Removing Disparity and Promoting Health for All – Overcoming Challenges Associated with Maternal Health

World Health Day is celebrated each year on 7th April to highlight the initiatives taken to generate awareness regarding health. This year’s theme defined by World Health Organization is ‘Health For All – Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone’, which can be achieved by eradicating the inequalities that still persist in the global healthcare system.

Amongst the many challenges toward eradicating inequalities that persist in the healthcare system is maternal health. Based on the data published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, approximately 287,000 women die each year due to complications associated with childbirth, maternal care, and post-partum depression, among others. While all these deaths can be prevented, the non-availability of proper maternal care and tools make such cases prevalent.

Analysts at BIS Research studied the complications associated with reproductive health, maternal care, and post-partum conditions to understand the gravity of the situation. The following insights were covered during the study.

What are the challenges associated with providing maternal care?

Over the years the maternal mortality has reduced significantly. However, it is still one of the major challenges that are faced by several women. Each year, complications caused by pregnancy and post-partum leads to several deaths, especially in developing countries. These deaths are majorly associated with the paucity of prenatal and perinatal care. In certain parts of the world, these deaths are also associated with unattended births due to the non-availability of medical personnel.

Considering it is a major cause of concern, United Nations decided to mobilize global efforts toward improving maternal health by 2030, under sustainable development goals. The goal is to provide access to maternal care for most women. Some of the leading health conditions that arise during maternal death, causing death in women, include cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, severe bleeding, and pre-existing conditions in certain cases.

According to the stats published by WHO, 239 women die for every 100,000 live births in developing countries, and 12 women die for every 100,000 live births in developed countries.

How can maternal health be managed during and post-pregnancy?

Maternal health management is of the utmost importance throughout the pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery phase.

During Pregnancy:

Pregnancy is a time of emotional upheaval for women and can trigger depression in women. Based on a study conducted by the University of Michigan, depression can severely affect women during pregnancy, and the majority of such patients do not receive proper treatment. Mood swings, anxiety, and depression are some of the most common conditions, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in some cases, is faced by women during pregnancy. However, as discussed earlier, most women do not get treatment for such conditions, and this can prove to be fatal for the fetus. There are several treatments available that can help manage such conditions. Prenatal care is crucial during pregnancy and access to prenatal care can be challenging. The challenges arise due to factors including lack of physicians and difficulty in reaching out them due to geographical access barriers, among others. Multiple visits to the hospital or clinic for checkups can be burdensome for the patients.

Thus, devices that can monitor brain activity with a very low level of discomfort are required. Wearable electronics are expected to play a key role in bridging that gap in the future. Wireless brain sensors can aid in detecting the brain activity of a woman during pregnancy. Patients being monitored with wireless brain sensors can carry out their daily activities and are not required to be confined to beds. Since wireless brain sensors are able to transmit data remotely to a measuring device, they are expected to have substantial growth in demand during the coming years.

Post Pregnancy:

Post-partum depression or PPD is a very common condition that most new mothers suffer from. The symptoms of PPD can be a mix of mood disorders, behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychological changes. PPD is associated with the drop of estrogen and progesterone levels post-delivery. According to a study published in 2018, titled, ‘Prevalence of Postpartum Depression and Interventions Utilized for its Management’, post-partum depression affects approximately 10%-15% of adult mothers annually.

How can advancement in healthcare technology help with issues arising during maternal care?

In a span of the last five years, several technological advancements have transformed the healthcare industry, especially in the case of female health. Earlier, in 2014, when the digital health system emerged, the gap pertaining to support, counseling, treatment related to issues such as infertility, pregnancy, and post-partum depression was huge. The new era of healthcare start-ups introduced advanced technologies centric to female health. Women health technology or Female Technology (FemTecH) Market, which was once a niche market, is growing at a fast rate today. The FemTech market is expected to reach $4.69 billion by the end of 2030, growing at a CAGR of 17.18% during the forecast period, 2019-2030.

Technologies that are covered under the FemTech market cater to issues related to reproductive health, general wellness, pregnancy and nursing care, and pelvic and uterine care. Under these broad categories, conditions such as period tracking, at-home fertility tracking, menopause, pregnancy and post-pregnancy care, along with post-partum depression, breastfeeding, pelvic wellness, and menstrual health are covered.

These existing women health technologies at present are influenced by several market trends, including increasing use of personalized apps for menstrual tracking, increasing demand for smart medical devices and wearables for fertility tracking and diagnostic screening, among others. Moreover, the boost in the adoption of remote monitoring technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to benefit maternal care by significantly reducing the burden of health visits.

Women healthcare technologies aim at increasing the efficiency of the treatment procedures for the patients by improving the overall communication between patients and doctors. Technological advancements in the form of communication are expected to create a strong market ecosystem with new players.

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