Story by Esha Chaimani
When I started my residency as an obstetrician/gynecologist, my hours were hectic and I would see around 300 women in just 6 hours. My patients come from various social and economic backgrounds. Most of them seem very lost, confused and even scared. I have even learned of stigmas and taboos these women carry regarding their reproductive health, contraception and pregnancy. One of the most saddening outcome of this is that women don’t seek help until it’s too late.
I always made it a point to educate my patients as much as I could. Soon it became clear to me that women, especially from lower income families, want to learn about their bodies. Their ignorance comes from lack of information, not their close mindedness.
I never thought much about this until my maid became pregnant. I helped her through it. Whenever she felt confused, I would explain to her and I always made sure that she got her regular checkups. After her delivery went well, she told me that my support made her pregnancy a much better process. She would go tell her friends all that she learned from me and they found it quite helpful as well. She then suggested that I should do something to educate more women like her because they don’t know whom to approach when they are in doubt.
This stuck with me for a really long time. I encountered so many women who were unaware and scared to ask questions. I noticed that most women have a phone and know how to use apps like Facebook. I researched pregnancy related apps and all of them were in English and did not offer any useful information for women from lower income families. For example, suggesting expensive foods like walnuts in diet is not feasible for them. This gave me the idea to make an app that will cater to these women specifically and help them to understand their body. I also wanted to debunk myths with articles and answer questions they might have, like how often they can work during their pregnancy and so on.
I spent all my free time to develop the content for the app. After getting it verified from senior scale doctors, I hired medical translators to translate the content to Hindi and Marathi. My budget was quite low so I hired a freelance app developer who was my backbone during the project. I added graphics to the app to make it more visually appealing to the audience. Finally, “Premma Pregnancy” was born.
I suggested the app to my patients and so did my colleagues. I made pamphlets to promote the app. Word of mouth helped a lot to boost the reach. I even collaborated with NGOs who specifically work with underprivileged women. Eventually my app had 500 downloads within the first month. Some patients started to recognize me solely from the app. My patients have become self-reliant as they are able to understand their body better. When I see their new found control on their reproductive health, I feel so proud for them.
Lack of education and a fear to ask questions gives rise to so many misconceptions with which women are brought up. Sex and contraception are taboo topics. Nobody even talks about pregnancy clearly. There are no resources for a major chunk of women in our country. Through my app, I want to bring awareness to them. I want them to know that contraception is an option and pregnancy is not scary. I want to empower them with knowledge. Women deserve freedom that comes with education and awareness.