Researchers in India have developed a kit called CareMother, which is designed to enable ante-natal check-ups for pregnant women in the local community in rural areas suffering from a shortage of medical staff.

CareMother: Digital Kit to Improve Health Monitoring of Pregnant Women in India

The alarming situation facing many pregnant women in rural India has prompted five young Indian researchers to develop a kit containing a set of devices to monitor the health of the mother and unborn child at home. The data can then be sent online via an app to a doctor so that s/he can assess the results remotely. The kit, which will cost very little to assemble, should substantially improve pregnancy monitoring by opening up the more isolated areas to regular online health services and so help to reduce the mortality rate among mothers, which is particularly high in rural areas where doctors are scarce .

Pregnancy monitoring among disadvantaged populations

The CareMother kit, which weighs just 3kgs, consists of various digital sensors to test, among other parameters, the woman’s blood pressure, blood sugar, urine sugar and protein levels, plus the foetus’s state of development. “With this kit, all pregnancies can be monitored on the web portal by a doctor sitting at a hospital. The doctor can then send out SMS alerts in cases where the results show anomalies,” explained Shantanu Pathak, one of the team who created the kit. The team have used lightweight but reliable materials and the kit will be able to work for a month before it needs re-charging. The key achievement in technological terms is the cost of the kit which, at 100 rupees – slightly less than €1.20 – should enable widespread penetration into rural areas to monitor pregnancies locally among the poorest inhabitants, thus offering great convenience to both the pregnant women and the medical staff. CareMother has not yet been launched on the market, but talks are currently ongoing with potential manufacturers. “If everything goes according to plan, the kit will be ready for the market by the end of this year,” said Professor B.N. Thorat of the Mumbai University Institute of Chemical Technology, who supervised the development work.

Remedying a serious situation for Indian mothers

The kit is intended to help remedy the serious lack of medical infrastructure and healthcare culture in rural India. Pregnancy monitoring is particularly affected by this situation, especially in those areas with a real shortage of medical staff – sometimes having only two qualified doctors per two thousand inhabitants. It is estimated that only 37% of Indian women are able to have the four antenatal care sessions that are considered the minimum for normal pregnancies. Moreover, lack of both medical and transport infrastructure means that over 60% of women in India have to give birth at home. A recent United Nations report – Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010 – ( places maternal mortality in India at the level of sub-Saharan Africa, with on average one maternal death every ten minutes.

By Quentin Capelle