Background: Applying mobile phones in healthcare is increasingly prioritized to strengthen healthcare systems. Antenatal care has the potential to reduce maternal morbidity and improve newborns' survival but this benefit may not be realized in sub-Saharan Africa where the attendance and quality of care is declining. We evaluated the association between a mobile phone intervention and antenatal care in a resource-limited setting. We aimed to assess antenatal care in a comprehensive way taking into consideration utilisation of antenatal care as well as content and timing of interventions during pregnancy.
Methods: This study was an open label pragmatic cluster-randomised controlled trial with primary healthcare facilities in Zanzibar as the unit of randomisation. 2550 pregnant women (1311 interventions and 1239 controls) who attended antenatal care at selected primary healthcare facilities were included at their first antenatal care visit and followed until 42 days after delivery. 24 primary health care facilities in six districts were randomized to either mobile phone intervention or standard care. The intervention consisted of a mobile phone text-message and voucher component. Primary outcome measure was four or more antenatal care visits during pregnancy. Secondary outcome measures were tetanus vaccination, preventive treatment for malaria, gestational age at last antenatal care visit, and antepartum referral.
Results: The mobile phone intervention was associated with an increase in antenatal care attendance. In the intervention group 44% of the women received four or more antenatal care visits versus 31% in the control group (OR, 2.39; 95% CI, 1.03-5.55). There was a trend towards improved timing and quality of antenatal care services across all secondary outcome measures although not statistically significant.
Conclusions: The wired mothers' mobile phone intervention significantly increased the proportion of women receiving the recommended four antenatal care visits during pregnancy and there was a trend towards improved quality of care with more women receiving preventive health services, more women attending antenatal care late in pregnancy and more women with antepartum complications identified and referred. Mobile phone applications may contribute towards improved maternal and newborn health and should be considered by policy makers in resource-limited settings.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01821222.