Q: We’re expecting our first child this year and wondered what technology I should consider during my pregnancy?
A: The world of prenatal health technology is exploding with options that have the potential to better inform expectant parents throughout the pregnancy.
Smartphone apps connected to Bluetooth devices can be found for introducing your child to soothing music, measuring contractions and even attempting to allow at-home ultrasound exams.
A word of warning
Despite the flashy marketing materials proclaiming the benefits and safety of these devices, it’s critically important to consult your obstetrician before making any decisions to buy anything, especially if it’s a device that transmits radio signals or sound.
Some of the newer devices are using Doppler ultrasound technology or sound waves, which have many medical professionals concerned about parents using them too long or too intensely.
Many of these devices lack any clinical testing or peer reviews, which is why you should always include your doctor in any decisions.
In fact, you’ll find that many companies that have been mentioned in reviews or older stories on prenatal technology have disappeared from the internet.
Early stage monitoring
One of latest platforms that improves the amount of data your obstetrician can gather between visits during the pregnancy is from a company called Babyscripts.
Their focus is to detect elevated risks based on weight and heart rate monitoring of the mother between office visits, but it’s designed to start in the early stages of the pregnancy.
The Babyscripts system can only be acquired through a health care provider, so you’ll need to discuss this with your obstetrician.
Music and speech devices
A fetus generally starts to hear sound in the 18th week of pregnancy, with sensitivity growing through the 24th to 26th week.
There are a lot of people claiming that playing music or talking to your baby during pregnancy has a positive impact on fetal development, but, at best, these are anecdotal claims.
The “science” behind these claims is pretty nonexistent, so you’ll need to do the research to decide for yourself.
What has been studied and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the negative impact excessive and prolonged noise levels in utero can have on children, so prolonged playing of loud music from your stereo, through headphones on your tummy or working in very loud environments for a prolonged period should be avoided.
A few of the companies that are still in the business of offering specialized low volume sound systems include BellyBuds and BabyPlus.
In the third trimester of pregnancy, contraction trackers such as Bloomlife offer a cordless and hands-free way to monitor contractions.
You don’t buy the tracking system; you rent it for $20 per week so you can get more granular details of contraction activity as the birth nears.
Bloomlife states that it’s FSA/HSA qualified, so you may be able to pay for it through those funds if you have them.
A device called Owlet that won two awards at CES 2019 and claims to be the world’s first consumer pregnancy monitor is due for launch in late 2019 for those contemplating a pregnancy down the road.