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Technology is helping to reduce childbirth mortality in Nigeria

By Torinmo Salau, Ibadan
16 February 2022   |   8:41 am
Yewande Adeniyi, 32 years old is a mother of two, who experienced two miscarriages before conceiving her first daughter in 2018. “ The first pregnancy was 12 weeks old while the second pregnancy was 20 weeks old when I lost them. It was the most trying time of my life.”  As a result of the…

PHOTO: ONE.ORG

Yewande Adeniyi, 32 years old is a mother of two, who experienced two miscarriages before conceiving her first daughter in 2018. “ The first pregnancy was 12 weeks old while the second pregnancy was 20 weeks old when I lost them. It was the most trying time of my life.” 

As a result of the miscarriages Adeniyi had suffered, she became scared when she discovered that she was pregnant again two years after the birth of her first child. Then a friend recommended the OMOMI app to her and said it is a ‘lifesaver’ for both pregnant women and nursing mothers. 

“The Chat-a-doc feature on the app was really helpful, I could talk to a doctor and ask questions about my fears without even going to the hospital. The doctors’ responses were prompt and they reassured me about my pregnancy.” 

‘OMOMI’ means ‘My Child’, the app offers direct access to maternal and child health information for pregnant women and mothers, and also access to doctors at the touch of a button. OMOMI is a health and social platform based on the WHO/UNICEF Childhood Survival Strategies which has a unique range of features that helps parents keep their children healthy by enabling them to easily monitor their children’s health. 

Dr Emmanuel Owobu, who is the Co-founder of OMOMI, says “Omomi app was a call to duty and we are driven by the goal to help reduce maternal and child morbidity in Nigeria and improve health education and access to medical doctors.”

The app has an exciting range of features such as the Mothers Community which enables mothers all over the world to share their experience on child nurturing and its difficulties. They also gain nurturing insights with doctors on standby to respond to complex questions. The Growth Monitor feature helps to prevent your child from getting ill. It helps mothers personally check their baby’s weight, height, and arm size amongst other vital signs. With the Chat-a-Doctor feature, you can chat with a doctor privately on any health issue.

According to the Product Manager of OMOMI, Melody Eghelen, the Omomi app has approximately 40,000 active users across Africa. 

“The app helps women on their pregnancy journey and also nursing mothers who have children below five years old. OMOMI aids pregnant women to understand their symptoms and answering pregnancy-related questions, not necessarily dealing with complications. It also gives users the opportunity to speak to doctors and also other mothers who are willing to share their experience.”

Dr Godwin Edeh, a general practitioner, says that “Maternal health apps are great resource tools that provide pregnant women with information regarding their wellbeing and health of the baby.” 

“The fact that these pregnant women can get in touch with a doctor without leaving the comfort of their homes is a great plus and it comes in handy when there is probably an emergency. Also, there is an uptake in the use of maternal health apps because it is a cheaper option, it saves time and cost of going to the hospital because the information is readily available at your fingertips; you can easily get advice from a doctor through the app.”

The Mumspring app is another maternal health app that tries to answer specific questions around pregnancy. The app provides stage relevant pregnancy information to pregnant women to empower them to take charge of their health. It guides them through the first three years of their journey after pregnancy, which can be quite challenging, to ensure that they have support to manage situations that may arise while caring for the child, postpartum depression amongst other health-related issues. 

Ibukun Williams, a 28-year-old mother, a first-time mum said she started feeling pains in the lower part of her abdomen during her second trimester. She was perplexed and worried that something may be wrong with the baby. “Mumspring pregnancy app tracker offers resourceful information on things mothers need to know for a safe pregnancy journey. The weekly baby development updates helped me to understand why I was having the abdominal pain, most especially there was no cause for alarm.”

One of Mumspring’s principal solutions is Agnes, a platform through which it delivers health education and perinatal assistance to women in marginalized communities who bear the highest impact of maternal mortality in Nigeria and they do not have access to the Internet. The impact of Agnes is measured based on the number of health modules delivered and the tendency of beneficiaries to use a health facility for their delivery. 

Abisola Tolu-Odutola, CEO of Mumspring said her childbirth experience spurred her to launch Mumspring to tackle the issue of poor antenatal education and the lack of continuous medical support. According to Tolu-Odutola, when she gave birth to her second child, she was born unable to breathe, fortunately, the baby survived. However the incident was an illuminating experience for her. 

“I discovered that if I had just a little bit more information relating to pregnancy-related complications, my baby wouldn’t have been in that situation. I later found out that a family friend went through the same experience but lost her baby.”

Over time, it plans to measure impact based on the reduction in infant mortality and maternal mortality in the communities served. Mumspring is driven towards expanding access to quality, affordable maternal and newborn care by improving service delivery and diagnostics with trained healthcare professionals for women in underserved and low-income communities. 

MomCare is a digital platform developed to help track a mother’s journey through her pregnancy to ensure that she gets the adequate help she needs and at the time she needs it. It also seeks to improve the quality of maternal and newborn health care using SafeCare quality improvement methodology. 

The SafeCare quality improvement methodologies are internationally accredited standards that make it possible to measure, rate and benchmark the level of quality, safety and risk at healthcare providers.

According to the Country Director of PharmAccess Foundation, Njide Ndidli, the mother company of MomCare, “It is a service that innovates at the intersection of health care, finance, and technology to bring better access and quality healthcare to expectant mothers.”

The initiative boasts of an increase in the quantity and quality of antenatal care visits and skilled deliveries, both which are key for improving maternal health outcomes. As a result of its connectivity feature, it was able to add on services and give real-time information about which facilities were open or closed and link women to ambulance or transportation services during lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MomCare app uses digital technology and data to track pregnant women’s journeys and ensures a safe pregnancy and delivery with a predetermined cost, reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. It also employs antenatal care and delivery data and uses it to help providers and payers make adequate decisions for the care of the mother and child.

These maternal health apps have proven to be greatly resourceful to pregnant women, while ensuring that their quality health care is delivered to mothers and their newborns, it is important to highlight areas where improvement is still needed. Some of the limitations of these apps include illiteracy, financial challenges, domestic and infrastructural issues. 

Women in rural areas especially struggle to read and/or write so many do not often understand the SMS sent to their phones. The cost of purchasing a smartphone is also a challenge for these women because it is more expensive, as a result they miss out on other information that may be valuable to them, while others lament that they do not have money for data subscription.

Concerning the challenges that women in rural areas may face trying to use maternal health apps, Eghelen says that OMOMI is not just limited to its online presence and mobile app, it also offers offline maternal health services. “We have doctors that go to these communities and provide free consultations to and prescribe drugs to pregnant women and mothers.”

This story was produced with the support of a reporting grant from Maternal Figures and Code for Africa.

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