Nutrition levels of pregnant women in rural India: 5 key takeaways from a new study
Majority of the pregnant women in rural India don't get access to medical facilities, says the independent survey done by three researchers associated with IIM-A and Ranchi University. We bring you the five takeaways from the study.
Less than half of the pregnant women in rural India get nutritious food, and the majority of pregnant women don't even have access to healthcare facilities, reveals a new study.
Conducted by Jean Dreze, professor, Ranchi University, Reetika Khera, associate professor, IIM Ahmedabad and Anmol Somanchi, a research associate with IIM-A, the study, titled Jaccha Baccha-Survey (JABS), reveals alarming data about pregnant women & childbirth in rural India.
It looked at six states: Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.
In each state, the survey teams visited 10-12 randomly selected Anganwadi centres (spread over two blocks in the same district) and interviewed as many as possible of the pregnant and nursing women registered there: 342 and 364 respondents respectively.
Here are five main takeaways from the survey:
1. Frugal diets
According to the survey, only 22% of the nursing women reported that they had been eating more than usual during their pregnancy, as it is required. Just 31% said that they had been eating more nutritious food than usual. Only less than 50% of the nursing women reported eating nutritious food (e.g. eggs, fish, milk) “regularly" during pregnancy. It was just 12% in UP.
2. Insufficient maternity benefits
The study found that nursing women had spent close to ₹ 6,500, on average, on their last delivery. This amounts to more than a month’s wages for a casual labourer, in the survey areas.
Under the National Food Security Act 2013 (NFSA), all pregnant women are entitled to maternity benefits of ₹ 6,000, unless they already receive benefits as formal-sector employees. The researchers have argued that the central government ignored this for more than three years, before launching the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) in 2017. But even after PMMVY, things didn't really change. In August 2017, Ministry of Women and Child Development, which provides maternity benefits under PMMVY, restricted its financial support to the first live birth, and reduced benefits to ₹5,000 in a flagrant violation of NFSA.
3. Problems with PMMVY
An RTI query has revealed that only half of the eligible women have received PMMVY benefits in 2018-19. “Since 55% or so of pregnant women are not even eligible (because of the ‘first living child’ condition), this means that the effective coverage of PMMVY is just 22%”, said the study.
4. Special Needs Ignored
The surveyors were shocked to find how little attention was paid to the special needs of pregnancy – good food, extra rest and health care. Often, family members or even women themselves had little awareness of these special needs.
The survey reveals that 48% of pregnant women and 39% of nursing women in UP had no idea whether or not they had gained weight during pregnancy. Similarly, there was little awareness of the need for extra rest during and after pregnancy.
5. Dismal Health Services
The study infers that Pregnant and nursing women are acutely deprived of quality health care in rural areas. Many of them receive some basic services (e.g. tetanus injections and iron tablets) at the local Anganwadi or health centre, but they get very little beyond the basics Small ailments easily become a major burden, in terms of pain or expenses or both. At the time of delivery, women are often sent to private hospitals when there are complications.