New Delhi: More than 550,000 women were found to be going through high-risk pregnancies during screening between June 2016 to December 2017 under a government scheme for protection of pregnant women.

The Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA), launched in 2016, aims to ensure comprehensive and quality antenatal checkups for pregnant women across India.

“Women identified as high-risk pregnancy were referred to a specialist or a higher health facility for appropriate care. Identifying high-risk pregnancies is the first step towards saving mothers and infants from preventable deaths," said J.P. Nadda, Union minister of health and family welfare, in New Delhi on Friday.

The government has completed more than 10 million checkups across the country. Of the total, more than 2.5 million were conducted in high priority districts identified by the health ministry for focussed attention.

“While all states and Union territories have made significant efforts to reach out to pregnant women, Maharashtra has reported the largest number of checkups among the non-empowered action group (EAG) states and Rajasthan has reported the largest number of checkups among the EAG states," said Nadda.

To enable early detection of high-risk pregnancies, 8.4 million haemoglobin tests, 5.5 million HIV tests, 4.1 million tests for gestational diabetes, 3.3 million tests for syphilis and more than 1.5 million ultrasound examinations were conducted under the programme. The government is also providing free of cost management of any existing clinical condition such as anaemia, pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes under the programme.

Early and regular prenatal care is important for women to have healthy pregnancies and deliveries without complications. The common risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy include existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being HIV-positive and obesity. Age at pregnancy also plays a major role in the good health of mother and baby. According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-16) (NFHS)-4, recently released by the ministry of health and family welfare, one in four Indian women, i.e. around 26.8% are married before the age of 18, and 7.8% of women aged 15 to 19 are pregnant or mothers.

“It is very important to bear a baby at a time when mother’s body is prepared. Adolescent pregnancies have high chances of being high risk. Having a high-risk pregnancy means, the mother or the child will have health problems during pregnancy, birth, or even after delivery. If someone has been diagnosed of this condition, the woman has to be extra careful to have a healthy and successful pregnancy," Nisha Kapoor, director and head of department, Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, QRG Health City, Faridabad said.

“There are some health conditions which makes pregnancy high risk. These women might be suffering from blood disorder, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid or depression. This period often requires specialized care from specially-trained providers. Early and regular prenatal care helps many women have healthy pregnancies and deliveries without complications," she said.

Recent World Bank data puts the maternal mortality rate (MMR) reported in 2015 for India at 174 per 100,000 live births. Infant mortality rate (IMR) for India stands at 34 per 1,000 live births.

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