Technology is one of those issues that cannot be seen to fail in healthcare, but it happens across the board. From defective medical devices all the way through to data breaches, technology has borne the brunt as far as medical failures are concerned. And while it’s not fair to blame the tools, we have still got to focus on the patient, irrespective of tech. One such area where technology is crucial in healthcare is the antenatal department. How is technology paving the way in antenatal care, not just in the diagnosis, but in the overall holistic treatment before, during, and after pregnancy?

The Goal To Reduce Maternal And Child Mortality Rates

Unfortunately, the annual amount of maternal and child deaths are still a staggering amount. Even though, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality rates, worldwide, decreased by approximately 44%, the target as part of the sustainable development goals initiative by the World Health Organization to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio by 2030 as less than 70 per 100,000 live births, the technology aspects appears to be a secret weapon in winning this battle. Numerous innovations have been shown to benefit those in developing countries as well as in the western world. For example, injectable contraceptives are estimated to save more than 3 million lives by the year 2030 as women will be able to space their pregnancies out more safely. In addition to this, antiseptic gels like chlorhexidine can help to prevent infections by applying it to the newborn’s umbilical cord. As well as new variations of oxytocin being developed and tested to reduce blood loss after childbirth and neonatal resuscitative methods, there are plenty of innovations for the World Health Organization to reach that target. On the face of it, technology is leading the way in the developing world. But, we need to look at the technology in the western world as well…

The Detection Of Health Complications

As the modern approach to health care is all about wearable technology and smartphone applications, the detection of pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia in the early stages would prove to be an amazing benefit. In Purdue University, an app has been developed to help pregnant women use their smartphone to detect if they are susceptible to pre-eclampsia. The secret ingredient of the device developed is the supine pressure test. This identifies the risk for pre-eclampsia, by assessing blood through the kidney. The results show that approximately 90% of women that test positive develop pre-eclampsia. As a result, women are able to use this device at home. And as the early detection can allow medical professionals to develop better prevention, the technological revolution for women in pregnancy can certainly begin at home! As the device will measure the diastolic pressure, and if it increases enough, being a warning sign that women are susceptible to pre-eclampsia, the results can then be sent via a centralized network, a health care system or straight to the doctor’s office, where counseling and treatment options can be discussed right away.

There’s An App For That!

Even in the western world, there any problems with regards to healthcare access. Think about this in terms of developing nations, when practicality and accessibility are major problems for any expecting mother. But, the technology fighting the battle in this respect is on smartphones. Despite misconceptions that smartphones aren’t accessible in developing nations, mobile phones are in abundance. This means that there are numerous mobile applications that are revolutionizing care for pregnant mothers…

The GiftedMom app supplied by a provider based in Africa works to provide mobile services to expectant mothers as well as those with newborn children. It’s a combination of text messages and apps, but there are very informative pieces of information on this app. It’s a way to educate, not just those native to Africa, how to improve their knowledge of reproductive health, as well as prenatal care and vaccines, it’s a handy reminder of specific pregnancy milestones as well as the essential services these children should be having. Currently, in Cameroon and Nigeria, more than 6,700 mothers use this app. There are other apps like Safe Delivery, Mobile Midwife, as well as Safe Pregnancy And Birth which help expectant mothers. In fact, Safe Pregnancy And Birth is an award-winning app available in English and Spanish, which gives information to pregnant women on how to stay healthy during their pregnancy as well as what to do in an emergency situation. In addition to this, it provides instructions for community health workers, as well as information for treating somebody that’s in shock and minimizing bleeding after the birth. As far as developing countries are concerned, it works for so many people. While there may not be an ultrasound machine for sale in these regions, expectant mothers and healthcare specialists can be safe in the knowledge that these sorts of apps are providing a great service. What does this mean for those in already developed countries? Well, it’s easy access to applications that can provide the very basic of information. For many expectant mothers out there, it’s so easy to be in the dark with regards to a lot of information, especially as far as irregular symptoms are concerned. The slightest bleed can cause extreme anxiety. And this leads nicely to the next component…

Working At The Holistic Healthcare Process Via Technology

Mental health is something that can be triggered during pregnancy, or postpartum depression can impact the mother as well as the child. Maternal mental health problems can have lasting effects on the child, especially when it comes to emotional and behavioral development. Because mental health problems during pregnancy go undiagnosed in approximately 50% of all cases, technology can provide a means to support mothers in perinatal depression and anxiety. As mobile innovations are par for the course, the technology associated with smartphones is providing an access point to understand women and support them better by enabling them to communicate their problems via the existing antenatal pathways. Schemes including one at the Imperial College London’s Global eHealth Unit are working on the likelihood of using tablet computers to facilitate depressive symptoms in waiting areas of antenatal clinics in England. Likewise, there are charities like Best Beginnings that have worked on informational films to support maternal mental health that forms part of their Baby Buddy mobile application.

In addition to this, while there are numerous digital health startups in the world, there are also digital solutions for reproductive healthcare. There are companies like Maven that are working to improve the expectations of consumers in relation to digital health. A digital healthcare app that is aimed at improving women’s health is one of the exciting developments. But this app works towards the emotional aspect of women’s health. The platform allows women to get better access to care via virtual doctors but is also looking to expand to include health insurance companies.

What’s The Bottom Line?

As much as prenatal and antenatal care is concerned, there is a lot of heart and soul put into it from the staff, but while technology is proving to revolutionize the approach entirely, technology cannot provide all of the solutions in antenatal and prenatal care. Unfortunately, we have to allow for partial human error, especially with regards to ultrasound screenings during the very early stages of pregnancy, specifically up to 6 weeks. It’s these pivotal moments where parents are going through extreme anxiety, and it’s imperative that a heartbeat is detected at this point. Due to the heartbreaking number of missed miscarriages, it’s clear that we need a more comprehensive coverage of a pregnancy. So, while we can work at improving the technological side for diagnosis, the applications, access to virtual healthcare via virtual doctors, as well as the support for mothers going through mental health problems need to provide a strong frontline and consistent attitude to care. After all, the patient is the priority, and their frame of mind is vital. While it’s a very common concern from the perspective of a patient, that things can be misdiagnosed and technology overly relied on, it is important that the human aspect of care isn’t underestimated. While companies like Maven are working at the emotional aspects of care as well as the medical, this isn’t across the board.

How will antenatal care improve? In developing countries, we will see a more comprehensive approach, especially as the technology increases, but in the western world, where healthcare startups are being funded more and more, hopefully, we should see an increase in working technology, not to mention a more holistic approach to the physical and mental health of expecting mothers. While there’s an abundance of problems as far as technology is concerned, not just data breaches and the like, access to the information has proved to be far better. Electronic Health Records on one aspect that can help, as parents can log into their account, and see exactly where the information is, but as far as the technological processes are concerned, it’s important to have these as develop a “human” sense.

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