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Access to and Use of Mobile Phone by Postpartum, Married Women in Punjab, India: Secondary Analysis of mHealth Intervention Pilot Data

Ruchita S Pendse, , Preetika Sharma, Alka Ahuja, Darshan Hosapatna Basavarajappa, , Ankita Kankaria, Pushpendra Singh, Vijay Kumar,
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Published: 12 May 2022

Abstract: Background: As mobile phone uptake in India continues to grow, there is also continued interest in mobile platform–based interventions for health education. There is a significant gender gap in mobile phone access—women’s access to mobile phones is constrained by economic and social barriers. Pregnancy and postpartum care is one of many targets for mobile health (mHealth) interventions that particularly rely upon women’s access to and facility with mobile phone use. Objective: We aimed to describe the dynamics and patterns of married pregnant and postpartum women’s mobile phone access and use (among both phone owners and nonowners) who participated in an mHealth postpartum care intervention and to identify potential barriers to their participation in mobile platform–based interventions. Methods: A secondary analysis was performed on mixed methods data obtained for a pilot mHealth intervention for postpartum care of mothers in rural Punjab from July 2020 to February 2021. Two formative sources included exploratory in-depth interviews among postpartum women (n=20; 1-3 months postpartum) and quantitative maternal health survey among women who were pregnant or who had recently given birth (n=102). We also utilized mixed methods intervention assessment data from early postpartum women who participated in the pilot intervention (n=29), including intervention moderator perspectives. Qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed, and pertinent findings were grouped thematically. Results: The majority of women owned a phone (maternal health survey: 75/102, 74%; demographic survey: 17/29, 59%), though approximately half (53/102, 52%) still reported sharing phones with other family members. Sharing a phone with female family members typically allowed for better access than sharing with male family members. Some households had strict preferences against daughters-in-law having phones, or otherwise significantly restricted women’s phone access. Others reported concerns about phone use–related health hazards for mother and infant during the pregnancy or postpartum period. Conclusions: These findings suggest nuance regarding what is meant by women’s phone ownership and access—there were numerous additional constraints on women’s use of phones, particularly during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Future research and mHealth interventions should probe these domains to better understand the dynamics governing women’s access, use, and fluency with mobile phones to optimally design mHealth interventions.
Keywords: phone use / phone access / pregnancy or postpartum / mobile phone / Secondary Analysis / pilot intervention
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