Prevent home births without skilled help

A doctor from the district medical office visiting them had insisted on institutional care.
Image used for representational purpose
Image used for representational purpose

It was a case of YouTube inspiration gone wrong. A 36-year-old woman and her newborn died in the capital of Kerala following a botched-up home birth, which her husband allegedly tried to carry out with the help of childbirth tips on YouTube.

The police have arrested the victim's husband, who insisted on denying his wife modern institutional care, on charges of murder and Penal Code section 315 (act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth). A detailed probe has been ordered to look into the complicity of others, particularly his first wife, who apparently assisted the failed delivery with the help of acupuncture techniques.

That two lives were lost despite the intervention of the state machinery makes the matter more complicated. It is learnt that ASHA workers and ward councillors had repeatedly requested the husband to take the victim to the hospital as she had had three caesarean births.

A doctor from the district medical office visiting them had insisted on institutional care. But the husband apparently refused to heed the advice and even prevented other health workers from entering the home. As Health Minister Veena George rightly said, the mother and child consigned to death by the husband is a “serious crime”.

Institutional deliveries have been rising steadily across the country; the current national average of home births is only 4.5 percent. It must be noted with pride that maternal mortality has also come down in the country. That two lives were lost in a state that is one of the best performers on institutional births, and maternal and infant mortality, is shameful.

The state government must take serious note that the trend of opting for riskier home births is on the rise, thanks to misinformation spread through social media about the benefits of ‘natural’ childbirth and fear-mongering on C-sections. According to the health department, 266 home births happened in Malappuram district alone in 2022-23.

Patriarchal mindsets also play a role and women often have no say in these matters. The government must also put under scanner those institutions which facilitate these births by offering traditional midwives and hold them accountable. Childbirth at home without skilled care is a public health issue and must be prevented at all costs.

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The New Indian Express