Preliminary study results link app use to positive birth outcomes

Researchers at Des Moines University and The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement presented their preliminary results at the American Public Health Association Virtual Annual Meeting and Expo of a scientific research project that analyzed how the Count the Kicks® mobile app impacts birth outcomes among more than 1,200 women who used it during pregnancy. The project surveyed Count the Kicks® app users from 2015 to 2019 to learn about their experience using the app and differences between pregnancies in which they did not use the app compared to the their most recent pregnancy using the app. App users were more likely to contact their health care provider with concerns during the third trimester, and preliminary results show a reduced rate in stillbirth for the pregnancy in which they used the app compared to earlier pregnancies.

This is the first study that researchers know of to examine the relationship between a mobile app that tracks fetal movement and birth outcomes. It is helping Healthy Birth Day, Inc., analyze its Count the Kicks® stillbirth prevention campaign to better serve expecting parents.

Dr. Pamela A. Duffy, associate professor and vice chair of DMU’s department of public health, emphasized the importance of this public health research: “This project helped us better understand the significance of monitoring fetal movement as part of stillbirth prevention. We hope this study will be an important contribution to the scientific literature on kick counting and in the reduction of health disparities associated with stillbirth.”

Dr. Duffy was joined in this research by fellow researcher Dr. Lyndi Buckingham-Schutt of The Harkin Institute at Drake University, with Des Moines University student research assistants Benjamin Williamson and Ashley Armantrout. Kerry Biondi-Morlan, co-founder of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., provided subject matter expertise to the project. The study was funded, in part, by Healthy Birth Day, Inc.

For more information on the study, please contact Dr. Duffy at pam.duffy@dmu.edu or 515-271-7811. For media inquiries, please contact Emily Price, executive director of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., at 5155050319 or price.emily@healthybirthday.org.

In related news for health care providers: DMU’s continuing medical education program is offering an online educational guide to train health care professionals how to talk to their patients about fetal monitoring and help prevent stillbirths by using the evidence-based and non-invasive Count the Kicks® app. The cost of the course is $40, and it takes an estimated 90 minutes to complete. CME credit is available.

Des Moines University is the only private medical school in Iowa, offering graduate-level, professional degree programs in osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, health care administration, anatomy, biomedical sciences and public health. Founded in 1898, the institution offers superior academics in a collaborative environment. DMU students’ pass rates on national examinations and board certifications are consistently higher than national averages and the rates at similar institutions.

The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University exists to inform citizens, inspire creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity. Founded on the premise that good public policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants, The Harkin Institute offers programming, experiences, research, and connectivity focused on the areas that defined Senator Harkin’s career: labor and employment, people with disabilities, retirement security, and wellness and nutrition.

Healthy Birth Day, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that created the Count the Kicks® campaign in Iowa in 2008.  The mobile app is the hallmark tool of the Count the Kicks® public health campaign which empowers expectant parents to track their babies’ movements daily in the third trimester of pregnancy. Research shows a change in fetal movement can be the earliest and sometimes only indication that a baby is in distress in utero. More than 24,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth every year in the U.S., according to the CDC.

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