Finding a doctor in remote areas of the developing world often can mean the difference between life and death for a mother and her child. But with mobile technology, a host of businesses and nonprofits are keeping pregnant women informed and helping them care for themselves and their babies.
In some remote parts of the world where roads and basic infrastructure are lacking, mobile technology often is the fastest – and only – way to help a woman in labor or save the life of a child. One of the groups working in that space is the Maternity Foundation, whose app, Safe Delivery, puts emergency care information in the hands of midwives, clinicians and pregnant women alike.
The app, developed by the foundation and two Danish universities, provides emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care assistance, following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on birth complications. Using animated instruction videos in several languages, the app is designed to overcome literacy barriers.
The Safe Delivery app is in use in Asia and Africa, and the foundation hopes to make it available to 20,000 heath workers by the end of 2018.
While it is too soon to determine how many women the app has impacted in this early stage of implementation, the foundation said in an email its trials in Ethiopia in 2014 showed the skills of birth attendants who used the app “more than doubled after six months” of use.
CEO Anna Frellsen hopes to reach 20.000 skilled birth attendants by the end of 2018. “If we achieve this ambitious goal, we will help ensure 2 million women a safer birth.”
In Myanmar, where maternal and under-five child mortality rates are high, MayMay helps fill the information gap through partnerships with the midwives and nurses association and council and the Ministry of Health.
Developed by IT social enterprise Koe Koe Tech, the app provides comprehensive information to pregnant women from pre-natal to post-natal care. It includes quizzes and daily alerts for the duration of pregnancy and the first three years of the infant’s life.
The app helps users find doctors, hospitals, maternity and child supplies. It also provides a chat service where “pregnant women and parents can discuss their issues with peers,” said Koe Koe Tech’s Michael Lwin in an email.
According to Lwin, the chat service is accessed 1,500 times per month for consultations on topics ranging from gender-based violence and adolescent sexual reproductive health to family planning, positive body image; fitness and nutrition.
The information the app provides is collated from Population Services International (PSI), Save the Children, and other international non-governmental organizations.
Operating in Cameroon and other parts of Africa, mobile health solutions provider GiftedMom has a similar solution to provide pregnant women and new mothers with access to health information and help improve the care they receive.
While governments and their partners provide information for antenatal and postnatal care, their efforts are hampered by limited distribution channels. But with strong mobile penetration in Africa, the group has been using mobile devices to push automated SMS text and voice reminders of checkups or vaccines, in addition to information about pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding and postnatal care.
There is also a chat feature women can use to connect with health professionals. With this combination and a partnership with Cameroon’s Ministry of Public health, medical personnel have been able to follow up with more than 29,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers.
This year, the developers plan to expand into Haiti, Rwanda, Kenya, Mali and Nigeria, thereby impacting five million additional people by 2019.