A Baseline Study Exploring Rural Maternal Health Practices and Services in Relation to the IGMSY Conditional Maternity Benefit
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The research provides a baseline study of maternal practices and services of two villages in rural India prior to the implementation of the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana maternity benefit. The IGMSY scheme will provide women with Rs. 4000 for the first two live births. Receiving the benefit is dependent on the completion of a number of conditions which include; registering the pregnancy, receiving ante-natal care, registering the birth, getting the child immunised and exclusive breastfeeding for six months. The research was conducted in one of the pilot regions of the benefit. The main areas of focus during the research were the amount of rest and nutrition taken by the women, who would be excluded from the study in relation to the limit of two births and necessary age of nineteen years old, and whether the necessary services are available to complete the required conditions. Globally there has been a rise in the use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) by governments to increase the utilisation of services such as health and education. A program using a conditional cash transfer imposes certain conditions alongside providing incentives which encourages individuals to take action. In India due to a mix of social and cultural factors women’s health is often the poorest. This poor maternal health can perpetuate a cycle of ill-health across generations. Women in India do not get adequate nutrition, particularly during pregnancy. As women do not gain enough weight during pregnancy this means they are more likely to have children born with a low birth-weight and/or suffer complications during delivery. The IGMSY scheme aims to allow pregnant and lactating women to increase their rest and nutritional intake by providing compensation for wage loss. Conducting a baseline study allows the current practices and services to be explored and can help to identify any differences in the future once the benefit is implemented. The research found that women take limited rest during and after pregnancy and often do not change their diet during pregnancy. The research found many actions were tied in with cultural practices. The study concluded that most services required for the benefit could not be found locally and even services that are available may not be accessible to all. The research suggests that the goals of the scheme will not be achievable without major supply side investments. This research gives understanding to the use of conditional cash transfers to achieve aims within maternal health. In the local sphere it is shown that the success of conditional cash transfers is dependent on the circumstances in which the conditional cash transfer is implemented, such as the services need to be available and there needs to be an understanding of the impact of culture. On a global scale the use of conditional cash transfers can often be seen as a reaction to targets set by the millennium development goals. Results show that whilst conditional cash transfers have been successful elsewhere in the world in improving areas such as health this success is clearly dependent on localised factors. The research shows that in this case the aims of the benefit (to improve health and allow for an increase in rest and nutrition) are out of line with the current health practices and services available in the area.