Maternal Health: Risk for Rural Indian Women

Everyday millions of women all over the world embark on the life-altering journey of childbirth.  Every culture in the world carries their own set of traditions and expectations for what this journey should look like.  Anthropologists have discovered that birth always reflects the culture in which it happens.  The northern state of Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in all of India, with a staggering maternal mortality rate of 440 deaths per 100,000 women.  These numbers are a reflection of the lack of childbirth education that is made available to the average Indian woman.  Childbirth is an event that should illicit happiness and celebration; however, for those in the developing world, death is often found on the other side of childbirth. 

The high rate of maternal mortality is exasperated by a lack of education, advocacy and proper care for India’s rural poor.

The high rate of maternal mortality is exasperated by a lack of education, advocacy and proper care for India’s rural poor.

In 2000, the United Nations formed a list of ambitious Millennium Development Goals to help improve the lives of the poor.  Two of those goals specifically address the empowerment and education of women and the improvement of maternal health outcomes.  The truth is that since these goals were made public, they rank lowest on the list in actual improvement.  Throughout India, skilled attendants at birth are hard to come by outside the city where the hospitals are.  Rural women, tribal women and women living in the slums rarely have access to appropriate or adequate care because social status and geographical location can be the difference between life and death for a laboring woman.  Maternal health will always be at risk if women are not given the education, advocacy and care they are entitled to when they are of childbearing age.

Jesus was certainly concerned with the holistic health of women.  Throughout the gospels we find Jesus encountering women who have been disregarded in value based upon their occupation (Luke 7), ethnicity (John 4), social status (John 8) and health conditions (Luke 8).  Rather than watch this responsibility be ignored by the physicians of his time, Jesus made himself available to them.  Jesus went to where the need was, offering healing and education.  Jesus became the access to health care that the poor needed.  Although he didn’t have the prestigious title of a Doctor, he proved to provide the kind of care that challenged the faith of these women and eventually brought healing to their physical and emotional well-being.  He demonstrated the empowerment that comes with education to give the poor a new vision for what maternal health care should look like.  As people following Jesus’ example of true health care, we can offer women a new, empowering experience where life is truly found on the other side of childbirth.

Written by: Deb Nava