Iowa program promoting healthy pregnancies goes national with web app

By Aditi Pai
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CountTheKicksDes Moines, Iowa public health campaign Count the Kicks has added an interactive web app to its existing program, which aims to increase awareness about ways to avoid stillbirths and infant deaths.

Considerable changes in an infant's movement pattern while in the womb can help mothers identify potential problems before the baby's heart rate is affected, the website explains. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that parents record the time it takes to feel 10 kicks, jabs, turns, swishes, or rolls, but not hiccups. Healthy babies generally kick 10 times in less than 2 hours, but most babies will take less than 30 minutes.

The group was formed by five mothers who lost babies to infant or stillbirth death who turned this connection into a program, based off one that existed in Norway, to help other mothers monitor their baby's movement in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Count the Kicks chose to create the web app because of interest expressed from 20 other states and six other countries. The initiative received grants this year from Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Principal Financial Group Foundation and Polk County in order to finance app development.

“We want to reach moms wherever they’re at,” Outreach Coordinator Lezlie Mestdagh told the Business Record. “This will bring the program to them and take away cost barriers to expand the program beyond Iowa.”

Fetal death rates in Iowa have decreased significantly in recent years, according to a September 2013 survey from the Iowa Department of Health. While the launch of the Count the Kicks' website isn't necessarily the only factor involved in the drop, since the launch, the rate of fetal deaths dropped to 4.97 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009, from 5.74 in 2008, which was only .2 lower than the 2006 figure. Even more recently, in 2012, the Iowa Department of Health recorded 4.5 fetal deaths per 1,000 live births.

The web app requests a mother's pregnancy due date, age, ethnicity, number of prior pregnancies and number of healthy pregnancies. From there, it gives the mother a time range in which to start counting the baby's kicks. Finally, a chart that Count the Kicks provides allows mothers to record information and look out for any change over the coming weeks.

Text4Baby, another program that promotes health pregnancies, offers a texting service for mothers who want tips on how to stay healthy throughout their pregnancy and into their babys' first year. In May, Text4Baby added an educational video component and released results from a survey on the product that found 65 percent of women said Text4baby helped them remember an appointment or immunization, 74 percent said it informed them of medical warning signs they didn’t know, and 67 percent said they talked to their doctor about a topic from a Text4baby message.