Tales from a Midwife

May 15, 2023

How Tech is reducing Baby Mortality, Enhancing the Pregnancy Experience, and Preventing Miscarriages among South African Women

In recent years, technology has played a centralrole in making healthcare better across the globe. South Africa, in particular,has witnessed significant advancements that have positively impacted health,but particularly when it comes to maternal and child health. 

Thakane Motlafi, an ex-midwife from Mpumalanga andnow a Clinical Product Specialist working in Boxfusion’s Healthcare division,has witnessed first-hand how technology has helped to bring down baby mortalityrates. 

In her experience as a midwife, Thakane has seenhow it has improved the pregnancy experience for South African women and helpedto avoid unpleasant outcomes like miscarriages, babies born with deformities,and even helped women to avoid consecutive miscarriages. As a result, she is apassionate advocate of technology, particularly in the healthcare space.

Reducing Baby Mortality

Thakane, or Sister T as she was known in hermidwife days, recalls how in South African clinics, the arrival of advancedmedical equipment and procedures such as ultrasound imaging enabled the earlydetection of fetal abnormalities and the identification of potentialcomplications.

“Accurate diagnosis was made possible by newequipment, allowing me and my fellow healthcare professionals to applyappropriate interventions and treatments. This increased the chances ofdelivering healthy babies while also keeping moms safe. For example, whenelectronic fetal monitoring systems were introduced, they allowed us tocontinuously monitor the baby's heart rate during labour. This meant we coulddetect any distress in time, allowing us to intervene before the problem becamelife-threatening.

“This was a game-changer for us,” she says.

Telemedicine and Telehealth

Telemedicine and telehealth technologies, such asthose made possible through Boxfusion’s Mpilo Healthcare app, have likewiseemerged as valuable resources for expectant mothers, but particularly for thoseliving in remote areas with limited access to healthcare facilities.

Says Sister T, “These technologies enabled remoteconsultations, providing pregnant women with expert guidance and monitoringfrom the comfort of their homes. Through telemedicine, healthcare professionalscould conduct regular check-ups, offer personalised advice, and even identifypotential risks or complications over the internet. It has been a tool ofimmense value that we’ve used to enhance the quality of healthcare we’ve beenable to provide. But the best part for me was that expecting mothers no longerhad to make the exhausting trek to the clinic to get the care they need!”

Mobile Applications and Wearable Devices

The rise of mobile applications and wearabledevices has also improved the pregnancy experience for South African women.These technologies offer a wide range of features, including personalisedhealth tracking, symptom management, and educational resources. As a result,pregnant women can now monitor their vital signs, track their baby'sdevelopment, receive reminders for prenatal appointments, and access reliableinformation on nutrition and exercise. 

“Such tools empower expectant mothers by promotingself-care and enabling them to make informed decisions about their health,”says Sister T. “We found as well that having access to information aboutpregnancy helps pregnant women feel more informed and in control of theirexperience by the time they get to the clinic. Today, they are often on thesame page as us health professionals when they arrive for a consultation, andthe terms we use and the equipment we employ are already familiar to them,which helps them not feel overwhelmed by it all.”

Reducing miscarriages and abnormal pregnancies

“One of the most important technologies deployed inclinics in South Africa is genetic screening,” says Sister T. “Advancements inthis field have contributed to reducing the number of miscarriages among SouthAfrican women, as well as helping to lower the number of abnormalpregnancies. 

“By assessing the risk factors, expectantmothers-to-be can make informed choices about their pregnancy, such as seekingother reproductive options or preparing for potential medical interventions,”says Sister T. “It might seem like a small thing, but being informed about apregnancy through genetic screening makes a big difference to pregnant womenand gives them the best chance of delivering healthy babies. This is what everymother wants, and it’s been a joy to see technology coming in and making that areality.”

Improved maternal health through technology

Technology has undeniably transformed the landscapeof maternal and child health in South Africa. Through the integration ofadvanced medical equipment, telemedicine, mobile applications, and genetictesting, the country has witnessed a significant reduction in baby mortalityrates, improved pregnancy experiences, and fewer miscarriages than in timesgone by.

“The highlight of my career as a midwife was seeingthese positive changes taking place in the healthcare sector, all thanks tothese new technologies. As someone who loves babies, it’s a joy to see babiesarriving in this world with the best chance of survival, and mothers who aresafe and healthy after the fact.

“This is part of the reason why I joinedBoxfusion,” adds Sister Thakane. “I love the work they are doing in thehealthcare sector, and I want to lend my expertise as a midwife to help themcontinue to deliver technological solutions that make a difference in the livesof South Africa’s people. My current focus is on Boxfusion’s HospitalInformation System that will someday help hospitals to keep an accurate digitalrecord of patients’ information, and I am using my experience to help Boxfusionmake the solution the best it can be.”

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