Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has witnessed an almost 19 per cent drop in the numbers of institutional deliveries across the city until October, as compared to last year.
Civic officials and health experts have attributed this drop to mass migration and the fear of contracting infection, due to which many pregnant women did not return to the city and preferred to deliver babies at their native places or maternal homes.
According to data shared by the BMC, institutional deliveries dropped by almost 19 per cent in 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. The number of childbirths registered with the BMC too has hit a five-year low since 2015, with 82,231 births until October. In 2020, 1,20,188 births were reported, while in 2019, 1,48,898 births were recorded, followed by 1,51,187 in 2018. However, in 2017, 1,55,386 births were recorded, 1,52,952 in 2016 and 1,74,902 in 2015.
Interestingly, even home births have hit a five-year low in the city. Until October 2021, 159 home births were reported in the city, 256 in 2020, 353 in 2019, 415 in 2018, 528 in 2017, 704 in 2016 and 1,465 in 2015. Health experts discourage home births because of the risk of complications and fatality. Doctors said that even though mid-wives are experienced internal examination and vaginal deliveries, they may not possess the expertise — or access to medical equipment — to deal with complications like blood pressure fluctuations obstructed labour and resuscitation among others.
During the initial days of the pandemic, the city had reported the lowest number of institutional deliveries.
On March 8, 2020, 784 institutional deliveries were reported which further dropped to 7,672 in the following month. Moreover, in the pre-Covid days, on an average, the city reported 12,379 monthly hospital-based deliveries. But since the outbreak of the virus, this number fell to 10,180 and now, has further dropped, to 7,000-8,000 per month.
We cannot say there is a drop in the pregnancy rate, as before the nationwide lock-down was enforced, most deliveries were scheduled over the next nine months till November. The numbers were low in March and April because of the nationwide lockdown when pregnant women were afraid to go to the hospital,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani. BMC Executive Health Officer Dr Mangala Gomare said that due to the lockdown last year, many families moved out of the city.
Workers went to their respective villages. “Most of them returned to Mumbai after the situation improved, but their wives and families stayed back, due to which deliveries and birth rates have decreased in the city,” she said. Medical experts and doctors point towards two major reasons for the drop in the registration of institutional deliveries in these nine months as most pregnant women have not returned to the city in view of the ongoing pandemic.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, sexual and reproductive health and rights took a back-seat. Overnight, as a precautionary measure, tertiary care hospitals were converted into dedicated Covid care centres. During this period, when pregnant women were rushed to a hospital for delivery, they would be referred to another hospital. In the initial stages of the pandemic, there was too much confusion,” said a doctor from the BYL Nair Hospital.