How Indian healthcare workers are using WhatsApp to save pregnant women

Over the past five years, Patil has trained hundreds of ASHAs from different states to use WhatsApp to debunk fake news.

Maya Patil, an ASHA in Kutwad village in Maharashtra, says she noticed similar positive results after using WhatsApp. She has been working in the field for 13 years, and in 2010 In 2018, a woman who was in her ninth month of pregnancy with decreasing hemoglobin levels was recently diagnosed with anemia. She tried to connect the woman with the relevant public doctor, but the family wanted her to use natural methods to increase the level of hemoglobin.

Patil asks the pregnant woman to start drinking pomegranate juice, which is proven to increase hemoglobin levels, but her mother says that pomegranate juice causes kidney stones. Patil spent hours trying to explain the science, but the family didn’t believe him, nor were they interested in anemia drugs.

As is his habit, Patil has been photographing hundreds of regional newspaper articles written by doctors about common medical conditions. In one she found details about the benefits of pomegranate fruit and juice. She sent the text to her pregnant wife via WhatsApp. Then she found more relevant YouTube videos recorded in Marathi, the woman’s language. After 10 such messages, she finally had an impact; The family allowed the woman to follow her advice, and within 12 days her hemoglobin level increased.

They worked together for three weeks, and when the woman gave birth, there was a normal delivery of a healthy newborn weighing six and a half kilos.

Creating a safe space for women

Despite successfully dealing with a lot of misinformation over the years, many ASHAs were still seeing pregnant women who were too afraid to talk about their pregnancies for fear of their in-laws and husbands. Even in large, ASHA-led group messages, many people in the community have responded with “unintelligible comments,” ASHA union leader Neradipa Patil said.

Maya Patil similarly discusses the persistence of dangerous medical information passed down by family. “The main goal of any pregnancy-related fake news is to make women suffer,” she said. “Many older women say they experienced these rituals during their pregnancy, so why aren’t the next generation experiencing this?”

Maya Patil spoke one-on-one with an expectant mother.
Along with ensuring safe childbirth, ASHA workers are responsible for providing appropriate postnatal health care to community women. Here Maya Patil explains how to take care of a newborn baby.

Sanket Jain

Therefore, in In 2018 and 2019, ASHAs started creating hyperlocal all-women WhatsApp groups. With a small group of 15 to 20 pregnant women and their close women Relatives, Netradipa Patil focuses on helping to understand the scientific aspects of care. “It was difficult, but it was easier than talking to hundreds of people at once.” After six months of testing, women in the group reported talking about misinformation in their families.

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