What does it take to save a life?

A mindful mother

Woman with a multicolored, striped sari covering her head, holding her child.

When 22-year-old Archana became pregnant with her first child, she assumed she would give birth at home. The health center was far away. Just hiring a vehicle to take her there was more than she and her husband could afford.

Most women in Uttar Pradesh had always given birth at home. That is, until PATH’s Sure Start project began.

Not long after Archana realized she was pregnant, she had a visit from the local community health worker, called an ASHA.

“She said, ‘Please come to the mothers’ group meeting,’” Archana remembers. And Archana went, sitting with other pregnant village women and their family members, listening to instructive stories, and playing games that reinforced new messages about safe pregnancy and childbirth.

Breaking tradition to save lives

Archana can recite by heart what she learned from her ASHA: how to prepare for the birth (get tetanus shots and adequate nutrition), how to take care of an infant (keep the baby warm, breastfeed within the first hour, vaccinate), and how to know when a pregnant woman or newborn might need help (unusual bleeding, high fever).

So when Archana began bleeding in her ninth month of pregnancy, she called her ASHA, arranged for transportation, and went to the health center, where an ultrasound showed that the baby was breech.

A scary birth

“It was very scary for all of the family,” Archana says. “We didn’t know if the baby or I would survive.”

If Archana had given birth at home, she and her daughter might not have lived. But with her ASHA’s support and trained medical help, baby Depika was born. Just as importantly, Archana knew exactly what to do to keep Depika healthy in the vulnerable first days after birth.

Now Archana is herself an agent of change, attending the mothers’ group meetings to support other women. “I go to tell my pregnant sisters, see how I faced this problem. Now I know, you call the transport, you go to the hospital, everything will be all right.”