When I was pregnant with Little Man back in 2010 – the veritable technological dark ages in comparison to today – the extent of my online interaction with other expectant mums was a Baby Centre forum for those due around the same time as me, which I had to go to the effort of logging on to the desktop at home to keep up with, and invariably didn’t bother. I had a book – a BOOK! Imagine that! – called ‘Your Pregnancy Week by Week’ which I obsessively referred to and read from cover to cover as soon as the test was positive. My phone was an old Sony Ericsson one that pushed up the screen to reveal the keypad, had limited internet capacity which involved navigating an unresponsive cursor around with a fiddly button, and took about three weeks to load anything.
Fast forward four years and you would be considered some kind of societal outcast for not having a Smartphone of some description, at least some form of online identity in the form of a Facebook profile, Twitter account or blog (or all three, or more), and an over-reliance on a plethora of apps to micro-manage every aspect of your daily life from shopping to paying for your parking to tracking how far you’ve run (if at all – and then it tells you off).
One life event during which it could be argued apps are actually quite useful, however, is pregnancy. A functioning modern day phone or tablet of some description is all you need these days to leave that heavy book at home, avoid logging on to an unwieldy and slow computer, and enjoy an interactive experience which, in the case of the most well-designed and reputable apps, can inform, advise and entertain in equal measure.
How to choose, though, between the approximately 47,000 pregnancy apps on the Apple or Google Play stores? I’ve done a little research, which fortunately I needed to do for work anyway as we are looking into antenatal education.
Firstly, many of them are American, which is fine – pregnancy doesn’t do anything different over there – but the care women can expect to receive may differ significantly from the good old NHS, and the advice given may not always be appropriate. You also get referred to as ‘mom’ all the time.
Secondly, a lot of them come at a cost, albeit a relatively small one, so it’s up to you whether you want to fork out for use of the app past the first three months, which seems to be the done thing with some of them. On the flip side, the free ones tend to be free for a reason – they can be heavily sponsored or filled with sneaky advertising which could get mighty annoying after 40 weeks.
Thirdly, the content of the apps can vary considerably; whilst many follow the week-by-week format, offering info and advice, and possibly some pictures comparing your growing baby to a grape, peach or, horrors, a watermelon, others give you little added extras which make the app much more engaging and user friendly.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, which ones can you trust to give you important and reliable information?
I’ve recently been having a play with a brand new app, in my capacity as ‘health professional’, which is being developed by the charity Best Beginnings. Best Beginnings is dedicated to helping children and parents in the UK by aiming to give every baby the healthiest possible start in life, and have been working on the Baby Buddy app with mums, dads and health professionals to create an informative and useful addition to the vast library of titles already available. The app is free to download, contains no irritating advertising, and you can rest assured that all content in the app has been approved and endorsed by several organisations including the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – so you know you can trust it.
The main draw of Baby Buddy though is the fact that it is actually aimed at young parents and parents-to-be so has been designed with mums in mind who might require something more fun than a list of foods you shouldn’t be eating – the brilliance of this being that this actually makes it more fun for expectant mums of any age to use.
On first using the app you are invited to create your own personalised avatar – your ‘Buddy’ – who will guide you through your pregnancy as a trusted friend in your pocket. At 33 years of age, I ooh-ed and aah-ed as I chose a hairstyle, outfit and accessories for my Buddy, who ended up looking far more glamorous than I tend to do, and considerably more youthful.
Baby Buddy focuses on empowering parents, and young mothers particularly, to improve their health choices and wellbeing, and of course that of their baby. As well as increasing knowledge, improving confidence and enhancing bonding and attachment, the app reinforces the importance of accessing health services. The first version of the app covers the period through pregnancy to when the baby is six months old so it’s worth a look if you’re expecting or have a new little one. A lot of the midwives I network with on Twitter have been raving about it and have all been changing their profile pics to their Buddy in support of Best Beginnings so they must be doing something right!
Best Beginnings is keen to get lots of feedback for the app before the official Baby Buddy launch in November, and more features will be added soon, so please find out more on the Best Beginnings site if you’d like to help out at this early stage. The app is available on both Apple and Android.
Other pregnancy apps I suggest you might like to have a look at (not that I recommend them necessarily in case somebody wishes to sue at a later date):
- My Pregnancy by Bounty: This app has been developed by ‘parenting club’ (i.e. massive commercial operation) Bounty which may put some users off, but the content is endorsed by pregnancy charity Tommy’s, which I love, so this gets the thumbs up from me. As you might expect, there is some advertising but it is largely unobtrusive and the content is well thought out and user friendly. It is free to download and is available on Apple and Android.
- Pregnancy +: This is a beautifully designed app which looks great and contains lots of interactive features – however the free version is only available up to 13 weeks, at which point you need to upgrade to the paid version to continue to access everything and unlock some content. The cost of the full version is cheap though so may be worthwhile if you have enjoyed using the free one in the early weeks. There is also no advertising which is a bonus. Available on both Apple and Android.
- Glow Nurture: This is a new app which follows on in a similar vein to the existing Glow fertility app which enables women to monitor their monthly cycle through daily tracking of certain markers to maximise the chances of conception. Nurture is relatively basic compared to some of the all-singing, all-dancing paid-for apps, but it is free and still contains plenty of info. Its strength is its simple ‘daily log’ function which works well in the fertility app and acts as a helpful reminder for some important healthy pregnancy practices. Its downside is that it is American so, for UK users, the antenatal appointment info it pre-populates for you and some of the terminology used isn’t quite right for us. Currently only available on Apple.