Pregnant women sought to test new app

05 April 2017

Pregnancy is a time of continuous change – not just physical, but social and emotional. There is so much going on, and there is no lack of information, advice, and strong opinions whirling around the mother-to-be.

While this is exciting, it can also be stressful.  There are dozens of books, websites, and apps out there that will tell you how big your baby is, what to eat, and all the possible complications that might occur. But there is much less about the thoughts and feelings that arise, how to handle the worries, shifts in relationships, and hassles of pregnancy, and how to use the time during pregnancy to build resilience and plan a healthy future for the whole family.

Well, now there is an app for that.  A team in the University of Waikato’s School of Psychology, headed by Dr Carrie Cornsweet Barber, have been working for the last three years to develop ‘Positively Pregnant’ – an app for pregnant women.

Positively Pregnant includes tools for self-assessment, taking inventory of strengths, stressors, support, strategies for coping, health behaviours, and more.  From each of these, the woman receives feedback with links to New Zealand resources and information.  Other modules are guides for talking or thinking about plans for things like baby care, the birth, finances, and family traditions.  There are activities for relaxation, affirmation, journaling, and just taking a break, and information on all sorts of topics related to the social and emotional side of pregnancy.

“Many of the activities and principles underlying the app come from the growing field of positive psychology – how we can use what we know about behaviour, emotions, and people’s habits of thought to enhance emotional and physical wellbeing and provide people the tools and ideas they need to find their own path to thrive,” says Dr Barber.

The development of Positively Pregnant has been financially supported by the University of Waikato, the TalkingTech Foundation, and by Waikato DHB’s perinatal mental health service. It has also benefited from collaboration and input from local midwives, antenatal educators, psychologists, and other professionals who support families.  The app will ultimately be freely available in New Zealand, and the team plans to develop extensions and versions for postnatal mums, their partners, and possibly for fertility patients.

Positively Pregnant is currently being pilot tested in the Waikato. “The goal of the pilot is to see how women use the app, to get feedback and suggestions from them, and to see if there are changes in their stress, distress, and health behaviours while using Positively Pregnant,” says Dr Barber.

“One of the advantages of an app over something like a book is that the app can be tailored to the particular needs of the mother – there can easily be different versions, individualised for the user,” she says.

In this pilot, the team are especially interested in including women under 20 and Māori and migrant women, in order to get their input and ideas about tailoring the app to their interests. Any woman who lives in or near Hamilton, is at least 16 years old, in the first half of pregnancy (before 22 weeks, so she has plenty of time to use the app before the baby is born) and who uses a smart phone (either Android or iPhone) is eligible to participate. The team is looking to recruit up to 60 women and will follow them through to a month after the baby is born.

For more information or to volunteer, email [email protected]

For more information about what is involved in participating in the study, visit their website or find them on Facebook @positivelypregnantapp.

Photo caption: The University of Waikato team behind the development of 'Positively Pregnant', the new app for pregnant women.