The Truth About Tracking Your Pregnancy
From steps and sleep patterns to calories, water intake and workouts, we are a society obsessed with tracking our health. So it’s only natural that women would want to track one of the most important, critical and meaningful times of their lives - pregnancy.
A recent report about the state of health and fitness apps in the United States showed that among the 10 most popular health trackers, three were focused on women’s health - specifically targeting women who either wanted to get pregnant, or wanted to avoid pregnancy.
In honor of happy, healthy, digitally savvy pregnancies, here’s the good and the bad about different types of apps, services and gadgets that can help pregnant women learn more about their pregnancies, babies and bodies.
Fetal Heart Rate Monitors
Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is one of the most monumental moments in any pregnancy. Now, smartphone-based fetal heart rate monitoring devices can let parents listen to their baby’s heartbeat anytime, anywhere. While a heart rate monitor can be a good bonding tool (moms can usually hear their baby’s heartbeat before they can feel the baby move), it’s important to leave the medical implications to medical experts. Over-the-counter devices should never take the place of doctor visits or ultrasounds conducted by medical professionals with high-tech, medical quality devices.
It’s also to important to know yourself, and how much baby monitoring you can handle. For some moms, it’s a great way to bond with their unborn babies. For other moms, the constant wondering, checking, tracking can turn a beautiful time into a stressful one. All babies are different in terms of when their heartbeats can be heard, and how strongly. Your baby's position can also determine how difficult it is to hear the heartbeat. Not being able to hear their baby’s heartbeat could understandably make some moms panic, even if it’s not necessary.
Before purchasing or using a heartbeat monitor, talk with your care provider. They can give you a complete rundown on the pros, cons, and any health risks associated with using a device.
Week-By-Week Pregnancy Trackers
There are many smartphone apps on the market for expectant mothers, many of which seem like they can do everything except actually deliver the baby. Some comprehensive apps can include fetal development charts (at week 12 your baby is the size of a lime!), timelines, to-do lists and weight trackers. They can even help make sure you never miss an appointment with a doctor visit planner.
Other apps are more specialized -- providing insight on which foods and medications to avoid while pregnant, nursery decor ideas, relaxation techniques, tips for connecting with your baby and much more. Basically whatever question you might have, there’s an app for that.
These apps can be customized to your due date, baby’s gender and even baby name. In the era of ever-ready knowledge and never-ending data, pregnancy tracking apps can help give moms the peace of mind they need to better enjoy pregnancy.
Again, it’s important to remember that tracking apps and devices should only be used for general education, never in place of doctor visits or ultrasounds. Be sure to talk with your physician if you have questions about tracking apps.
Kick Counting Apps
Every pregnant mom experiences fetal movement differently. While a baby can start moving in the womb at seven or eight weeks, you probably won’t feel the baby kick until sometime between weeks 16 and 25.
Kick counting apps provide a safe and easy way to monitor the health of your baby by tracking the baby’s moving patterns. All apps are slightly different, but most of them recommend starting to count kicks no earlier than week 28. If you are counting kicks and notice a change or decline in activity, be sure to contact your care provider immediately.
Boutique Ultrasound Shops
Private, boutique ultrasound centers can allow expecting parents to see their unborn child in a relaxed, non-medical environment. And while many of these facilities are operated by experienced professionals, it’s important to remember these are in fact, not medical facilities. These elective ultrasound centers can sometimes resemble spas, and often have state-of-the-art equipment that claims to see more, earlier, than standard equipment.
Curious parents are often anxious to see more of their baby, but some professionals, including the Federal Drug Administration, warn that while there’s no evidence that ultrasounds cause harm, they should only be performed when there’s a medical need, and by appropriately trained operators. Your physician knows your specific situation, and knows when you need an ultrasound. Sticking to the prescribed plan should be all you really need.
While pregnancy gadgets and gizmos are certainly the way of the future, they don’t take the place of traditional books, guides and of course, physician visits. Monitoring things like your baby’s heartbeat or size in between visits can help you figure out what questions to ask your care provider. It’s important to remember that most pregnancy apps are created are not developed or accredited by medical professionals.
If you’re interested in learning more about pregnancy trackers, your care provider may offer insights into what might work best for you. And remember, no matter what your tracker, device or app might tell you, always default to the advice of your physician or care provider when it comes to the health of your baby.
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