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National Safe Motherhood Day: Thoughts and Perspectives

Inputs by Dr. Rita Bakshi, veteran gynecologist-obstetrician and Chairperson, International Fertility Centre

Despite several initiatives taken in the recent past on the part of the Government and private stakeholders, the maternal mortality ratio in India remains unacceptably high till date, with recent estimates suggesting that at least one maternal death occurs every twelve minutes in our country. As compared to cities, the burden of maternal deaths is considerably higher in the rural towns, suburbs, and remote villages of the country, wherein access to professional prenatal or delivery care seems to be a distant reality in many cases. It is further unfortunate to note that more than a half of all pregnant women in India deliver without any form of trained medical assistance.


While laying stress on institutional deliveries is the need of the hour, other important pillars to improve the situation include strengthening focus on safe methods of family planning and contraception, prenatal care and counseling, post-natal care, adequate maternal nutrition education, and making provision for obstetric and other medical emergencies such as excessive bleeding, infections or sepsis, hemorrhage, obstructed labor, and so on. 

National Safe Motherhood Day is observed every year in India on 11th April, with an objective to raise awareness on the key topics for the well-being of pregnant and lactating women such as access to proper care during pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal services, etc. This year too, the Day is being observed and commemorated with numerous activities and initiatives on different fronts at the national level. 

Hence, it is a potent time to amplify our efforts to enhance access to information on women’s health (especially during pregnancy and childbirth), and take appropriate measures to prevent unintended pregnancies as well as unsafe abortions.

Generic Tips to Sail Through A Safe and Healthy Pregnancy 

Pregnant women should, first and foremost, abstain from smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming any type of recreational drugs, as well as doing activities involving heavy physical labour on a daily basis. 

They should bear in mind the idea of “eating for two”, but that does not mean they should overeat. It is a good idea to have numerous mini meals throughout the day. Undercooked and/or deep fried meals, unpasteurized dairy products, raw seafood (with high mercury content), and caffeine are best to avoid. 

Get started on prenatal vitamin supplements containing iron and folic acid. 

Pregnant women should practice mild to moderate exercise at least 20-30 minutes every day. However, do not put too much stress on the belly area while exercising. It is equally important to take adequate rest also. 

Practice breathing exercises twice a day to keep your blood pressure on check. You can also relieve stress with prenatal yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques. 

Book monthly appointments for the first seven months. Thereafter, make weekly or biweekly appointments with your doctor. DO NOT hesitate to ask questions so as ensure the pregnancy progresses smoothly. 

Pregnancy Tips for Anaemic Women 

Many pregnant women face an increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia, especially during the end trimester, leading to additional fatigue and weakness, as well as increased complications for childbirth. To prevent this, it is important to eat foods rich in iron like meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, fortified grains, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables. You may also consider adding Vitamin B12 and Iron supplements in consultation with the doctor.

Dealing With Depression, During and After Pregnancy

From bothersome baby blues to emotional numbness and behavioral changes to severe postpartum psychosis, depression can haunt women during and after pregnancy in a variety of ways. Coupled with anxiety, lack of emotional support, and the unprecedented hormonal changes, it can make a woman’s life darker than hell.

Depression not only adversely affects your body, mind and thinking, but can act as a hindrance towards attaining healthy motherhood. Further, it can up the risk for miscarriage, pre-term birth, low-weight baby birth, as well as hamper your bonding with the newborn baby.

Here are some tips/advise to deal with the problem: 

Talk to your partner or a near and dear one about how you are feeling mentally. If you experience anxiety or mood swings, do not feel shy to express. 

Make sure you get enough sleep (at least 8-10 hours every day), and learn to manage stress. 

Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (that act as a natural mood booster). 

Dawn upon yourself the realization that untreated depression can have serious implications for you and your baby. Educate yourself regarding the symptoms and seek professional help when you see the warning signs, as early as possible. 

Talk to your doctor, and work slowly and steadily to manage depression through talk therapy, support groups, antidepressant medicines, or a combination of all. 

Views on Assisted Reproduction: Safe Motherhood is Possible Here 

Over the past decade, with the growing rates of infertility in both men and women, Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART) has gained prominence. At the same time, it also true there are several myths and misconceptions regarding IVF and other ART treatment procedures. One such popular notion is that all these procedures are extremely risky, so much so they can prove to be fatal for the mothers-to-be.

While it is true that women of advancing reproductive age usually seek ART treatments (after years of trying and failing to conceive naturally) and therefore the maternal and perinatal risks associated are understandably higher in such women, it does not imply that parents need to panic when undergoing these procedures. 

On the contrary, infertility patients have an edge as they are constantly monitored throughout their treatment by experts. Being under expert supervision and surveillance is quite beneficial for reducing pregnancy-related complications. Furthermore, staying in constant touch with the doctor keeps the would-be mother aware of the minute symptoms and helps early detection of any potential threats to pregnancy. 

In conclusion, it can be said that with the advancements in medical technology, it is indeed possible to give birth to a healthy baby through ART, without having to compromise on the health of the mother as well. Even if there are challenges and some risks involved in the process, the joy of motherhood (or parenthood) surpasses everything at the end of the day.

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