Professor Priscilla Reddy of the Human Research Sciences Council (HSRC) has announced the development of a new mHealth app aimed specifically at pregnant teens, which will be linked to the Department of Health’s MomConnect platform.

Reddy made this announcement during a recent Mmoho media workshop, a national advocacy campaign which aims to support teens with information and services to prevent unplanned pregnancies for those who are not young parents yet, and to support teen parents to remain in school and plan their bright futures.

Just over one in 10 South African girls fall pregnant while still in their teens. The vast majority of these pregnancies are unplanned and can have serious consequences for the girls’ health, as well as their future prospects.  A 2010 survey showed that almost a third of girls who dropped out of school did so because they were pregnant.

Death rates during childbirth are among the highest in the world. Teens comprise 17% of females who die in childbirth, despite the fact that they make up only 11% of the total number of women giving birth. According to Reddy, most of these deaths are preventable.

The main causes of death during pregnancy are high blood pressure; TB and HIV; and haemorrhaging during labour. With timely medical intervention, these conditions are largely treatable. However, stigma, shame and unsympathetic health workers mean pregnant teenagers are often reluctant to seek help.

According to Reddy, the new app’s messaging will be tailored to speak to teens and, because it will be linked to MomConnect, it is expected to provide information and advice on pregnancy and encourage the expecting mothers to start ante-natal care, test for conditions such as hypertension, HIV/AIDS and diabetes early on in their pregnancy.

A concomitant study will look into the training of health care workers to encourage more sympathetic treatment.

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