Wednesday, February 10, 2021 | News

Got an abortion question? Ask Nurse Nisa

New chatbot providing abortion and contraception information is first of its kind

Women in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who would like information on abortion and contraception now have a virtual provider they can turn to: Nurse Nisa.

Nurse Nisa is a chatbot—a computer program designed to simulate a WhatsApp text chat between a trained health provider and person seeking information. A collaboration between Ipas and the social impact technology company Dimagi, Nurse Nisa is programmed to address frequently asked questions about contraception and self-management of abortion with pills. Launched in Kenya and DRC in September, the chatbot is free to use and now available on WhatsApp, with the language options of English, French and Swahili.

“This is the first chatbot to comprehensively address abortion—in particular, the abortion self-care process,” says Tamara Fetters, a senior researcher for Ipas. “Its self-guided menu allows users to explore contraception and the process of self-managing an abortion with pills in a confidential and private manner. The process is described simply, but in detail.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are facing many additional barriers to abortion and contraception—and unintended pregnancy rates are higher. This is driving many women to seek information on how to self-manage an abortion with pills without having to visit a health center.

That’s why Ipas is actively exploring digital health solutions like this chatbot, searching for new and better ways to reach women with the sexual and reproductive health information and care they need.

Artificial intelligence in health care gains momentum

Artificial intelligence (AI), the ability of a machine to offer information like a human, is playing an increasing role in how health care is delivered globally and has wide-reaching potential for use in regions with acute shortages of trained health workers and little or no access to quality care.

“AI is revolutionizing so many areas of our lives, including health care,” says Rasha Dabash, Ipas director of technical excellence. “Sexual and reproductive health should not be left behind or be the exception. These solutions will improve women’s care, including abortion access and choice of options, now during the pandemic and beyond.”

Using Nurse Nisa does not require an internet connection, enabling women to obtain personalized health information at a time and place that’s most convenient for them. And Nurse Nisa offers a wide array of abortion- and contraception-related content, including general information on abortion and contraceptive methods, plus topics like the legality of abortion, how to find safe and effective abortion pills, contraception myths and misconceptions, religious opposition to abortion, and how to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you do need to seek in-person health services.

Ipas teams will now work to bolster Nurse Nisa’s ability to connect users with trusted local hotlines, pharmacies and health centers when in-person services are needed.

“With Nurse Nisa, we’ve been working to create an experience for users that’s friendly and confidential—so they feel they’re engaging with a service they can trust,” says Ernest Nyamato, Ipas associate director for quality of care, based in Nairobi. “Now if we can link them in real time to nearby locations for in-person care if needed, we’ll be offering even more of the interactivity people expect from mobile technology. Our goal is to create a chatbot so useful and relevant that users will want to share it with their friends.”

For more information, contact media@ipas.org

How to safely self-manage an abortion with pills

Reliable, evidence-based information that gives women control over their own bodies and reproductive choices.

Illustration of two women looking at pill information on a mobile phone