Pregnancy and the period soon after childbirth, locally known as bananthana, is a particularly important one for women and their newborn. The care a woman seeks and receives at this time can have long-term effects on her health and wellbeing as well as that of the baby. Many women live in nuclear families, without the support of older experienced women and thus deprived of the counsel they need; on the other hand, the customs insisted upon by others in the family can lead to undesirable results. Traditionally, women who have given birth are confined to their homes for varying periods of time which can extend to months; this can mean that they sometimes are deprived of contact with health providers.
The Smart Start programme is designed to reach women and their families at this critical time and provide the support and information they may need. The Gelathis have been trained in specific aspects of health that are important in pregnancy and during the first months after the baby is born, such as importance of good nutrition during pregnancy, causes and prevention of anemia, planning for childbirth, government schemes for pregnant women, prenatal checkups, postpartum care, breastfeeding, complementary feeding and immunizations for the newborn.
Outside of pre-school hours, the Gelathis conduct home visits at which they discuss these issues and any concerns the family may have, thus ensuring that mother and child can develop in good health and to their full potential