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Janani Express rushes expectant mothers to needed maternity care

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Suman, a 25-year-old pregnant woman, lies on an examination table as a nurse places her hands on her stomach during a check up at a community health center in the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Anguri, a 26-year-old pregnant woman in labor, lies on a bench inside a maternity ambulance as her relatives accompany her to a community health center in a rural area near the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

In rural Madhya Pradesh, an innovative free maternity ambulance service called "Janani Express", which runs in partnership between the state government and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), is trying to increase the number of babies born in clinics where proper care can be provided to the mothers and newborn children, and infant mortality can be decreased.

Before this initiative, women would have been left to give birth in the fields or on mud floors. Now, the free ambulance brings pregnant women across dusty roads to health clinics where they can give birth safely under basic medical supervision, be nursed afterwards and educated on the importance of breastfeeding and hygiene before returning to their villages and communities.

Photos for this series were shot in Feb. 24, but were made available to msnbc.com March 6.

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Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Pravesh Chandravansingh Yadav, a 25-year-old woman in labor, winces in pain as she tries to lie down on a maternity table at a district hospital in Shivpuri, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Anguri, a 26-year-old woman in labour, lies on a maternity table as she gives birth to a baby girl at a community health center in the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Women who recently gave birth and their relatives rest in a post delivery ward at a district hospital in Shivpuri, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

Anguri, 26, rests on a bed along with her newborn baby in the post delivery ward at a community health center in the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Vivek Prakash / Reuters

A relative of Aklesa Yadav, a 21-year-old woman who has just given birth, carries her new born baby out of a maternity ambulance as they return home at a rural area near the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.