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  • Writer's pictureKay Sandberg

Bangalore Birth Network's Innovative Pan-India Helpline to Assist Mother & Baby During Covid-19!

Supporting this mama/baby and hundreds more!

Bangalore Birth Network (BBN) is new this year to the Compassionate Birth Network. Thanks to guest BBN bloggers Asha Kilaru, Nora Kropp, and Sapna Krishnan for describing BBN’s effective Helpline, and for all their work in creating the Covid Helpline so quickly!

BBN's MotherChild Covid-19 Helpline provides guidance on pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn/infant health in the context of COVID-19 to anyone seeking help in India and even outside the country. We also give practical advice about safely seeking care during the pandemic, safety precautions for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and newborns, and on-the-ground assistance with testing locations and protocols.

We help callers find MCH (maternal child health) facilities, providers, and services that meet their needs. We emphasize their reproductive rights – even, and especially -- during the lockdown. The types of reproductive rights abuses we help women navigate during the pandemic have been the refusal of care in labour if the woman lacks COVID test results; separation of mother and baby after birth due to lack of COVID test results, and a cesarean section with no medical indication. Read below for examples of pregnant women assisted.

Helpline gives answers and support for uncertain times

Our counselors speak eight different languages spoken by a majority of Indians. Callers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south to Kashmir in the north and from Pakistan, Kuwait, and Dubai have accessed the service. Much of the information we provide is also applicable to other countries. Our response rate, or the ability to address callers’ needs, has been close to 100%.

BBN Helpline has the answers to ensure good outcomes

Here are three women who contacted the Helpline since it was launched the first week of lockdown in India:

* A 32 weeks pregnant woman was refused service because the Primary Health Centre feared she had the novel coronavirus. She was directed to a centre 60 km away for an ultrasound, without even having her blood pressure checked. She died on the way to the hospital. On inquiry, the possible cause of death was found to be pre-eclampsia;

* A 27 weeks pregnant woman traveled from Dubai to India and self-quarantined. Although she showed no symptoms of Covid, the doctor insisted on a C-section. The woman was distressed at being forced into a surgical birth;

* A woman in Ahmedabad could not find a local doctor who would take new pregnancies. She had thalassemia and was always feeling tired, and was very concerned at having no doctor willing to provide care.

In the first case above, the Primary Health Centre wanted guidance on training their care providers to ensure such situations do not happen again. In the other two cases, through our country-wide network we put the callers in touch with providers who understood the women's health needs and concerns and provided respectful care.

We are seeking grant funds to convert our Missed Call Service* Helpline to an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system with a smart database to utilise the full potential of our excellent team of volunteer counselors. In addition to speaking multiple Indian languages, all of our volunteers have prior MCH experience and training. We are able to tailor the work to different contexts and populations. With improved technology, our impact will expand because of the multifold increase in the number of people we will reach.

To support us and learn more about making tax-deductible donations, please contact us at

How their innovative approach works so effectively without costing mothers money:

*In a Missed Call Service, the call gets disconnected after one ring, and the caller’s number gets stored in a database. The call is not actually completed and connected at the time the call is placed and therefore does not carry a cost to the caller. A counsellor on the helpline returns the missed call in less than 12 hours to speak with the caller directly.

What is Baby Gold? Read the next blog to find out and be even more inspired by Bangalore Birth Network's commitment to quality, compassionate care for all babies and mothers. Kay



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