LifeSpring Hospitals: Bringing Maternity Care to Poor Mothers in India

A chain of maternity hospitals has been built where home delivery is standard.

ByABC News
December 14, 2010, 3:41 PM

Dec. 23, 2010 — -- In a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Dr. Rama Devi is on a mission to convince young mothers to take advantage of the care available at new maternity hospitals instead of giving birth at home.

Devi talks to young mothers about the health of their babies, and their own, during pregnancy. She teaches young mothers about modern health care practices and the risks of home delivery. Entire families, often including in-laws, live in the one-room homes where women usually give birth.

Nearly 2 million babies die in India every year, many in their first month of life. Most come from families who can't afford quality maternity care. The public hospitals are overcrowded, and often require bribes for care that is at best marginal.

From mother to mother, the stories Devi hears are similar: a child is lost during a home delivery.

Devi tells them they now have a better option. They can come to a new maternity hospital built just for them.

Find out how to make a difference for mothers and babies around the world with the Million Moms Challenge.

Jacqueline Novogratz and the Acumen Fund are investing in what they believe is the answer: new low-cost maternity hospitals called LifeSpring. Nine new hospitals are now bringing top medical care to low-income families. A woman who comes to a LifeSpring Hospital will receive prenatal care there and will get regular post birth counseling and she can deliver her child for just $80.

It would seem to be an easy sell for Devi. But in this culture, it isn't the mothers who need convincing. It's the mothers-in-law. They decide where the delivery takes place, and how much money, if any money, will be spent on it. A testament to that are the delivery wards, where mothers sit with their newborn babies and mothers-in-law.

Convincing a Young Mother Is Only Half the Battle

For Devi, it takes at least two visits to convince a mother-in-law to allow her grandchild to be born at LifeSpring, and usually a visit from another woman, who had a delivery there to see what their experience was like.

Every effort is made to make LifeSpring Hospitals cheery. The walls and the curtains are bright pink, and the doctors and nurses are constantly attending to the mothers, who are each given their own private space for her, her baby and her mother-in-law.

"Bedside manner is everything at LifeSpring, and it's so important because so many low-income women have such low expectations of the way that they are going to be treated," said Novogratz.

CLICK HERE for more of our interview with Novogratz.

The first-floor lobbies are filled with pregnant women who have come in for a checkup. The operating rooms are staffed for cesarean section deliveries. And the general wards are filled with new mothers, their newborns and their mothers-in-law.

The plan is to raise enough money to build 150 LifeSpring hospitals across India, saving the lives of tens of thousands of mothers and their new born babies

The "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative is supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.