rules” was to only watch TV if I was doing some type of cardio (walking on a treadmill, elliptical). It was awesome — a great excuse to binge watch Netflix. My neighbor, bestie, and fitness powerhouse would come over in the mornings and we would commit to P90x or Insanity. We would hang out, catch up, and get our work out in.

My favorite fitness/social activity are yoga retreats. I call these retreats my ideal vacation. You get to move your body, hang with family and friends, and visit amazing places. I have done a few retreats with Golden Buddha Yoga and have done weekend getaways to the Omega Institute and Kripalu. My 40th birthday included a weekend getaway for a dance immersion with my mom, sister, and another bestie.

To sum it up: I have to keep it fun and social. I always gravitate back to my yoga practice. As my friend Daragh says, yoga is the daily practice (medicine) that keeps your body and mind strong. The rest is nice to have.

What is you number one piece of health-related advice?
Being a woman in today’s world gets more complicated each day. Many women are often tackling motherhood and working full time and running the household as well. “Health,” “wellness,” and “holistic” have become everyday words. Practicing health and wellness is easier said than done.

Take ownership of your emotional and physical well-being first. It is the most essential thing you can do for yourself and your family. As a mother to two teenagers, a full time practicing OB/GYN, and now a founder and medical director of a maternal wellness center, things can get a little chaotic.

My advice to all moms and moms-to-be is to take time every now and then to reset both emotionally and physically. Whether it be with yoga, a walk with friends, or simply five minutes of quiet alone time, I would encourage all women to practice self care; the quality of what you give your family will be 100 times better. Fill your cup first — the overflow goes to everyone else (advice I got when I turned 40!).

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