New Delhi: Every year about 8 million prematurely born babies in India are underweight and at a high risk of developing hypothermia, according to UNICEF. Hypothermia is a condition where the baby’s body temperature falls below 36.5 Celsius, causing serious diseases like asphyxia, sepsis and pneumonia as well as has adverse effects on the baby’s growth. Fat is an important factor for babies to maintain body temperature as without fat or less weight they can rapidly lose body heat, become hypothermic and develop breathing and other problems. Hypothermia is recognised as a significant contributor to neonatal morbidity and mortality for all newborn infants. To help combat the condition of hypothermia, Stanford alumni Ratul Narain’s startup Bempu Health has developed a temperature monitor bracelet for newborns called the TempWatch.
The Bempu TempWatch monitors infant’s body temperature day and night for one month. It has a soft blue light that blinks if the baby is warm and if the baby’s temperature falls or becomes hypothermic, it rings an alarm to alert the parents, with a red blinking light. This enables the parents to help warm their baby by a method called Kangaroo Mother Care or skin-to-skin care.
TempWatch was developed by Mr. Narain after he spent about 18 months in hospitals and clinics, majorly in the rural India, to research the reasons behind the high infant mortality rate of the country.
I spoke to thousands of doctors, nurses and mothers personally in this period, to understand why newborns were dying or suffering with diseases at such a high rate in India. My field research helped me uncover and understand the main reason for this is hypothermia or in simple term – babies getting cold.
Mr. Narain says that as of today, their device has helped thousands of newborns, mostly in India but also in 25 other countries like Zimbabwe, Ghana and Pakistan. In addition to the TempWatch also being awarded as one of the best innovations of 2017 by Time magazine, it won a string of grants from various funding agencies, including Grand Challenges Canada, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seimens Foundation, Villgro and more, he adds.
NDTV reached out to Dr. Kavita Sreekumar, Neonatologist from Goa Medical College to understand the benefits of the device, she called the TempWatch ‘useful’ explaining that in newborn babies, low temperature is more dangerous than fever.
If the temperature keeps dropping and the mothers are not aware, it can have severe affects. It is a very sensitive and useful device. 36.5 Celsius is the normal temperature and even if it drops to 35 the TempWatch will alert.
She further explained that if a baby’s temperature is normal, the weight loss, which the babies usually have after birth, is not too much rather the weight gain is better.
So if a child’s temperature is maintained, their weight and growth is directly associated with that. So the TempWatch is beneficial for low birth and pre-term babies.
Dr. Manisha Bhadarkar, Neonatologist – KLES, Belgaum on the other hand told NDTV that the Bempu device not only helps the mothers but is important from health personnel’s point of view as well.
India has a huge birth rate, and since there is a shortage of trained neonatal nurses specifically as compared to the birth rate, so when a baby is born, he or she is handed over to the mothers in the neonatal wards to be taken care of in the hospital. Therefore, in this case as well, if we put the Bempu bracelet on the infant’s wrist, so the mothers can call the nurse or a doctor as soon as BEMPU alerts for hypothermia. That way it is helpful for the nurses, when there are too many babies to take care of.
Shreyasi, a new mother from Bengaluru who gave birth to her son Piraj in August says that she found the device really useful as they had to travel right after she gave birth.
We travelled in an AC compartment a few days after Piraj was born, so the Bempu TempWatch really helped me and my husband to assess his temperature during the transit. It also helps us to understand if we are over-clothing him as the period in which he is born is the time of changing weather, so we weren’t very sure about how much clothing he required. So the this device really helped us understand that aspect as well. However, the only drawback I found is that the validity of the bracelet is only 28 days, so we need to by a new one every month.
Whereas Shalini, a new mom to a premature baby from Delhi said,
It is a very useful product for preterm babies as I don’t need not worry or check baby’s temperature. I can stay relaxed about hypothermia of the baby which is very prevalent in my daughter’s case.
The TempWatch is also a part of the NDTV and Dettol India’s Swasth Kit being facilitated to new mothers in remote areas. Talking about the same Mr Narain says,
Our goal is to make a solid dent in the neonatal mortality numbers but the challenge of reaching remote areas an important one. We are grateful and excited to be a part of the Swasth Kit, which will help us reach more babies across India and remote areas and help prevent death and illness from something as easily preventable as hypothermia and infections. TempWatch is available around the world but in India it is available in pharmacy, hospitals, government centres and Amazon, he signed off.