Three lakh women die from issues in pregnancy and childbirth. So why the ignorance and indifference towards this huge loss to a family?

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines maternal death as the death of a woman while pregnant, or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy. Maternal mortality rate is the number of registered maternal deaths due to birth or pregnancy related complications per 100,000 registered live births. In a world with almost 4 billion women, this issue is touching our lives in one way or the other, yet we do not talk about it as much as we should.

People are not equipped with the knowledge they need, especially in a country like India, to understand the gravity of the issue. This often begins and ends at being a “women’s issue”. Three lakh women, all over the world, die each year from problems in pregnancy and childbirth. About 700 women die each year in the United States alone, while 830 women die each day worldwide, as reported by WHO. The chances of dying during pregnancy, in some places, are 1 out of 15.
I can recall workshops being held at schools regarding menstruation, pregnancy and related ideas only attended by girls, while boys stood outside waiting to hear what this ‘forbidden fruit’ was. Firstly, why should this just be restricted to them when each and everyone is impacted by it?

Secondly, the knowledge provided to the students is inadequate.Several factors can lead to maternal mortality. The first being age, where women below the age of 20, and above 35 are at risk. Socio-economic status in the society is another factor. Where poor and illiterate individuals do not have access to education, healthcare, proper nutrition, guidance, and care are at risk of death during pregnancy. Women are also placed on a lower pedestal and viewed as subordinate, which can be a reason for not being given adequate support during their most important time. The societal pressure of bearing a male child also adds a strain on the emotional and mental health. Unplanned babies, poor sanitation and hygiene facilities,infections, and other factors can also increase the risk. Hypertensive disorders are responsible for 14% pregnancy related deaths, pulmonary embolism causes 3% of the deaths, and 10% women die due to direct complications. Yet, we are not aware of these statistics. To understand the core issues, the world needs to move beyond books like ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.
The Special Bulletin of Maternal Mortality in India by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in June 2018 stated that among the southern states, the decline has been from 93 to 77 and 115 to 83 in others. As reported by the WHO, factors like access to quality healthcare, state subsidised financing, mitigation of social determinants, and positive engagement between public and private healthcare providers has helped India in reducing MMR by 77% in 2016.
The death of a mother is tragic, with a devastating effect on the families. Though the MMR has witnessed a decline, it is important to educate the masses of such prevalent issues. Proper check-ups during the pregnancy and a nutritious diet is a must for both the mother and the baby.

Feature Image Credits: Saubhagya Saxena for DU Beat.

Shivani Dadhwal

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