Can I trust pregnancy apps?

There are hundreds of pregnancy apps available and they can be fun to use. But it’s important that they are not used as a replacement for evidence-based antenatal care or medical guidance from your midwife or doctor.

Pregnancy apps offer lots of different features. Some  are designed to help you know when you are ovulating, while others try to help you track your pregnancy. Some include week-by-week pregnancy guides, tips, news feeds, baby name ideas and even photo albums to document your growing bump.

Your baby’s health

Some pregnancy apps claim to help you hear your baby’s heartbeat. At Tommy’s, we believe that features like this can be dangerous because they are not a reliable way of monitoring your baby’s health.

Unless you are medically trained, it is easy to confuse the pulsing of the placenta with the baby’s heartbeat. That’s why only a midwife, doctor or health professional who has received special training and knows what to listen and look for can accurately monitor your baby’s heartbeat.

In the worst-case scenario, if a mother is falsely reassured by an app telling her that her baby’s heart is beating, she may not feel she needs to visit her local labour ward. Tragically, this may lead to the loss of that baby’s life.

Your baby’s health will be monitored as part of your routine antenatal care or at an early pregnancy unit or hospital if you have any concerns.

“I learned never to rely on apps for information. I would say to any pregnant woman that if there are any concerns regarding the welfare of your baby always phone your midwife or hospital for advice, even if it’s just for reassurance.”

Mia

Monitoring your baby’s movements

The only way to know your baby is well is to get to know your baby’s normal kicks and movements. You may feel your baby move as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, but most women usually feel something between 18 and 24 weeks. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not notice your baby’s movements until you are more than 20 weeks  pregnant.

Some apps claim to help you monitor these. The only app that we would recommend for this is the Kicks Count app, which is endorsed by the NHS. It is specifically designed to help you get to know your baby’s regular pattern of movement. Unlike many other available apps, the Kicks Count doesn't stop counting at 10.

Remember, there is no set number of movements you need to feel in a day, the important thing is to get to know your baby’s regular pattern. 

“I learned my rainbow baby's normal movement pattern (there was always a 2pm dance party!). when I hadn't felt her move as much as normal, I called my local hospital who always took me seriously and asked me to come in for monitoring to check on the health of my baby.”

Rosie

Contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately if you think your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or changed.

Read more about how to track your baby’s movements.  

Can I use home dopplers instead?

Hand-held dopplers are pocket-sized, battery-operated devices that send out high-frequency ultrasound waves. There's usually a handset, a built-in speaker and a transducer that's placed against your bump. The ultrasound waves pass through your skin and tissue, and then bounce back. This bounce is then translated into sound.

We do not advise you to use home dopplers. Without medical training, it’s possible to confuse your own heartbeat or pulsing of the placenta with the baby’s heartbeat.

It is also very difficult to listen to the baby’s heartbeat before about 14–16 weeks. If you are unable to hear it, this may cause lots of unnecessary panic and anxiety.

No regulation

There is little regulation of apps and devices, and the claims they make. There is often no way of knowing if the technology has been tested, how it's been tested and whether any health professionals have been involved. 

Nothing can replace a mother’s instinct and what she feels in pregnancy or the professional support from medically trained doctors and midwives. Although they can be fun to use, it’s important not to rely on apps or dopplers to reassure you about your baby’s health.

 

    Last reviewed on April 8th, 2020. Next review date April 8th, 2023.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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