If there’s ever a time in a person’s life when she wants to keep tabs on everything that’s going on with her body, it’s while she’s pregnant. Every inch added to her waistline, pound gained, heartbeat she hears, and kick she feels is something to be monitored and celebrated.
But even as the quantified self movement has become mainstream for counting steps and tracking calories, many expectant mothers still largely rely on their doctor appointments to chart out the progress of the lives growing inside of them.
Bellabeat, a startup in the current Winter 2014 class of Y Combinator, wants to help change that by providing a “connected system” that enables mothers to track their pregnancies on their own, while in between doctor visits. Today the startup is launching its first product, a $129 pocket-sized digital ultrasound tool that connects to a smartphone app to let women hear, record, and share their babies’ heartbeat.
Bellabeat’s mobile app, which is available on both iPhone and Android, also lets women easily track important data such as weight gain, nutrition, and fetal movements through a “kick counter.” There is also a social component for connecting with other expectant moms and sharing their stories.
Bellabeat co-founder and COO Urska Srsen told me in an interview this week that the goal of Bellabeat’s system is to give pregnant women the data and feedback they crave while in between doctor visits — and to make the visits they do have more satisfying and productive. During a healthy pregnancy, Srsen says, visits to the doctor can often seem short and unsatisfying for the patient because “from the doctor’s perspective, being pregnant is not a disease. It is a normal state. But for the woman, being pregnant is so exciting, and she wants to know everything that she can right away,” she said.
Bellabeat’s goal is to bridge that gap. “We want for patients to be more calm, and for the relationship between doctor and patient to be more fluid and communicative.”
There is also a cost saving component at play. “In the United States, we spend $98 billion each year on pregnancy and childbirth. That is a huge amount of money,” Srsen says. “Some doctors’ appointments are just for checking blood pressure, weight, and making sure the heartbeat is still there. If we could enable women to do some small routine exams at home, that could reduce the cost of healthcare so much.” The company’s longer term vision is to expand into more remote medical patient tracking tools, but for the time being, Bellabeat’s full focus is on the pregnancy space.
In terms of competition, Srsen says that on one side, there is the world of mommy blogs, pregnancy web forums, and simple pregnancy apps; on the other side, there is a market that includes hardware for checking your own vital signs. “We bring it all together and make it all easy to analyze and process,” she says.
It’s one of those ideas that makes so much sense, it’s a wonder that more Silicon Valley startups aren’t tackling it right now. It will be exciting to see how Bellabeat grows in the months ahead.
Here’s a video that shows Bellabeat in action: