A pregnant woman is dying every 5 minutes in India! Here’s why

World Health Organisation recently revealed some startling facts about maternal deaths in India. Their report revealed that every five minutes, at least one Indian woman dies during pregnancy and child birth. "Of the 529,000 maternal deaths occurring every year, 136,000 or 25.7 per cent take place in India. In fact, two-thirds of maternal deaths occur after delivery, postpartum hemorrhage being the most commonly reported complication. The incidence of emergency postpartum hysterectomies is about 83/100,000 with a maternal mortality of 17.7 per cent and a perinatal mortality of 37.5 per cent," said a WHO statement.

This can be attributed to the absence of focus on emergency obstetric care, missing trained midwives, lack of management capacity in health system and absence of comprehensive maternal care services, says Dr Varna Venugopal Rao (Head of Department - Obstetrics & Gynecology at Nayati multi super specialty hospital, Mathura).


Most common pregnancy related complications can be miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy, preterm labour, poor fetal growth, preterm rupture of membranes, obstetric cholestasis and low placenta. According to Dr Sonali Gaur, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, "Preexisting medical problems like thyroid and other endocrine disorders, preexisting diabetes, liver or kidney disorders, chronic infections, blood disorders, connective tissue disorders and others can have effects on pregnancy and can lead to complications and hence should be managed appropriately." Dr Gaur elaborates:

Miscarriage: 1 in 5 pregnancies can lead to miscarriage. Early miscarriage is when a woman loses her pregnancy in the first three months and may be accompanied by vaginal bleeding and pain.

Ectopic pregnancy: It is very important to diagnose this kind of pregnancy early because it can be fatal. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. They mostly occur in the Fallopian tube and can rupture the tube causing internal bleeding.

Anemia: Anemia is one of the common reasons for constant fatigue and tiredness in pregnancy. Iron deficiency leads to an increased risk of preterm labour and lower birth weight. WHO estimates indicate that nearly 35-75 per cent of pregnant women in India are anaemic.

Pregnancy induced hypertension/ preeclampsia: Hypertension accounts for 10-15 per cent of all pregnancies in India and is a common medical problem encountered in pregnancy. If not managed promptly, it can lead to complications, which can be fatal for both the mother and child.

Gestational diabetes: This diabetes occurs during pregnancy and goes away with the birth of the baby. Having said that, it can be dangerous to the well being of the baby, making it important to control the blood sugar.

Preterm labour: Preterm birth is the delivery of the baby before 37 completed weeks. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity. Intrauterine growth restriction: In this condition, the unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. It can put the baby at risk.

Preterm prelabour rupture of membranes / Fluid leak: It is a term used to describe the rupture of the amniotic sac before 37 completed weeks. This results in "leaking" of fluid through the vagina. It increases the risk of preterm labour and intrauterine infection.

Obstetric cholestasis: If you experience severe itching in limbs and abdomen, particularly palms and soles, especially in the second half of pregnancy, you need to get yourself tested. Obstetric cholestasis (OC) is a condition unique to pregnancy, where your liver functions are abnormal.

Low Placenta/ Placenta previa: A low-lying placenta, or 'placenta previa' is one where the placenta is covering or close to the neck of the womb ( cervix). If the placenta remains dangerously low as your pregnancy progresses, it can cause bleeding, which can lead to other complications and may require you to deliver early.


Women often feel helpless during their pregnancy, depending completely on ultrasound scans to know the well being of their baby. But there are some alarming signs that they should not ignore during the period of nine months. "Ignoring the troubling signs, taking home remedies, self medication, not going for regular antenatal checkup and skipping the check-up, especially when the woman is nearing delivery are the most dangerous mistakes made by a pregnant woman," shares Dr Rao. He points out pregnancy signs that could mean something serious and may need instant medical intervention:

Easy fatigability, difficulty in breathing or shortness in breath Excessive weight gain Swelling in the non dependent area of the body like face, abdomen and in the buttock area A persistent severe headache Upper abdomen or chest pain On and off painless bleeding during pregnancy Sudden acute pain in the abdomen with bleeding Water leaking before full term pregnancy Baby's activity level significantly declining Blurring or impaired vision Burning while urination Severe or persistent vomiting

"Any bleeding, abnormal or excessive vaginal discharge or fluid from the vagina, unusual abdominal pain, reduced fetal movements, headaches with visual disturbance or upper tummy pain, unilateral leg swelling and pain warrants immediate medical attention as it could be a sign of a pregnancy complication. Feeling of depression and anxiety should not be ignored during pregnancy," adds Dr Gaur.


It is known that a baby inside the womb is completely dependent on her mother for nourishment. This makes it extremely important for the mother to take care of her diet. First and foremost, the 'eat for two' concept needs to be busted. There is no need for an expecting woman to eat for two. They need only 300 calories more than their normal calorie intake. Dr Anuradha Kapur, Head Lead Consultant - Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Max Healthcare warns, "Over eating can cause diabetes, excess weight gain and can also increase your chances of pre-eclampsia and higher chances of not having a normal delivery."

Dr Anita Kant, Director & HOD, Department of Gynae & Obstetrics, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad recommends, "Besides adequate calories, green leafy vegetables, pulses, fruits, milk and milk products are very important. Fast food, leftovers, roadside food, cold drinks, coffee, alcohol, smoking, tobacco, betel nut, pan-masala should all be avoided."

Here are a few recommendations for a balanced and rich diet by Dr Gaur:

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (minimum of 5 portions a day)
Have frequent small meals. Eat every four hours (at least)
Choose iron rich protein foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, eggs and lean meats
Aim for 3 portions of dairy produce a day for extra calcium like milk, cheese and yoghurt
Three or four portions of wholemeal bread, cereals, potatoes
Eat more fibre rich food to prevent constipation
Six to eight glasses of water
Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin and limit tuna due to high mercury content
Avoid liver and liver products

Food hygiene to avoid infections:

Wash your hands before and after handling food
Wash all fruit and vegetables, including ready prepared salads, before you eat them
Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yellow are solid
Drink only pasteurized or UHT milk Avoid eating mould ripened soft cheese, such as Camembert or Brie, and blue veined cheese (there is no risk with hard cheese such as Cheddar, or with cottage cheese or processed cheese)
Avoid eating uncooked or undercooked ready prepared meals
Make sure you thoroughly cook raw meats and ready prepared chilled meats
Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil
Avoid contact with cat faeces (in cat litter or in soil)

Apart from this, there are some precautions that an expecting mother should take:

Buckle up your seat belt always: A lot of pregnant women avoid buckling up in cars thinking that the seat belt will harm their baby. In reality, experts recommend women to wear seat belts. Pregnant women should wear three point seat belts above and below the bump, not over it. Data shows that car accidents kill more fetuses in a year.

Keep exercising: Do not discontinue physical exercise during pregnancy. If you have a complication, you must take precautions while exercising, otherwise you should always engage in light exercises. It helps beat stress, boosts blood circulations and prepares the body for delivery.

Limit tea/coffee: It is always good to limit your intake of tea or coffee during pregnancy as it can harm your baby. You should limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 mgs a day.

Avoid smoking and alcohol: You must know that smoking in pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, smaller babies, still birth, preterm labour and cot death. Alcohol can also have ill effects on your unborn.

Say no to self medication: When you are pregnant, completely avoid taking medicines without consulting your doctor. Some medicines can harm the baby.

Never skip appointments: You must never skip your appointments as every single check up is crucial to your pregnancy.

Get adequate sleep: Pregnancy is the time when your snooze time becomes all the more important.

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