Technology is invading our uteri, but in a good way.
Bellabeat is a Y Combinator startup bringing the quantified self movement to pregnancy. It has built a “home monitoring system,” consisting of a $129 device that connects to a smartphone app women can use to track and share their unborn baby’s heartbeat and various other “activities.” The company is now bringing its products to the U.S. market.
“Modern parents are active on social and mobile networks, and new needs and trends of analyzing and sharing the data with the loved ones have appeared,” cofounder Sandro Mur told VentureBeat. “We want to offer them an engaging, social, and comfortable at-home experience in pregnancy and enable them to track, observe, and share their experience.”
Through Bellabeat’s device, women can hear, record, and share their baby’s heartbeat; monitor their baby’s movement and development; track and analyze their pregnancy weight gain; organize prenatal care, and calculate relevant dates throughout the pregnancy.
The startup also built a social platform called Bellabeat Global that lets pregnant women interact, share experiences and information, and create an “organized and social pregnancy diary.” All this uploaded data will be compiled into data visualizations and infographics.
Bellabeat cofounder Urska Srsen’s mother (Dr. Tanja Premru-Srsen) is a OB/GYN specialist. She was working with Mur to develop a home pregnancy monitoring system for clinics, and in testing the product, the two realized how “sterile” the pre-natal care can be.
Urska Srsen and Mur saw the need to create a better experience. The rise of mobile phones, the quantified self-movement, the wealth of informational resources on the Internet, and advancements in health tech have opened up a glimmering array of opportunities for at-home healthcare.
The uterus has become a hotbed for tech innovation (yes, I realize how creepy that sounds). Pregnancy-related costs are the number one driver of hospital costs at $86 billion a year, and a number of apps and devices target pregnant women and those trying to conceive.
ABC News found that Google Play and the App Store contain around 1,000 pregnancy apps and cited a report from ByteMobile that found, on average, 47 percent of total mobile subscribers using one or more health app are using a pregnancy-related app.
BabyBump tracks what symptoms you might be feeling; Sprout offers 3-D interactives of the fetus, its organs, limbs, and facial features; My Pregnancy Today and I’m Pregnant feature week-by-week guides; and there is also I’m Expecting, Happy Pregnancy Pregnancy Assistant, iPregnancy, WebMD’s pregnancy app, and so on.
Wildflower Health is a mobile platform that helps pregnant women track milestones customized to their due date, be aware of risk factors, and take personalized actions. Like Mur and Srsen, cofounder Leah Sparks said she founded the company after realizing how unpleasant the healthcare system could be for a pregnant woman.
“I worked in health care for a decade, but pregnancy was the first time I dealt with the health care system as a patient,” she said. “It opened my eyes to gaps in terms of resources available and risks.”
Of all these pregnancy apps, though, Bellabeat is the only one with a device to collect data on heartbeats and movements.
“Right now there are other hardware products for listening to your baby’s heartbeat that provide information only locally and don’t offer any context of the data received or sharing the data with other people. There are also other simple pregnancy apps that offer general information and don’t provide much information specifically related to your pregnancy,” Mur said. “We’re connecting it all into one connected system and providing much more focus on individual pregnancy. We give moms-to-be a tool for self tracking and help them with understanding the data they’re collecting.”
The goal is to cut down on the time women have to spend in clinical environments and empower them to manage their health from home. This cuts down on cost and anxiety levels as well.
We are seeing this trend — of devices enabling at-home healthcare — in other areas as well. CellScope makes a smartphone attachment that can snap images of middle ears, which saves trips to the doctor for kids’ ear infections. Scanadu broke crowdfunding records for its “medical tricorder” that lets people track their vitals at home.
Bellabeat was first founded as Babywatch. It is based in Mountain View, Calif., with an office in Zagreb, Croatia.