ATLANTA — Expecting moms and families may often live in worry wondering what will happen when its time to deliver their child. Despite states across the country making strides, the maternal mortality rate is up.
Data from the CDC released in March shows more than 1,200 women died during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth in 2021, with the maternal mortality rate for Black women nearly three times higher than it was for white women.
But one group of local experts knows the majority of those deaths are preventable, and they’re using technology to hopefully save lives.
“We developed PM3, which stands for ‘Prevent Maternal Mortality through Mobile Technology,” Dr. Natalie Hernandez, director of the Center for Maternal Health Equity at Morehouse School of Medicine, explained. “The design was driven by the lack of health services and support, a clinical focus on medication and people just feeling overwhelmed, and so this was a one stop shop for people to have access to the resources that they need.”
The app, developed by a team of experts from Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Tech and Emory, hopes to connect with women in the postpartum period, “the most critical yet most neglected phase” for preventing maternal deaths.
Moms are given a blood pressure cuff, a Fitbit, scale and other tools for self check-in’s and monitoring. The goal is not to replace a doctor’s visit, Hernandez explained, but to identify red flags quickly in a time when most women are busy caring for their babies and life-threatening conditions could be missed.
“We wanted people to have a tool to be able to communicate with their providers because women and mothers, we have power,” Dr. Hernandez said. “We just need resources and tools to activate that power. We need to be a partner in this.”
The app also provides a link to social support and community resources.
“That’s one thing that we heard from moms is that they often didn’t feel supported. And then when we spoke to the people who support them, they said they didn’t know how to support the moms,” Hernandez added. “And so we took all that information and developed PM3, and the primary goals of it is the promotion of postpartum well-being.”
Right now, the PM3 app is in the clinical trial phase, with hopes results will be released in the next few months.
“We’re collecting that data because we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just another mobile app, that it was theoretically informed that it was evidence based,” Hernandez explained.
“This is very personal to us,” she added. “We could have been one of those moms or we were one of those moms who felt isolated in the postpartum period, who felt like our needs weren’t being heard.”