Bellabeat raises $4.5M to launch smartphone-enabled, fetal monitor device

By Aditi Pai
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BellabeatMountain View, California-based pregnancy tracking company Bellabeat raised $4.5 million from SVAngel, CrunchFund, Universal Music Group and angel investors.

With the Bellabeat device, pregnant women can listen to and record their babies' heartbeat and track other aspects of their pregnancy from the companion app, including movement, kicks, and prenatal care. The device is available for $129 from the Bellabeat website and comes with a gel to use when listening to the heartbeat. The companion app is free and compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

So far Bellabeat has sold 12,000 devices and has seen over 100,000 downloads of the app.

In the next few months, Bellabeat plans to add new features to the app, launch a new device, and add integration for care providers.

"The wants and the needs of modern moms have changed drastically," Bellabeat CEO Urska Srsen told MobiHealthNews. "Since a lot of them are in the quantified self movement, they are already tracking a lot of their health or fitness progress, but they don't know much about self tracking during pregnancy. What we've learned is they are a generation of patients used to sharing experiences and emotions online with their loved ones. That is becoming a widely important part of prenatal care, which is an emotional and exciting process." 

Some new tracking features for the Bellabeat system could include blood pressure tracking, mood tracking, and activity tracking. While the app currently allows users to insert the data manually from blood pressure devices or scales that they have, the company plans to integrate its own heart wave devices in the future too.

So far, Bellabeat has offered physician-to-patient communication on the app to three clinics in the US and one in the UK although they have not officially launched the provider-facing service yet. The ability to connect with physicians is also partially integrated into the existing app so that Bellabeat can test these features. Srsen said Bellabeat will start with simple communication between care provider and patient and slowly build that up to data sharing.

"In our experience, expectant mothers download just about every [app] that is available to them," Srsen said. "There is so much information and it can also be unreliable. That's why a lot of care providers have trouble with pregnancy apps -- because they fear that [the apps] will lead their patients to wrong conclusions or offer them misleading information. So that's why we see that it's very important that we work with care providers so we are able to provide patients with reliable information."

Bellabeat also plans to make the transition from helping a mother with her pregnancy to helping a mother after the baby is born.

"So far this market is very fragmented," Srsen said. "So first it's fertility, then it's natal and then it's neonatal. We'd like to make this soft transition to neonatal which is focusing on the mother."

The website also warns users of some risks when using the device.

The company advises users to put their smartphones in airplane mode so that "there is no signal transmission while listening to baby's heartbeat". Bellabeat's website also explains that doctors might be concerned that if a mother uses a tool to hear her unborn baby's heartbeat, she may delay seeking medical help because of the reassurance from the sounds they hear on a fetal heart monitor.

"People who do not have this training may mistakenly interpret the sounds of blood flow through the placenta or the mother's pulse as a healthy fetal heartbeat," the website explains. "Doctors further advise women to trust their own instincts in regards to fetal movement and seek medical assistance when they are concerned there is a problem."

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