This is an intimate relationship with the state that spans generations.

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Her baby is registered at this centre and will be carefully monitored until he turns five [Suda Shanmugaraja/Al Jazeera] 'Womb to tomb' healthcare Sri Lanka's commitment to maternal and child health goes back more than a century.

In 1879, the doors of the De Soysa Lying-in-Home, possibly the very first maternity hospital in Asia, were thrown open to expectant mothers.

Ajith's mother Kumari Manel shares her daughter-in-law's relief at Ari's arrival.

She is sure all will be well now, and remembers that reassuring feeling from when she was pregnant with her own son and the midwives came to visit.

Registers for life Painstaking, accurate data-gathering has proved critical to Sri Lanka's healthcare successes, and Ari and the other midwives devote much of their time to record keeping. Young couples are entered into the Eligible Family Register.

In theory at least, cohabiting couples, and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are also included in this list.

Like most modern midwives, Ari received her diploma from the National Institute of Health Sciences - that was more than two decades ago.

Today, the country has at least 7,000 midwives, and along with a cadre of public health inspectors, they are the "ultimate grassroots workers," says Dr Ruwan Wijayamuni, the chief medical officer of health at the Public Health Department.

They offer what he describes as "womb to tomb" coverage, with each public health midwife responsible on average for some 3,000 people.

According to official estimates, nearly 15 million people come under the purview of the Family Health Programme.'An inspiring success': Sri Lanka's maternal mortality ratio The system is so successful that Sri Lanka has a maternal and child health record that is the envy of South Asia.

Colombo, Sri Lanka - Ariyaseeli Gunaweera, known as Ari to all, is a supervising public health midwife in Sri Lanka. Ajith Kumarasiri certainly thinks so - when Ari sends him on an errand, he hurries to get it done, returning with a large 10cc syringe in just a few minutes.