Seven post-partum women have died in Banke district alone in the last two months after they were deprived of regular medical check-ups and due to delayed arrival at hospitals.

The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions brought about by the disease have affected people’s movement, access to healthcare, among various other things.

Banke District Health Office Chief, Dhir Jung Shah, said that it was unusual for so many post-partum women to die in just two months. A total of 12 post-partum women had died in the district in the last fiscal year.

He added that even pregnant women were deprived of regular health check-ups as an impact of COVID-19 on health services. He attributed the increased number of maternity deaths to the inability to reach hospital on time due to lockdown and prohibitory orders.

“We’ve noticed that most post-partum women, including those who give birth in hospitals and others who resort to at-home birth, die because the fear of COVID-19 prevent them from visiting hospitals after giving birth,” he said.

According to him, the number of home births has increased by 20 percent due to the pandemic.

“People started to visit local health center only at the last minute because they believed the risk of COVID spread would be higher at healthcare facilities. The number of home births has drastically increased this year as compared to last year,” he said.

The government has been running special programs in Banke to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate. However, as such cases continue to increase, health workers have called for extensive research.

The government has been providing financial assistance of Rs 800 to women undergoing regular and complete pregnancy check-up and Rs 1,000 to women undergoing delivery at government health facilities.

However, the incentive has not helped in slashing the mortality rate as the number of home births and risks related to are still high.

According to doctors, opting for regular check-up first time in four months of pregnancy and then in six, eight, and nine months reduces pregnancy-related risks.

Chief Nursing Administrator of Bheri Hospital in Nepalgunj, Durga Lakshmi Shrestha, said that many post-partum deaths occur due to last minute visit to the hospital. “The fear of COVID-19 has resulted dramatic drop in hospital visits,” she said.

According to the District Health Office, many pregnant women stop visiting their doctors after the first or second check-up. Pregnant women are deprived of regular and complete health check-up mostly due to excessive domestic work and family negligence.

There are three primary health centers and 44 health posts in Banke. Maternity centers have been set up in all health posts.