It is estimated that one third of maternal deaths in Kenya in 2014 could have been prevented by more timely care-seeking. Mobile health interventions are increasingly being recognized as tools for the delivery of health education and promotion. Many maternal deaths occur in the first few weeks after delivery and mothers who are given adequate care in the postpartum period have better health outcomes. Kiambu County, Kenya has a high level of literacy and phone ownership amongst mothers delivering in public hospitals and was chosen as a site for a postpartum short message service intervention.
Women were recruited after delivery and randomized to receive a package of mobile messages or standard of care only. Messages covered danger signs, general postpartum topics, and family planning. Endline phone surveys were conducted at 8 weeks postpartum to assess knowledge, care seeking behavior and family planning uptake. Analysis was conducted using Stata and is presented in odds ratios.
Women who received the danger sign messages were 1.6 times more likely to be able to list at least 1 danger sign and 3.51 times more likely to seek treatment if they experienced postpartum danger signs. There was no significant difference in routine postpartum care seeking or care seeking behaviors concerning newborns. Women who received family planning messages were 1.85 times more likely to uptake family planning services compared to controls and 2.1 times more likely to choose a long-acting method.
Simple, low-cost mobile interventions can support women in the early postpartum period when the information is targeted to particular points in the postpartum continuum. Additional research is needed to understand the interplay between healthcare providers and mobile health interventions. Health policy makers should consider direct mobile interventions for women as an option for supporting positive maternal health outcomes in certain populations.