How Indian medical workers use WhatsApp to save pregnant women

Over the past 5 years, Patil has trained hundreds of ASHAs from different states on how to use WhatsApp to debunk misinformation.

Maya Patil, an ASHA from the Kutwad village of Maharashtra, said she noticed similar positive results after using WhatsApp. She has been working in this field for 13 years and in 2018 she met a 9-month pregnant woman who had decreased hemoglobin levels and was recently diagnosed with anemia. She tried to connect the woman with the concerned public doctor, but the family wanted her to use natural methods to increase hemoglobin levels.

Patil asks the pregnant woman to start drinking pomegranate juice, which has been shown to increase hemoglobin levels, but her mother says pomegranate juice causes kidney stones. Patil tried to explain the science for hours, but the family didn’t believe it and they weren’t interested in the medication for the anemia.

Out of habit, Patil photographed hundreds of articles in the area addressing common health misinformation written by doctors. In one, she found detailed information about the benefits of pomegranate juice and seeds. She sent the pregnant woman the article in a WhatsApp message. She then found more relevant videos on YouTube recorded in Marathi, the woman’s language. After 10 such messages, she finally made an impact; The family allowed the woman to follow her advice, and within 12 days her hemoglobin levels rose.

They worked together for three weeks, and when the woman gave birth, it was a normal birth with a healthy baby weighing 6.5 pounds.

Create a safer space for women

Although they have successfully tackled a lot of misinformation over the years, many ASHAs still encounter pregnant women who are too scared to talk about their pregnancy for fear of their in-laws and in-laws. Netradipa Patil, ASHA union leader, said that even in large messages from the ASHA-led group, many men in the community responded with “ignorant comments”.

Similarly, Maya Patil also laments the persistence of dangerous medical information passed down by her family. “The main goal of any pregnancy-related fake news is to make women miserable,” she said. “Many older women say they endured these rituals during pregnancy, so why shouldn’t the next generation have to deal with this?”

Maya Patil sitting face-to-face with an expectant mother
Along with ensuring safer childbirth, ASHA staff are also responsible for providing appropriate postpartum health care to women in the community. Here, Maya Patil explains how to care for a newborn.


So in 2018 and 2019, ASHAs started forming local all-women WhatsApp groups. With a smaller group of just 15 to 20 pregnant women and their close friends loved ones, Netradipa Patil will focus on helping them understand the scientific aspects of care. “It’s hard, but it’s easier than dealing with hundreds of people at once.” After six months of running the experiment, women in the groups even reported talking about misinformation in their families.

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