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J R Soc Health. 1993 Apr;113(2):60-3.

High perinatal and neonatal mortality in rural India.

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Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College, Katraj, Dhankawadi, Pune, Maharashtra, India.


A prospective study conducted in rural India on pregnant women showed poor utilization of primary health services and very poor maternal care receptivity especially in terms of antenatal care. A very high perinatal mortality rate of 81.3/1000 live births and a neonatal mortality rate of 63.7/1000 live births was observed in the present study. Out of 204 live births, 72.05% of newborn developed complications within 6 weeks of the delivery. Most of the complications were of a minor nature and could be attributed to poor environmental conditions, lack of personal hygiene and ignorance. The study highlights the need for training of grass root level workers for the improvement of perinatal and neonatal care in rural India.


In this study, the aim was to assess perinatal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in randomly selected villages of Oriya, Nagola, Rampur, and Chandokha in Aligarh District of Uttar Pradesh State, India. The population of 7541 received poor health services. A visit to all households within an 8 km distance netted 212 pregnant women between May 1987 and April 1988. Women were followed for a year; assessment included a routine clinical history and a general physical and obstetrical examination. Visits to the home included routine blood and urine tests. Cooperative mothers received a tetanus vaccine; calcium, iron, and folic acid tablets were distributed monthly during prenatal checkups. Daily visits were made during the postpartum period (6 weeks). Women were interviewed and information collected on their attitude, knowledge, and practice of existing health services and infant health. The results showed that transportation was an impediment to use of primary health services. Travel distance by foot to a bus stop was about 1-2 km. Considerable time was spent waiting for buses. 93% of the 212 illiterate and unaware of health care facilities. None of the women had used prenatal care in their prior pregnancies. There were 204 live births, of which 72.05% had complications within 6 weeks of the delivery. The conditions were conjunctivitis neonatorum (42.9%), "loose motions" (18.4%), and scabies/pyoderma (12.9%). 57% of the complications were due to poor hygiene or ignorance of the untrained Dai or female attendant. 10.9% of the cases were unavoidable. There were 17 perinatal deaths of which 5 were stillbirths (after 28 weeks gestation) and 12 were deaths at 1 week of age. 11 deaths were males (91.7/1000 total births) and 6 were females (67.4/1000 total births). The total rate was 81.3/1000 total births. There were 3 breech birth deaths, 2 from congenital defects, 2 from prematurity, a cord prolapse, a jaundice case, and fetal distress. 2 died of asphyxia neonatorum of unknown causes. The neonatal death rate was 63.7/1000 live births which is typical for rural areas in India. A community approach to health care, improvements in women's education, and grass roots level health personnel are recommended.

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