An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that Expectful charges $18 a month for access to videos and guided meditations. The site charges $9 a month. The story has been updated.
Pregnancy and new parenthood can be overwhelming for plenty of reasons. There’s a deluge of health information to digest for both mom and baby, decisions to be made regarding which gear to get (because there is so much gear out there), and confusing pop culture messages to freak out over (Get everything done before the baby comes but take time to pamper yourself and don’t forget to hatch a plan for dropping that baby weight immediately after delivering!).
For years, websites such as BabyCenter and WhatToExpect.com have provided solid how-to and week-by-week information, in addition to forums for expecting/new parents. But a new genre of sleek apps and sites is emerging, making the old offerings seem staid and outdated. Catering to current trends, such as increased dad involvement, mindfulness and customizable virtual services, the new options are using technology and Instagram-inspired aesthetics to support young parents in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed — on demand and in style.
If you live in a location with access to women-empowering, holistic well-being services, you might be all set. But if not, Mama Glow offers virtual lifestyle and nutrition coaching to support couples from the time they are trying to conceive, through pregnancy, and into the fourth trimester. Options include a customized pre-conception detox (for individuals or couples) that takes into account lifestyle factors such as your diet and stress levels, and counseling to help beat cravings by balancing your body’s nutrients. After delivery, Mama Glow offers virtual access to breast-feeding and sleep experts, or self-care and meditation programs. Founder Latham Thomas is a graduate of Columbia University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She’s also a certified doula and yoga teacher — so she and her team have the holistic approach covered.
“Google the weather, not your symptoms” is Maven’s tagline, and this complete women’s tele-health app is trying to make that easy. “Women spend a lot of time talking about their health,” says founder Kate Ryder. “But so often there’s hearsay and misinformation passed around.” The rampant online searching, self-diagnosing and treating only makes things worse, adds Ryder. Maven connects patients to vetted doctors and health-care specialists (including OB/GYNs, nutritionists, physical therapists, lactation and sleep consultants and mental health practitioners), in addition to offering forums where women can ask questions and connect with one another. Use it to determine whether you have a problem that needs immediate, in-person attention, or use it for a second opinion. If your inquiry might result in a prescription being issued, choose a provider in your state because they’ll be able to contact your pharmacy directly. If not, choose any practitioner (their profiles list their specialties, including fertility, pre/postnatal health, toilet training, infant health, etc., and also include a video bio) available at your desired time — which makes the app useful for those living far from home or abroad. Follow-up appointments can be booked with the same health-care provider to forge an ongoing patient/provider relationship. It’s also possible to book appointments “anonymously,” meaning providers won’t be able to see your name or any information in your health profile (however, prescriptions cannot be issued during anonymous appointments). Ten minutes with a doctor or nurse is $35; 10 minutes with a nurse practitioner or midwife is $18; 45 minutes with a mental health specialist is $70; 20 minutes with a doula or lactation consultant is $25.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 52 percent of women who have been pregnant report increased anxiety or depression during pregnancy. Meditation has been shown to help with both anxiety and depression. In addition, research has shown that women who know self-hypnosis have easier, less painful deliveries. That’s why Expectful is out to get more women meditating while pregnant. “There’s a lot of talk about well-being for women during pregnancy, but not a lot of it mentions mental well-being, which is an important part,” says Chief Executive Officer and founder Mark Krassner, who started Expectful as a tribute to his mother, who experienced difficult times during pregnancy and early motherhood. Expectful is also out to bust the myth that meditating is hard or that you have to do it the “right” way for it to be beneficial. “Attempting to do it is doing it,” says Krassner. For $9 a month, users have access to videos and guided meditations (voice only, no images) that are organized by trimester and that tackle specific topics, including getting better sleep and connecting with your partner. Most topics have both 10- and 20-minute options. “We’re not out to preach a specific approach to pregnancy,” says Krassner. “We just believe in the power of meditation to help anyone — including pregnant women — tune into their own intuition and tune out the cacophony of confusing messages that bombard all of us from so many sources.”
What do pregnant women want? Information. When do they want it? On demand. And what’s what the new app Baby2Body offers. With three levels (free, premium for $4.99 monthly, and all-access for $55 for the duration of your pregnancy and four months after delivery), Baby2Body offers everything from daily tips (such as recipes and infographics) to programmable reminders (Drink that water and do those Kegels!) and Listen & Do podcasts (such as guided meditations). There’s also a place for jotting down all the questions you want to ask your health-care provider at your next appointment, so that everything is in one place. Plus, the tips, recipes, podcasts and other content on the app can be bookmarked for easy retrieval. Only the all-access level, however, includes on-demand videos that feature expert sources discussing topics such as birthing techniques, sleep issues and breast-feeding. The videos can be watched multiple times and shared with a partner to foster involvement and understanding of what the mom-to-be is experiencing at each phase of pregnancy.
What if Google screened all your searches for baby stuff — and only showed you items that match your personal style? That’s exactly what Gugu Guru does. “Advice about what to buy from a friend who had a baby a few years ago isn’t really useful now that things change so quickly,” explains Gugu Guru founder Monica Banks. “Plus, just because your best friend liked an item doesn’t mean that you will.” Upon registering, users select mood boards that best match their ideal nursery, personal style and the way they envision dressing their baby. Using that information, the site then suggests products that best fit your aesthetic. As users accept or reject selections, the site gets smarter about preferences and rethinks its suggestions. Once a registry is created, it can be shared (just in case anyone wants to buy you a baby gift). Most important, brands can’t pay to have their products listed — they’re all hand selected and categorized by the Gugu team.
It seems like there’s a website or book out there for everything related to having a baby except how to make the transition back to work easier. In fact, when Mindful Return founder Lori Mihalich-Levin returned to her job as an attorney, she noticed many of the other mothers of young children venting, bonding and sharing. “There was a lot of ‘Me too!’ interaction happening,” Mihalich-Levin recalls. “It was really powerful.” And yet, it was untapped. That motivated her to create an e-course that walks women through some of the issues they’ll face while trying to figure out a work/life balance that suits their families. Split into four units that can be explored on demand, the course aims to get moms taking stock of what they’ve learned from child bearing and early motherhood, how they envision their expanded family working, and how to stay in a community with other mothers. “Our goal is to help you distill your own priorities and help you leverage what you already have going for you,” explains Mihalich-Levin.
Which is kind of Parenting 101, isn’t it?
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty.” She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and New York City. Find her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich.
You might also be interested in: