Access to quality antenatal healthcare for Indian women has been greatly enhanced with Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan.

How the government’s maternity programmes are empowering Indian women

India is making rapid strides in the development of world-class healthcare infrastructure. However, while the urban areas enjoy a standard of healthcare that is more or less on par with that of developed countries, rural India is yet to catch up. Over the years, the government has launched a series of ambitious programs to bridge this gap, particularly in terms of maternal and infant care. 

Encouragingly, there have been some early successes. According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, India’s Maternal Mortality Rate – that is, the number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births – has been falling consistently. In 2016-18, the country’s MRR stood at 113, down from 122 in the preceding two-year period. 

Two schemes run by the Central Government in this regard have had a significant impact. These are the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan (PMSMA) and the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), which provide free ante- and postnatal care for women in some of India’s remotest regions. Here’s a quick look at the key features of the two programmes and how they are helping to make a difference to Indian women. 

Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan (PMSMA)

  • Objective: This programme is meant to provide free diagnostic and counselling services on the 9th day of every month to pregnant women in the country, including specialised care for those who may be suffering from malnutrition or comorbidities. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every pregnant woman gets at least one check-up during the 2nd or 3rd trimester.
  • Features: Expectant mothers are examined by doctors and put into four categories (Green, Red, Blue, and Yellow) based on the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth that they are assessed as having. The respective coloured stickers are added to the Mother-Child Protection (MCP) cards of patients based on the outcome of their medical tests.
  • Services: PMSMA offers a comprehensive range of services, from initial screening to referrals for high-risk conditions such as anaemia, diabetes, and infection. Patients are also counselled on the dos and don’ts of family planning, nutrition, and postnatal care. In cases of unwanted pregnancies, abortion services are available, as are ambulance services for women identified as high-risk.
  • Impact: According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 25 million pregnant women have already been examined till date at more than 17,375 centres across the country.
  • How to apply: Since the programme is run under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, a national online portal and a mobile application have been developed to enable volunteers and beneficiaries to register. All expectant Indian nationals are eligible to avail of medical services under PMSMA at government-run primary and secondary healthcare centres.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

  • Objective: If PMSMA prioritises nutrition and early detection of diseases, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) addresses the financial aspect of pregnancy-related care for women. It compensates daily wage earners for their loss of income during and immediately after pregnancy. The aim is to incentivise pregnant and lactating mothers to take enough rest until they are fit to resume normal activities.
  • Features: PMMVY is a maternity benefit programme that covers all women who are either expecting or have had their first child after 1 January 2017. The scheme offers a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of Rs 5000 in three instalments through the term of pregnancy. The payments are linked to three milestones: (a) registration at the local healthcare centre; (b) a mid-term antenatal check-up; and (c) post delivery and vaccination. An additional instalment of Rs 1000 is available under a related Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), provided the delivery takes place in a healthcare centre.
  • Services: Under PMMVY, instalments of money are transferred automatically into the bank account of the beneficiary after they undergo a four-stage ‘Apply, Verify, Approve, Pay’ process. Programme administration is fully digitised by means of a dedicated software platform that allows health officials to maintain accountability and transparency. Pregnant and lactating women can claim their instalments from anywhere in the country by citing their Aadhaar information. The fund itself is held in dedicated escrow accounts that ensure speedy and accurate disbursal.
  • Impact: According to the latest available data, instalments worth Rs 1152.4 crore have already been paid to 36.9 lakh beneficiaries. The programme has received a good response, with more than 47.5 lakh women enrolled in it across the country.
  • How to apply: One can apply either in person or online. In the case of the former, the beneficiary has to approach the nearest Angan Wadi Centre (AWC) or government healthcare centre within 150 days of her last menstrual period. Along with the prescribed application form (Form 1A), they must provide a signed consent letter, a photocopy of the MCP card, identity proof, and bank passbook. Eligible mothers can also log in here and enter the credentials provided by their local healthcare centre/AWC to register online. Form 1A can be found under the ‘New Beneficiary’ tab. The documents required for online registration are identical to those mentioned above. .