As many as 25 women die every day in Madhya Pradesh due to pregnancy related complications, owing to poverty, lack of awareness and poor health.
According to data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the Maternal Mortality rate (MMR) in the state stands at 498 - which means that out of every 100,000 women, 498 die either while delivering a baby or within 48 hours of becoming a mother.
Taking the Census figures, about 1.9 million children are born in the state every year, which would mean that over 25 women die due to pregnancy related complications every day.
Madhya Pradesh also continues to have the lowest female life expectancy at birth since 1992. "The disparities in life expectancy at birth, directly attributable to their poverty, poor education and health, among females too is as low as 55.2", says a report of the state's women and child development department.
"The overall health and life span of a woman is directly related to the attention given to them during childhood because if the girl child is bereft of proper nutritional intake, she grows into a woman with a host of health problems. The high prevalence of child marriage also contributes to the menace", admitted an official.
"Lack of antenatal check-ups and poor medical facilities in the rural areas are largely responsible for the high MMR as mothers in this state have antenatal benefits only in 10.4 percent births," states the report.
The report further adds "Only 20.1 percent of births were delivered in a medical institution while merely 29.7 percent deliveries were assisted by a health professional".
According to India's latest population council study, the situation is worse in rural areas where less than half the pregnant women, mostly illiterate and socio-economically disadvantaged, do not even seek any care due to lack of awareness.
Inability to meet the costs incurred while visiting a health facility was another reason behind women avoiding antenatal check-ups.
Thus, a majority of women opt for delivery at home, often under dangerously unhygienic conditions. This results in several women dying during childbirth for want of postpartum care, which allows health workers to detect and manage problems and to make sure the mother and child are doing well.
The study finds that less than 17 percent of the deliveries outside a health institution in the state were followed by postpartum checkups within two months.
According to healthcare professionals, the direct causes of maternal deaths in the state are not entirely different from those in other parts of the country. They include excessive bleeding, infections, pregnancy-induced hypertension, obstructed labour and unsafe abortions.