A staggering five women die every hour in India due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. And two-thirds of the around 45,000 such deaths annually occur outside any medical facility, that is, either at homes or en route to hospitals.
This is despite a slow improvement in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the country. As appropriate medical surveillance and intervention can almost entirely prevent maternal deaths, MMR is deemed a sensitive indicator of the general quality of a health system, according to the World Health Organisation.
Hence, this abysmal mortality rate reflects a general lack of physical and financial access to health care, which is a fact of life for many Indian households.
Yet, a bizarre and parallel narrative is unfolding across the country.
In contrast to such under-provisioning of maternal care, there is an emergent story of over-provisioning too, in rich and poor states alike. And nothing demonstrates this phenomenon better than the “Caesarean Epidemic.”
A caesarean section or a C-section is a delivery through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus, in situations where a vaginal delivery could put the baby or mother at medical risk. However, disturbingly, more pregnant women in India are going under the scalpel for deliveries than is normal.
The WHO made it unequivocally clear in a 2015 statement that C-section rates higher than 10% do not help reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates. But India crossed this threshold way back in 2005 when the figure hit 10.6%