How a free app saved this baby's life

Baby Ruby, stronger and healthier after 20 days in NICU.
Baby Ruby, stronger and healthier after 20 days in NICU.  

Pregnant women are often told by their obstetrician to count their baby's kicks, as a way of ensuring their baby is healthy and happy in the later stages of pregnancy.

Now a new app Count the Kicks is taking the hard work out of keeping track of baby in utero – and it's saving lives.

Count the Kicks helps you keep track of your baby's activity every day, and records the patterns to be measured against future activity. So you can see if your baby have become less active way before you'd otherwise notice.

US mum Emily Eekhoff believes that Count the Kicks saved her baby daughter's life.

"I haven't let my mind go there," Emily told WHOTV. "They could have been burying our baby instead."

Emily was 33 weeks pregnant with her second child when the app helped her to notice her baby's activity had slowed down. "We were a little scared that things weren't right," she said.

Emily and her husband went straight to the hospital, where doctors discovered the umbilical cord had wrapped around their baby's neck three times. Usually, if the cord is wrapped once around a baby's neck it doesn't present much of a danger, but three times (and tight) is potentially fatal.

Emily was admitted for an emergency caesarean, and baby girl Ruby was born that day. Being born at just 33 weeks, Ruby needed to spend 20 days in intensive care to get strong and healthy, but she is now at home with her family.

"I think God was looking out for us that day, and we had tools to know when to come in and get help when we needed it," Emily told USA Today.

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Count the Kicks is program created by five Iowa women who each lost a baby to stillbirth. They've made it their mission to save others from a similar fate by encouraging them to monitor their babies' activity during pregnancy – tracking how long it takes them to feel 10 kicks.

"When you and I don't feel well we move less," said Emily Price, executive director of the organisation in a news conference. "We want to lie on the couch or in bed and not move. It's the same thing with babies. When they are not feeling well, they move less. Sometimes kick counting is the only indication – and the earliest indication – that something is wrong in there."

Emily estimates around 3000 expectant mothers are downloading the app every month. In Iowa, where the group is based, and where the app is most popular, there has been a 26 per cent decline in stillbirths in the past five years.

In Australia, a baby is stillborn every four hours. It's a statistic most of us never have to think about, but for one in one hundred expectant parents, pregnancy results in the death of their baby. This app offers a helping hand in helping to save more of those babies.

The Count the Kicks app is free. You can download Count the Kicks for iOS, android and desktop.