National Safe Motherhood Day is observed on April 11 of every year to enforce that women must have the availability and adequate access to care during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal services.

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Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world and most often in a developing country, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. A woman’s death is not just a personal loss to the newborn child, who loses the primary caregiver. The loss extends to the nation that foregoes her contributions to economic and social development. She is a loss to the community that loses her care and advice. She is a loss to her family which loses her love, nurturing and productivity in the making of a home.

Pregnancy and postpartum health

The health of the mother greatly impacts newborn health and survival. It is important to ensure that the mother gets all the nutrition and prenatal care that’s necessary. This overall health affects the safety of labor, childbirth and the postpartum period. Key interventions for improving newborn health include: ensuring a skilled attendant at every birth; tetanus toxoid immunization; and immediate and exclusive breastfeeding.

We can prevent maternal deaths by ensuring delivery by qualified and skilled birth attendants. Anemia is another problem among adolescent girls and women of childbearing age. Women from all strata of society should be educated on nutrition, especially during pregnancy.

In 2016, an article in Scroll detailed how every five minutes, at least one woman dies of pregnancy or childbirth complications in India. According to the United Nations, 26.7% (1,36,000) of the total worldwide maternal deaths (5,29,000) occur in India. That is a serious number!

Why Postpartum Depression is serious

While antenatal care and breastfeeding support are invaluable, postpartum care is equally crucial. All over the word, around 300 to 750 mothers in 1000 mothers undergo postpartum depression in some form or another. While hormonal imbalances and physical exhaustion contribute to the problem, many other issues add to it. For one, a mother is expected to feel an immediate bond with her child after birth, which is not always the case. Financial pressures may add to the problem. Being confined to the house and the pressures of a breastfeeding timetable can also wear a new mother down. The important thing is to seek help and get adequate nutrition and rest. It is also important for a new mother to take time off for herself.

What UNICEF is doing to protect women

On the occasion of National Safe Motherhood Day, the Secretary of the Family Welfare and Health Department released the ‘Standards, Guidelines and Protocols for Maternal and Child Health,’ written with the support of WRAI members. With these guidelines, we can entrust midwives with more responsibilities to help save mothers’ lives and their status. We can also increase their stature significantly. They will also receive more advanced skills training.

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