What you need to know:
- In 2022, Lorraine Muluka decided to try her hand at a tech startup with a focus on maternal health, culminating in the creation of Malaica.
- Malaica’s aim was to provide an affordable and supportive environment for expectant mothers, ultimately improving maternal and neonatal health outcomes.
Driven by a keen interest in innovating and improving the Kenyan healthcare system, Lorraine Muluka, an obstetrician-gynecologist, has played a key role in several start-ups over the last decade.
At the same time, she has continued to practice as a consultant obstetrician at her private clinic in Nairobi. In 2022, she decided to try her hand at a tech startup with a focus on maternal health, culminating in the creation of Malaica, a private support group for expectant women and young mothers.
This was based on the co-founders’ shared passion for safe motherhood, and a desire to change the narrative on maternal and newborn mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. She also wanted to focus on addressing the gaps and delays in maternal healthcare that lead to undesirable pregnancy outcomes.
“The delays begin with a woman’s decision to seek care, extend to her access to the appropriate healthcare facility and the quality of care she receives once there. These gaps result from the various challenges women face, which include limited access to quality care, lack of continuous support and high healthcare costs among others,” says Dr Muluka.
Dr Muluka notes that Malaica’s ability to identify and address these gaps, has set the startup apart in the very important sector. Malaica’s aim was to provide a holistic, affordable and supportive environment for expectant mothers, ultimately improving maternal and neonatal health outcomes.
The journey has also involved combined efforts from like-minded parties.
“In 2022, we joined forces with a company called MumsVillage, which had built a great community of mums in Kenya, providing them with a lot of high-quality information and support in the various stages of parenthood,” she adds.
Malaica has an online support programme for soon-to-be and current mothers.
“We are extending the programme to cover mums up to six months post-birth. Once an expectant mum joins, they immediately get paired with a personal nurse midwife who is available seven days a week to provide guidance and support while ensuring that they adhere to World Health Organisation(WHO) guidelines throughout the pregnancy journey,” she adds.
Mothers also join a private support group of those in their trimester, moderated by experienced Malaica “Supamums”. The peer-to-peer support ensures sufficient knowledge sharing.
"The mothers also get daily messages curated for the Kenyan mum with updates on what to expect and do at each stage of the pregnancy,” she says.
Malaica also offers an exciting feature known as Flash Chats. These are quick group questions and answers sessions held on WhatsApp platform on various topics around pregnancy and parenting, moderated by experts in the fields.
"We have also partnered with various hospitals and healthcare facilities such as Tendercare Hospital, RFH Hospital, Juja Road Hospital, Gurunanak Hospital, Medigate Imaging, and Shree Swaminarayan Hospital, among others, to offer services to mums who sign up with Malaica at discounted rates. These partnerships significantly contribute to making healthcare more accessible and affordable for Malaica mothers,” she adds.
Additional benefits of being a member are access to our antenatal clinics, whose consultation rates are affordable, from Sh599 per session upwards. A mother may also choose group and home Lamaze classes catering to the crucial need for comprehensive childbirth education and preparation.
"Our target market is expectant mothers in Kenya and Malaica mums benefit by getting personalised support from a dedicated healthcare team for a smoother and healthier pregnancy journey," she says.
To access the services, mothers can log into the website and subscribe, text on WhatsApp or reach out to the team via social channels on Facebook, Instagram and X.
"Majority of young women in Kenya are online now and WhatsApp provides them with the opportunity to conveniently access and benefit from the programme. Malaica offers a reliable alternative to the unpredictability of internet searches for a complication or change that you might be facing in your pregnancy," says Dr Muluka.
If a new mother has a question about maternal health or gets a pregnancy symptom that they're unsure of, a personal Malaica nurse midwife is available on WhatsApp to guide them any day of the week.
“We are providing mums with the right platform to get accurate information and help is right at their fingertips,” Dr Muluka adds that the beauty of this is that mothers no longer have to rely on general online pregnancy-related resources which in the past, have come from the Western world.
She says the answers and support offered are for Kenyan women by Kenyan healthcare experts.
“We currently have mums from 35 counties in Kenya. Nairobi and its environs have the highest numbers. However, we have also seen the benefit of the program for mothers in rural areas such as Garissa where we ran a pilot. Mums love the reliability of having their nurse midwife that they can talk to anytime,” she adds.
The three payment options available include a monthly subscription for Sh399, a three-month option for Sh1,199, with an extra month free, and a one-off payment of the entire program at Sh2,499 covers the entire pregnancy up to eight weeks after birth.
Malaica brings together a team of nurse midwives, gynaecologists, paediatricians, supamums, and a supportive community of mothers-to-be.