We live in a world marred by healthcare disparities. Pregnancy-related deaths and diseases remain unacceptably high. Every day, nearly 800 women die due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Even more alarmingly, 90% of these preventable deaths happen in low-resource settings. This stark reality demands urgent attention.
Challenges and Innovations
WHO acknowledges the important role ultrasound plays in pregnancy care. Ultrasound accurately assesses gestational age, detects multiple foetuses, evaluates the foetal presentation, and locates the placenta. These assessments are not just medical procedures; they soothe the foetal anxieties of expecting mothers. In the words of a pregnant woman in Sierra Leone, “Having your pregnancy scanned is good as the nurse will tell you if the baby is sick or not.” Another expecting mother said, “Scanning your pregnancy is important for a long life and good health. If I stay at home and die from pregnancy, my husband will not mourn me for long. He will marry immediately, and my children will suffer. So I have to come for check-ups regularly despite the difficulties.”
WHO recommends eight antenatal care visits. However, expensive traditional ultrasound machines and a lack of trained technicians make it a distant dream for many expecting mothers in remote and underserved regions. A recent study recommends that point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) can address these challenges.
BabyChecker is a smartphone-based ultrasound solution that uses AI to analyse pregnancy risks. With just six simple sweeps across the abdomen, it provides crucial information such as the gestational age, foetal presentation, foetal heart rate, multiple gestations, and placenta location. A community healthcare worker in Sierra Leone’s Mafay Manowo Maternal & Child Health Post shared, “BabyChecker helps us know how the child is doing in the mother’s womb. Whether doing well/fine or not. If the baby is fine, then it’s okay. If not, then we refer for further care.”
Overcoming Traditional Constraints
BabyChecker shines by overcoming the limitations of traditional ultrasound in resource-limited settings. Community healthcare workers without ultrasound training can learn to perform scans in less than an hour after watching a concise 3-minute video. Moreover, it can be used offline, making it user-friendly in underprivileged regions.
Since it is a smartphone-based ultrasound solution, healthcare workers don’t find it daunting. As a primary healthcare worker said, “Personally, I catch up and adapt to the device easily because of my familiarity with Android phones.”
The video displays the visual direction for the six sweeps, making the process easier. “We find it easy to perform the six sweeps as videos are displayed, and all we have to do is follow the visual direction of the machine… because it’s a machine, it is easier to use.”