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The failure of the health system to cope with COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in maternal deaths and stillbirths, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health Journal.


GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to Women and Children, Health related issues)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Maternal Mortality Ratio?
  2. Recent decrease in MMR and its reasons
  3. Highlights of the Lancet report
  4. Way Forwards suggested

What is Maternal Mortality Ratio?

  • Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is the annual number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
  • Maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.
  • It is a key performance indicator for efforts to improve the health and safety of mothers before, during, and after childbirth.

Recent decrease in MMR and its reasons

  • The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India has declined to 113 in 2016­ – 18 from 122 in 2015 – ­17 and 130 in 2014-­2016, according to the special bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2016­ – 18, released by the Office of the Registrar General’s Sample Registration System (SRS).
  • The MMR of various States according to the bulletin includes  Assam (215), Bihar (149), Madhya Pradesh (173), Chhattisgarh (159), Odisha (150), Rajasthan (164), Uttar Pradesh (197) and Uttarakhand (99).
  • The southern States registered a lower MMR Andhra Pradesh (65), Telangana (63), Karnataka (92), Kerala (43) and Tamil Nadu (60).
Healthy trend The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) between 2016 and 2018 dropped to 113 in India, almost 100 deaths lesser than in the 2007-2009 period 212 160 140 2007-09 2011 13 2010-12 MMR is defined as the number of maternal deaths during a given time period per live births 2015 17 2014_16 2016-18

Reasons for Declining MMR:

  • Focus on quality and coverage of health services through public health initiatives have contributed majorly to the decline. Some of these initiatives are:
  1. LaQshya,
  2. Poshan Abhiyan,
  3. Janani Suraksha Yojana,
  4. Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan
  5. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana,
  • The implementation of the Aspirational District Programme and inter-sectoral action has helped to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable population.
  • Recently launched Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan Initiative (SUMAN) especially focuses on zero preventable maternal and newborn deaths.
  • The continuous progress in reducing the MMR will help the country to achieve the SDG 3 target of MMR below 70 by 2030.

Highlights of the Lancet report

  • Overall, there was a 28% increase in the odds of stillbirth, and the risk of mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth increased by about one-third.
  • There was also a rise in maternal depression.
  • COVID-19 impact on pregnancy outcomes was disproportionately high on poorer countries.

Way Forwards suggested

  • Policy makers and healthcare leaders must urgently investigate robust strategies for preserving safe and respectful maternity care, even during the ongoing global emergency.
  • Immediate action is required to avoid rolling back decades of investment in reducing mother and infant mortality in low-resource settings.
  • The authors recommend that personnel for maternity services not be redeployed for other critical and medical care during the pandemic and in response to future health system shocks.
  • Further, wider societal changes could have also led to deterioration in maternal health including intimate-partner violence, loss of employment and additional care-responsibilities because of closure of schools.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024