An automated text messaging service designed to provide information and resources on prenatal education for women has arrived in Prince Rupert.
SmartMom, a new program launched this month across the Northern Health region in B.C., assists women through early stages of pregnancy until birth, and all it takes is a text message to the service. After consenting to the requirements, the woman will then receive three text messages per week tailored to how many weeks along the woman is in her pregnancy.
“SmartMom is meant to empower prenatal women to take control of their health and their pregnancies,” said Randi Leanne Parsons, Northern Health regional nursing lead for maternal, infant, child and youth.
“It supports families to really ask questions to their health care providers that can ensure and promote a healthy pregnancy, and so it’s not meant to replace anything by health care providers or prenatal education they may already be accessing, but truly just to empower women to make healthier decisions about themselves and for their babies.”
The SmartMom messages are backed by evidence-based research and focus group studies by Northern Health and was found as a solution to provide easy access to prenatal education in rural and remote communities that may not have regular classes.
The program was developed through a partnership between Optimal Birth BC (University of British Columbia-affiliated clinician researchers), Northern Health (who originally inquired about developing the service), the B.C. Ministry of Health, the First Nations Health Authority and Perinatal Services BC. SmartMom is also endorsed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.
Parsons added that reaching women before their first prenatal appointment, usually within the first eight to 12 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, was key in its pilot launch in the communities of Fraser Lake, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof.
“Although that’s not the absolute beginning of their pregnancy, it’s the earliest that our practitioners could reach women,” she explained.
“We put some posters around the community where prenatal women might frequent … we have tried to post those posters in community settings to reach the women before they get to that first prenatal appointment.”
Women who sign up for the service partway through their pregnancies can review older messages they may have missed from previous weeks on their online profile.
The service fills a need that has developed in the area, said Parsons.
“Less than 30 per cent of prenatal women in Canada are attending prenatal classes and so we believe in northern B.C. this number is a lot lower, and it could be due to transportation challenges and decreased access,” she said.