Safe, Respectful Birth for All Women #EveryBirthCounts

Our Story

Ten years ago, Bangalore Birth Network (BBN) started out as most social change groups do – we saw a pressing need to empower women to have a better experience with doctors and hospitals in pregnancy, birth and postpartum and felt compelled to address it. We were influenced by our own birth experiences – some demoralizing, some joyful, some yet to be realized. We shared a hunger with women in the city for maternal healthcare that was more empowering, more humane and based on scientific evidence as opposed to fear and risk.
From the outset, we resolved that if we were to improve the birth scenario in Bangalore for ourselves, we would not be satisfied until we improved it for all women regardless of class, caste, economic status, religious background or sexual orientation.

Challenges With Birth Today

While healthcare is life-saving, birth itself is over medicalised, and unnecessary medical interventions are rampant even in healthy pregnancies. Cesarean section rates are higher than ever before and in many hospitals account for more than half of all births.

Other contentious issues include:

  • overuse of ultrasound scans
  • misuse of medicines to start and speed labor
  • pushing on the woman’s belly while she is pushing in active labor
  • separating mother and baby after birth
  • not starting breastfeeding within the first hour of life which increases neonatal mortality risk

This is a small part of a large list of practices that go on daily, without question and unknowingly causing the woman and baby fear and undue harm.

Women are led to believe that such medical interventions are a necessity, while there is no research or evidence to support this.

Women are subjected to disrespect and abuse during childbirth. Mistreatment is common in labour. Labour wards leave women with haunting memories of disrespectful care:

  • labouring alone without a family member at their side
  • physical, emotional and verbal abuse
  • non-consented care (being lied to, misled)
  • being told your baby will die if you don’t listen and comply
  • discrimination based on specific patient attributes
  • abandonment of care or refusal of care unless a bribe is given

Our work over the past decade, has documented that the situation is doubly bleak for women with limited resources. Birth experiences of poor, pregnant women in and around Bangalore are shocking. For women who come from the lower economic strata, there may be no skilled provider in their area or available transportation.

How Are We Changing This?

In the ten years since the BBN was established, we have played a key role in nurturing an environment where local families have access to birth professionals through

  • our service directory
  • access to feedback on doctors in the city through one-on-one counseling services online connections through social media
  • outreach events that create awareness and strengthen support networks

BBN’s Lactation Pilot Program

Breastfeeding counselling at government health centers is strongly needed. These gaps in services put already vulnerable women, babies and families at even greater risk. To address this, a certified antenatal and lactation counsellor visits the public healthcare facility, and counsels up to 30-40 women a week. This program addresses basic maternal and newborn health problems at the root, before they become life threatening. Breastfeeding significantly lowers newborn mortality.

Counselling Skills for 250+ Nursing Students

 The nurses training program is aimed at boosting the knowledge and skill quotient of the nurses with research based findings, and strong scientific evidence based knowledge. This is done by imparting short duration and high impact training to enhance counselling skills.

Maternal Health Survey

Private hospitals are not required to report their practices, procedures and outcomes, and government hospitals are poor at keeping records. In response to the lack of data on childbirth practices, we have created a comprehensive maternal health survey asking women about their obstetric, prenatal and postnatal experiences in urban India.

BBN is also working along with a group of individuals and organisations, to advocate for midwifery education and training, and create awareness among the general public as well as doctors, nurses and hospitals on how obstetric care can be transformed.

The Way Forward

We have worked hard over the years to keep a small, volunteer-based, non-profit fueled solely on passion, grit and the support of friends we made along the way. For the longest time we never had a bank account or money to put in it. In the past few years this has shifted. We are now a registered non-profit society, and two years ago we received seed funding to strengthen and grow the work and its impact. Our growth has been significant in the last year – the seed funding helped us move up our reach from a mere hundred women in 2007 to around 8000+ today.

To reach a wider audience we require further funds to target an impact of 15000 people (and more) over the next few years.

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