Thousands of Indian women die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth, and the scale of these preventable deaths is unknown due to poor public health records, a report said Wednesday.

The Human Rights Watch report blamed poor access to emergency services and inadequate prenatal care for forcing many women to give birth in unsafe conditions that result in infection or death.

Unless India actually counts all the women who die because of childbirth, it won't be able to prevent those thousands of unnecessary deaths, said Aruna Kashyap, one of the report's authors.

Accountability might seem like an abstract concept, but for Indian women it's a matter of life and death.

About one in 70 women in India die from pregnancy-related complications, compared with one in 7,300 in developed countries, according to the latest international figures.

Human Rights Watch said there was evidence that Indian hospitals regularly turned away poor patients who could not afford to pay for services.

When we take a woman for delivery to the hospital she will have to pay for her cord to be cut, for medicines, some more money for the cleaning. The staff nurse will also ask for money, said one health worker in Uttar Pradesh state.

The report came days after a study by Save the Children said 400,000 Indian newborns died each year from preventable causes within 24 hours of their birth.