Mobile phone usage is rapidly growing in Iraq, but there is still limited use of the internet, especially among housewives. Nowadays, most women carry cell phones with them everywhere, making them a potentially powerful tool to influence a person’s daily routine or health. A new study shows how text messaging services can support Iraqi women during their pregnancies.
Online resources for pregnant women are available through the internet, but Iraqi women may lack proficiency in both English and also basic computing. Iraq’s healthcare system has suffered major setbacks due to decades of war and economic sanctions. Furthermore, access to healthcare has been further affected by recent instability and ongoing strife.
In a controlled study conducted at primary healthcare centers in Iraq, 100 pregnant women who attended those centers for antenatal care (ANC) were exposed to weekly text messages varying in content, depending on the week of gestation. Another 150 women were recruited for the unexposed group.
Published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, the author’s objectives were to determine the feasibility and acceptability of mobile health technology and its potential to improve antenatal care (ANC) services in Iraq.
Customized messaging for different stages of pregnancy
Samira Nori was one of these individuals. She was just nine weeks pregnant when her doctor at the primary healthcare center told her about the availability of a weekly, free text messaging service. This could be customized according to the state of her pregnancy.
Nori opted to receive texts such as “Increased fiber and fluid intake may be useful for relief of your constipation”, “Now is the time to do an ultrasound for dating and to confirm viability and to check your hemoglobin level and urine test. You can call on 07802274458 or 07714860913 for more information”. In February, she gave birth to twins; Ahmad and Aya.
“I would finish work early waiting for the message”
During her previous pregnancies, Nori hadn’t visited her doctor regularly, but she was happy to in this pregnancy and even encouraged her friends and neighbour to engage with the text messaging service.
On the service she commented that, “I used to finish my work early every Friday waiting for your message”. She was even keen to continue communicating with the service providers after the end of the study following the delivery of her twins.
Low cost, effective and supportive
The researchers’ study shows that mobile-phone based pregnancy support seems to be feasible, reasonably acceptable, low cost and supports antenatal care in an Iraqi context.
Future studies with more extended services could assess the effect of a text message appointment reminder system to improve attendance at antenatal clinic visits and to rate the quality of services at the primary healthcare center level.
Some participants suggested that they would like to receive more customized communication, including personalized messages tailored to their individual needs.
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Taghreed Alhaidari, Nazar Amso, Taqi Mohammed Jawad, Ulfat Alnakkas, Faris Khazaal, Ahmed Alnaaimi, Timothy Pickles, Rebecca Playle, Robert Istepanian, Nada Philip, John W. Gregory, Thamer Al Hilfi: Feasibility and acceptability of text messaging to support antenatal healthcare in Iraqi pregnant women: a pilot study. 13.03.2017