As a researcher, this was another day of visit to KG Halli in our long series of interactions with the community, but this particular visit was critical from research and humane point of view. I had gone to to meet three women who had lost their babies recently. I was a bit apprehensive to go and talk with them though they had expressed interest to meet me. This was perhaps e my previous experience of feelings of helplessness when a woman had broken down narrating her story in a similar situation and the research team could only console her at that time.

I followed Leela (the community health assistant) to Ms Shagufta’s house in KG Halli. We got a warm welcome and we all sat on a mat on the floor. After an initial chat, she gave me a plastic carry bag with many sheets of paper in it. The ultrasound report stated intrauterine death (IUD). On further questioning, Mrs Shagufta shared that she had been to the nearby Maternity Home and the doctor had advised her to go to “big hospital” but she along with her husband took the decision to wait for two days and then see…… She visited the same doctor after two days, but it was too late!!! One wonders, if the baby could have been saved if the reason for referring to the bigger hospital was explained to the mother? or the consequence of delaying visit to “big hospital” was communicated properly?? Do the doctors in public hospital
have so much time considering the work load?? Or should they be spending few minutes if the case is complicated? Not sure where and what went wrong but the end result was one life was lost which was preventable!

We walked through the Bharathmatha slum and reached Ms Vimla’s house. Her house was a contrast to the surrounding area that was neat and things in the house were well-arranged.. While talking I could feel her frustration when she said in-spite of doing everything what the doctors had suggested, I lost my baby! This happened in one of the private medical colleges/hospitals, where she went for regular antenatal care (ANC) visit—that too every 15days as advised by the doctors for monitoring her blood pressure. All she knew about the reason for baby’s death was that due to her high blood pressure the baby was choked to death. She attributes the sudden rise in her blood pressure at that time to witnessing the death of women in labor opposite to her ……this in a way raises questions about the atmosphere women deliver which is supposed to be the one of the best moments of their life!! Are the concerned staffs in the labor ward even aware of the impact of this situation on women in labor pain? ………….I had no exact answer when she asked why did my baby die after half an hour of birth?

With many un-answered questions for possible reasons for death of babies, we walked to Ms Salma’s house. Met this young charming girl sitting next to her first child….her sister in law joined us….whom we knew very well so the talk went smoothly……it was obvious that this young mother had terrible experience while in the labor ward…..in one of the secondary public hospitals in Bangalore. She said she was shouted at for going there while in labor and was told “if things go wrong we are not responsible”…It is difficult to understand whether secondary hospitals should concentrate more on referred cases/complicated cases or on ANC? Or is this a way shying away from responsibilities and accountability?? To add to this, money was demanded by the aaya….she was repeatedly slapped during the process of delivery….constantly and repeatedly told not to scream if she did so the baby would die…finally it reaches a stage where the aaya sits over her chest to “PUSH” the baby. The out-outcome of all this torture was a still birth!! She had lot of praise for the doctor’s attitude but she said it was nurse and aays who were rude …but are the doctor not supporting this kind of behavior by not addressing and turning a blind eye to it ? Or are they helpless to address this? Is this not part of basic quality of care? The young mother goes through this stressful experience and lives with guilt of killing her own baby by screaming and she shared her decision that -“ I will NEVER go to hospital for delivery”. This time I had an answer to her question – the baby did not die because you screamed while in labor pain! Though I did not have immediate answers in the first two episodes, I feel that sharing the ‘unresolved’ and ‘unaddressed’ issues and concerns of the community would go a long way to actually resolve them and prevent future deaths.

Please note: Names are changed to protect privacy.

Dr Thriveni B S

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