Dr Amrit Patel is a Consultant based in Ahmedabad/India.


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Despite much progress in maternal health, especially in the course of the Millennium Development Goals, a large number of mothers still die each year in the context of pregnancy, child birth and post-partum period in India. The Indian Government ought to take advantage of International Women’s Day to review the policy and programmes on women’s health in order to reduce the maternal mortality rate with an emphasis on rural areas, where the prevalence of deaths is the highest, our author maintains.

The health and education of all human beings living in a country are its most precious assets. In India, education has been a fundamental right of human beings, and with the adoption of the National Health Policy Statement, the 1978 “Health for All Declaration” became the guiding concept for Government of India’s policy. The survival and well-being of mothers are most important for the country’s future generations.

The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) is one of the important indicators of quality of health services provided to pregnant women (see Box). Despite good progress especially since 2005, still estimated 47,000 mothers continue to die annually due to causes related to pregnancy, child birth and post-partum period. The major medical causes of these deaths are haemorrhage, sepsis, abortion, hypertensive disorders, obstructed labour and anaemia. Besides, a number of determinants like illiteracy, low socio-economic status, early age of marriage, low empowerment of women and traditional preference for home delivery are responsible for maternal deaths. A recent review of maternal deaths suggests that about 26 per cent of maternal deaths occurred at home, 25 per cent in transit, and 48 per cent at the health facilities.

The Maternal Mortality Rate
The number of women who die from any cause related to pregnancy (excluding accidental or incidental causes), during pregnancy and child birth or within 42 days of treatment of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of pregnancy, per 100,000 live births is called the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). The causes attributed for such deaths include general health status, educational level and physical movement during pregnancy and child birth. Most maternal deaths are avoidable and can be prevented through appropriate health care, managing complications during pregnancy and deliveries. Improved access to antenatal care during pregnancy, skilled care during child birth and in the weeks after child birth reduces maternal deaths.

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