Pregnancy apps help moms-to-be monitor their growing babies

Expectant moms already look to mobile apps to tell them their baby’s size relative to a piece of fruit and to track how many kicks their little ones make throughout the day. But in a time of high stress and anxiety, many pregnant women may want a little extra bonding and peace of mind when it comes to their growing babies.

Here are two new mobile technologies that can help:

This wearable device comes in the form of a small sensor that sticks to a woman's belly and can detect, count and time contractions. Moms-to-be can track changes in contraction patterns via the Bloomlife app, which can help take the guesswork out of what contractions feel like. Irregular practice contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions, can occur any time after week 20 of pregnancy. Even the most seasoned mother can confuse Braxton Hicks contractions with real labor contractions. By tracking the frequency and duration of contractions through Bloomlife, women can see how true labor contractions—which occur at regular intervals and usually last around 30 seconds—are different from Braxton Hicks contractions, which don’t typically happen at regular intervals. According to the company, most users start wearing the device in the last six weeks of their pregnancy to gain early warning for when the baby is really on its way.

Cost: App is free to download, $149 for one month of service;

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Shell by Bellabeat
Shell by Bellabeat is a mobile phone add-on that allows women to hear their baby's heartbeat anywhere, anytime. To use the device, users attach the Shell to their iPhones and place it over their belly. The device comes with a speaker amplifier to boost the baby's heartbeat while an acoustic filter cuts out ambient noise, which allows mother’s to safely listen to a fetal heartbeat. The company recommends listening to your baby's heartbeat from week 30 of your pregnancy but in some instances, if the baby is still and in a convenient position, it may be possible to hear the heartbeat from the 25th week. Users can record up to one minute of sound using the Shell app and then can share their baby's heartbeat with friends and family through email, text message and even social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  The Bellabeat website states that the add-on should be used to enhance bonding and is not intended to be used for medical purposes— a baby’s movement is the best indication of his/her health.

Cost: App is free to download, $69 for the device;

Mothers-to-be should remember that devices and apps are not intended to replace the advice of their physician and regular check-ups.