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Cellphone apps that monitor pregnancy

The face of maternal health care is slowly changing. We are embracing technology. Photo/File
The face of maternal health care is slowly changing. We are embracing technology. Photo/File 

Parenthood is a blessing. It marks the beginning of a remarkable lifelong journey and most of us do not want to miss a moment of our child’s life.

For a long time, parents relied on the well-trained hands of their midwife to inform them of the changes in their babies and their bodies.

Midwives and other health personnel are vital in pregnancy monitoring but they usually do not cater to the whims of the mother or father, who wants to know exactly how each part of their baby is developing week by week.

With these demands, the use of ultrasound in pregnancy became very popular.

Ultrasound is a special type of imaging, picture or video, that allows for you to see your baby inside the womb without exposing them to radiation. This is a great way to connect with the baby but it is not practical, nor necessary, except in complicated pregnancies, to have a weekly ultrasound.

This is where the mobile phone has found its way into the maternal health sector.

Today, there are mobile apps that can update one of the baby’s weekly growth. Most are developed by health personnel and demystify the baby’s development and bring a fun element to pregnancy.

Changes

The Kenyan health sector has been slow in embracing technology to improve the delivery of maternal healthcare services, compared to other parts of the world.

But this is slowly beginning to change.

Monitoring pregnancy using the mobile phone is now a reality in Kenya. Recently a team of Kenyan doctors teamed up with a leading IT company to create a pregnancy app, dubbed ‘Mimba Bora’.

‘Mimba Bora’ allows for both fathers and mothers to monitor the growth of their baby week by week, from fertilisation to childbirth. It informs the parents of important things like when the heart begins to beat, when the baby gets defined facial features and when they begin to move.

It also shows the changes in the mother’s body, gives nutrition guidelines, using locally available foods, pregnancy safety tips and informs the mother of some of the health issues that are associated with pregnancy and how to deal with them.

Most importantly, this app allows for pregnant couples to consult a doctor from the comfort of their phones and even provides access to free emergency services, provided by St Johns, when needed.

The app is currently available for free download on the android platform.

There are other forms of assistance for both the pregnant woman and her partner.

The face of maternal health care is slowly changing. We are embracing technology, allowing non-medics to bridge the often ignored emotional support needed during labour and are breaking traditions that held back fathers from being part of the first few moments of their child’s life.

Things in the Kenyan maternal health sector will only get better.

Android and Apple also offer a wide range of apps that can be used to monitor pregnancy. They update the pregnant woman and her partner on what to expect, and are readily available.

Assistant

For centuries, women have always been around to help each other during childbirth. A doula is a non-medical birth assistant who generally helps a lady get comfortable during and after childbirth.

In most hospitals, the nurses and doctors will offer technical things like examination and monitoring but most cannot constantly sit by the lady for the entire labour process.

This is where the doula comes in.

She does things like massage the pregnant lady’s back, helps her co-ordinate her breathing with her contractions, holds her hand as she walks and puts her in the most comfortable positions during the labouring process.

Most doulas have some training in childbirth but are not authorised to give medical treatment.

They attend to the emotional, physical and psychological needs of the mother in labour. Usually, they begin to interact with the mother during the pregnancy to allow for them to develop a good relationship.

Often, she stays on for a few weeks after childbirth to help teach the new mother how to appropriately breastfeed and care for the new born. She can be particularly helpful for women dealing with depression after childbirth.

In Kenya, doulas have been there for decades but have mainly been used in non-hospital set ups.

Hospitals are now beginning to wholly embrace doulas as they realise they can be very helpful to a lady in labour, especially the first time mother. For an extra fee, most hospitals can provide a doula or allow you to bring your own.

Wards
For many years, it has been drilled to most men that they are not welcome to witness the process of labour and childbirth. In fact, it is not unusual to have health personnel chase fathers away and tell them to come back after the baby has been born.

However, the practice of fathers joining their partners during labour is slowly becoming popular among urban couples.

In private hospitals, most ladies have access to a private cubicle and the majority of nurses and doctors have no problem with the father being present during labour.

They are also welcome to theatre where they can witness the caesarean section and be the first to hold their baby.

In the public sector, it is still not possible for fathers to be with their partners since most labour wards have several women in labour at each given time and privacy is a challenge.

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