Women Birth a New Vision for Maternity Care
Recommendation: Bridge the Distance for Mothers
INDIA: The Story That Hasn’t Changed
Few people are aware that Mumtaz Mahal—for whom the Taj Mahal was built—passed away while giving birth to her 14th child. Nobody knows that the Taj Mahal is both a tribute to love and a tribute to motherhood. Did Shah Jahan, or any other emperor, give a thought to how they can improve childbirth conditions so that no other woman succumbs to death while bringing a new life into this world?
That was in 1631.
In 2011, in Madhya Pradesh, a state with one of the worst maternal mortality statistics, 22-year-old Sheena was rushed to the nearest government hospital with her husband. Her husband had to run from each corner of the hospital to get the attention of a doctor or nurse. Sheena had to wait 28 hours to get medical attention; she died while giving birth to her first child. Had she been given timely attention, Sheena would be alive today to care for her newborn girl.
Is India not a country for mothers? Here, a woman dies every eight minutes during childbirth. For every maternal death in India, 20 more women suffer from lifelong health impairments that result from complications during pregnancies. Approximately one quarter of all pregnancy and delivery related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. In Uttar Pradesh, caste discrimination is an ingrained part of the medical system, and that contributes to rising maternal deaths.
"Upper-caste health workers refuse to visit Dalit communities," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, a rights activist. "Because of that pregnant Dalit women do not nutritional supplements and the majority of them are anemic."
It's not just mothers who die in my community. Babies are stillborn and many are premature. Those who survive are at risk because their mothers are not there to care for them.
There are three major reasons why women die during childbirth—
- Pregnant mothers or their families often fail to recognize and seek medical help quickly enough when a complication happens. This is due to illiteracy in families and communities. Women do not have adequate access to education, and many use ineffective home remedies due to traditional myths.
- Many mothers die at home or on their way to the hospital due to lack of preparedness for any complication, lack of access to transportation, or because they were referred from one hospital to another. More than half of childbirths in India still happen at home, and in many cases skilled attendants are not available. Thus, women seek medical attention when it
is too late.
- Even if a mother gets to a hospital in time, there is no guarantee that her life is safe. The right medical facilities, trained professionals, medicines, and supplies are not available. According to the National Family Health Survey II, less than 30% of community health centers had an obstetrician available; less than 10% had an anesthetist.
But there are solutions. We must plan interventions at the community level to raise awareness of danger signs and improve access to information, communication, and transportation. And we must make quality care available to all pregnant women in India if we are to make any dent in maternal mortality rates.
Upasana Chauhan | India . . .