Maternal Health in India

We have examined how maternal health in China is deeply tied to political, economic, and social reform, but China is not alone. There are striking similarities between the status of maternal health in China and that in India and Mongolia.

Eight-hundred women die every day from preventive causes related to child birth and pregnancy; ninety-nine per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Shortly after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, India created the Reproductive and Child Health Programme. As of 2004, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in India was 254 out of 100,000. And although the MMR has decreased over the last 20 years, the statistics have not met the goals set forth by the Millennium Development Goals, the ICPD, or many other conferences or organizations.

The main issue in India’s maternal health is lack or low quality of data, and even existing data is unreliable. Therefore, officials rarely know the exact problem(s) at hand and cannot develop effective programs. In a study released in 2007, 15% of deaths of reproductive-aged women were related to maternal health complications. Similar to China, a majority of maternal deaths are within rural regions with low standards of living, lower access to health care, poor sanitation, higher rates of poverty, and lower caste association. Women were more likely to give birth at home with unskilled attendants, if any at all. And younger women were more likely to become pregnant and have greater complications during pregnancy and birth.

One of the greatest risk factors for maternal mortality is anemia, which plagues two-thirds of pregnant women in India. This condition leads to serious and deadly hemorrhages during the pregnancy and after delivery. In addition, anemia compromises your immune system’s ability to fight off infections so women are more likely to develop an unrelated infection which leads to more complications during births. The study revealed that a woman has a 1 in 330 chances of dying each time she becomes pregnant; 1 in 110 on her third pregnancy.

The study suggested improvements in prenatal and postnatal care to significantly reduce maternal deaths and improve health of both mother and child. Increasing age of marriage and pregnancy, preventing unrelated diseases that complicate pregnancy and birth, and distributing better antibiotics will all improve maternal health. The study concluded that women need access to improve care, and education on how to access such care.