Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath on Tuesday said most women are unaware of the Maternity Benefit Act, which is affecting the health of children as mothers are being forced to join work immediately after delivery.

"Women are forced to join their work soon after delivery due to fear of losing their jobs. This has affected the health of children as they cannot be breastfed at the right time," Tirath said addressing a national consultation on the Maternity Benefit Act.

"Maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates also get affected as a result of this," she said. The minister lamented that almost half of those employed in the unorganised sector are women, and they do not derive benefits under the act.

"Many are not even aware of the act which covers domestic workers, agriculture labourers, construction workers, forest dwellers and those who fish," she said.

Tirath said although there are many schemes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana, the benefits have eluded a large section of women in the unorganised sector.