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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—

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 . . .


Rhobai's picture


Exactly. You are to the point

sowershouse's picture


So, it happens too in Lagos. Even here in Abuja, in one of these Government hospitals, the story is horrible! I am still not sure if these nurses know the meaning of the name they are called- midwives, and the symbolism of the uniform they wear- white. Well, I am not here to preach. May God forgive them, all the same.

Jacquiline's picture

Horrific state

I must confess that I am sad reading this story to the point I ask my self does this really happen? I have given birth twice and I have never experienced any bad situation.

The hospital where I go to deliver is very clean and has very respectful staff and the price is well lets say friendly to the pocket(affordable).

I thank God for our country and the far we have come and PRAY that God will instil discipline in the hearts of midwives and nurses to always be careful of how they treat mothers to be and the babies to be born.

olutosin's picture

It was worse

I did not mention my first two nights before the delivery date, I only started from the delivery room. The day I began to experience labour and the water burst was not the day I delivered, I slept at the back of a PICK UP PEUGEOT VEHICLE in the premises of the hospital. It was my first labour, I was afraid to go back home in case the baby decides to force her way our along the road and there was no bed for those who are yet to deliver their babies.

My husband sat down all night watching over me and scaring the mosquitoes away. My experience with Medical Center even after delivery, if narrated will be considered as tarnishing the image of my country. Government hospitals are cheaper, but then, I will never take such risk again.

My conclusion is just solution, not narrating heart-breaking experiences. transformation and not apportioning blames. I have experienced it, I survived, how other women and my daughters too, will not experience same is my concern.

Thank so much for the comments.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Heartrending story Olutosin. I applaud your ability to rise above this and actually use your life as a means to achieve social change!

This is and even more heartrending because it is the stark reality for so many women... I was speaking to a friend who gave a similar experience about having the nursing staff try to push back her baby into her because the staff and labour ward weren't ready yet!

We shall overcome

Maternal Health Channel
Asking questions. Seeking solutions. Saving lives

oreoluwa's picture


Hi Titi,

This is a wonderful write-up and recognition of the role that men play in creating a better world for women. To make any long-lasting and sustainable change, we need to have both men and women on board and working together.

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