Pune: Between Trump Tower in Kalyani Nagar and the proposed Sangam city near Deccan College lie the crowded lanes and cramped homes of Laxmi Nagar. The children and women here are severely malnourished.
According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS-4) 2015-2016, 16.3 per cent women in urban set-up are married before the age of 18. As seen in this area, the number runs even bigger and is a major cause of malnutrition for adolescent mothers and their newborn children.
According to data by the NFHS-4, women between the age of 15 and 19 years who have given birth or were pregnant at the time of survey is as high as 7.1 per cent in an urban set-up.
Malnutrition and abortion
Sharifa Sheikh, a resident of Laxmi Nagar, was married when she was 17 years old and had her first child when she turned 18. However, her baby did not survive.
“In my daughter's first pregnancy, she developed some problems and the doctor advised abortion for the first time. She was 18 then and got an abortion done in the seventh month,” recalls Mahimuma Sheikh, Sharifa's mother.
Sharifa lost three out of five children to a tragic kidney problem developing in the child due to poor nutrition.
Heena Sheikh, now 25 years old, recalls that she was married right after her Class 10 examinations. “I knew nothing about sex or pregnancy. I had my first child in one year, I was barely 17. The doctor told me that I was anaemic and so I took very good care of myself and so the child was also healthy,” said Heena.
However, the same did not hold true for Zaida Sheikh, who lost her first child in the sixth month of pregnancy. “In the third month, my mother-in-law was informed that I am anaemic. However, she did not take care of my meals and neither did she let me. In my in-law's place, the ration is bought on a daily basis. For a family of five, only six chapatis are made and half a kilo rice is served for two meals. This was the reason why I could not eat properly which led to my miscarriage,” said Zaida with sore eyes.
Early marriage trauma
Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Shashi Kant Chorte, gynaecologist, who has worked in the area for six years, said that early marriages are proving traumatic for girls in emotional and mental way.
“These girls are very young and hardly know anything about sex education. In such a scenario, it gets very difficult for them to cope up with the new environment post wedding. In addition to this, these young girls have a folic acid deficiency. "Many of them have a lot of issues after marriage so they tend to neglect their health. With severe anaemia and vitamin D deficiency, they go through their pregnancy,” said Dr Chorte.
According to Dr Dinesh Lalwani, who has worked in these slum areas for more than four years and encountered many such cases, malnourished adolescent girls may have babies with physical problems. “Babies from malnourished mothers may develop heart problems and kidney problems as well. Many women have babies with a hole in their heart. In the worst case scenario, the mental growth of the child is hampered in the womb itself due to less nutrition," he said.
Lalwani feels the solution is very easy but most people tend to ignore them. "If a woman goes through a full check-up before pregnancy and her family members take good care of her during this time, such problems with the new-born can be easily avoided,” added Dr Lalwani.