"The health of a mother and child is a more telling measure of a nation’s state than economic indicators"
As we come to the end of IMA’s( Indian Medical Association) initiative of Safe motherhood week, it seems apt to reflect on the advancements we have made as a country in ensuring a consistent improvement in reproductive health.
India has definitely come a long way in its journey from an MMR ( Maternal Mortality Ratio ) of 2000/1 lac live births post independence to 113/1 lac live births.
Yes ,we definitely should be patting our backs looking at these trends, but one cannot deny much more needs to be done to attain safe motherhood in its truest form viz a positive birthing experience to ensure that women give birth in an environment that is safe and allows them to have control through decision-making
It is a common misconception that steps towards a safe pregnancy starts only after seeing that double line on a pregnancy test.The fact that a woman is born with all her eggs and is incapable of forming eggs following birth is proof enough that the journey towards a safe motherhood starts even prior to a girl's first breath into this world.
There has been increasing evidence that the overall health status of a girl child has a lasting impact on pregnancy outcomes.
Undernourished girls have a greater likelihood of becoming undernourished mothers who in turn have a greater chance of giving birth to low birth weight babies , perpetuating an intergenerational cycle.
Hence , we now adopt what is known as “ Life Cycle Approach” which focuses on health care interventions across life and also across generations.
As we inch towards a digital era, the time is ripe to leverage this trend and explore ways to use this approach to educate, engage and empower our women .
The reach of technology is extensive in all stages of one's life, but if we were to go by impact and accessibility - Adolescents,Newly married couples and Pregnant women need to be our key focus groups.
Adolescent health: A smart investment
Amdocs' global survey found that 68% of Indian teenagers check their social media accounts first thing in the morning. Apt digital engagement platforms can be revolutionary in leveraging this behaviour for health.
To quote one of the many examples, a digital initiative called #Fixyourperiods reached out to 100,000 women in India busting myths and spreading awareness about menstrual health management.
Breaking barriers when it comes to sexual health in adolescents can be a real challenge. Digital engagement seems like a prime solution to ensure adolescents have access to the right practices in terms of nutrition, exercise and contraception with the benefit of anonymity.
Newly married couples: Moving away from unplanned pregnancies
Majority of women with no gynaecological problems in the past will probably have their first rendezvous with a doctor only after discovering they are pregnant. The concept of pre-pregnancy planning is largely overlooked due to lack of basic awareness about it.
Simple measures such as prenatal vitamins and vaccinations against common infections in pregnancy like Rubella have proven to have a huge impact in enhancing the pregnancy outcomes and minimising spontaneous abortions. Menstrual health apps like Flo are doing some great work in educating young women with content pertaining to this .
Maternal health- Heart of Reproductive health
We have had innumerable contributions from technology to improve a couple’s journey through this - ranging from mhealth solutions to tele ultrasonography in remote settings.
Am listing below a few of these tech solutions which I think reflect the future of antenatal care in our country.
- Zero Mothers Die
Technologies such as these if tailored for Indian population can give exponential benefits in terms of reduced maternal mortality and holistic development of an entire family.
- Mobile apps
With growing urbanisation and nuclear families we often come across young couples having to go through pregnancy without parental support. Tech savvy women are already increasingly leaning on mobile apps for tracking their ovulation or pregnancy.
A huge appeal in these apps is that it not only provides health related information for the mother and child but also support group forums where people connect with others who are going through the same physical and emotional journey
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention; however we are now at a stage where invention can simplify a mother’s necessities.
A mother is always the beginning of everything , she is how things begin. So it only makes sense that in the growing symbiosis between health and technology - Safe Motherhood takes precedence over everything else.
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