Bluetooth enabled baby products are popping up everywhere. It’s like there’s an app for everything: monitoring newborn sleep patterns and tracking baby weight. Even creating a detailed history of baby’s diapers. Well now, smart technology has expanded into pregnancy. Pregnant women have traditionally relied on their own gut when it comes to timing contractions. Bloom Technologies is about to change all that with Belli, a personalized pregnancy coach. Belli hasn’t officially debuted in the online marketplace, but we were able to gain early access and get a peek at how Belli will be changing life for expectant mothers.
What is Belli and how does it work?
Belli is a wearable device that measures contractions in pregnant women. Most women start using it in the third trimester when contractions become more likely. It uses a compatible app so users can rest a little easier by always knowing what is going on inside their bodies. The goal of the device is to measure frequency and duration of contractions, so women no longer have to guess at what they are experiencing. I consider myself the typical user of the Belli. Throughout my pregnancy, I was always worrying about how I would know if I was having contractions, how I would properly time them, and ultimately when it would be time to make the trip to the hospital. It all seemed like a grey area to me and I was very thankful to have the Belli along to help out.
According to Bloom Technologies, Belli works by measuring the electrical activity of your uterus, similar to how a cardiac monitor works. It is completely safe and does not transmit energy into the body like an ultrasound. It’s special algorithm detects contractions and automatically counts them for you. This information can help you decide when it might be a good time to head to the hospital or give your OB a call. Belli has big plans for the future to not only measure contractions, but also track stress, sleep, kick counts, and activity levels. Soon it will be your one stop shop for all you need to know about how your pregnancy is progressing.
It sounds great in theory, but does it actually work?
Bloom Technologies has taken steps to ensure the accuracy of your data. According to their website, they have benchmarked their contraction detection against hospital grade systems in each of three clinical trials. Their studies have shown it can track contractions as accurately as what you would find in the hospital. Neat, huh? They do have a disclaimer that their product is to be used solely to gather information, not as a diagnostic tool. You would think that would be fairly intuitive, but of course sometimes it just needs to be said. So moral to the story, it’s great for home use, but can’t replace your doctor.
My experience with Belli
Setting it up
I started using Belli toward the end of pregnancy week 36. When it first arrived, I was impressed with the packaging. It’s inventive and playful. I’m very pro bright packaging and products that introduce themselves to me (see image below). Inside the box I was given a Belli sensor with compatible charging cable, Belli patches, and an instruction guide. The instructions were to the point and easy to follow. You start by charging your Belli device to ensure its ready for business. Then you apply the Belli device to one of the supplied Belli patches. Next, stick it on your clean, dry belly (about 3 inches down from your belly button). And last, sync it with the app and start gathering data. The device itself will show through your shirt if you are wearing something tight, so I would like to see something a bit smaller, but I don’t know how realistic that is.
One thing I really liked about using Belli is the patches are reusable. You don’t have to apply a new one every time you want to take it on and off. And they last about 3 days or until you need to recharge the device.
When/how long to wear it
One of the things that wasn’t as intuitive to me was when you are supposed to be wearing Belli. After asking when it is commonly used, I found out it’s really up to the person. Some women wear it all the time, some just want to see what’s happening at night, and some only when they start feeling things and are curious. So I understand why they don’t provide information on how long to keep Belli attached, but I would have liked some guidance as far as a typical experience because I was completely unsure how to get the most out of it. For the record, I ended up wearing mine mostly in the evenings and at night while sleeping. I did notice when I wore it all day and night the battery only lasted a couple days, so if you want to save on battery life, think about limiting its usage to certain periods each day.
Interpreting the data
There are some pros and cons with the data you will receive from Belli. For the most part, it’s very clear what the device is picking up. It shows you how many contractions you had in an hour, how long they last on average, and the average duration between contractions. Sounds simple enough. Where I struggled was how to use this information to make decisions as you currently can’t tell the difference between braxton hicks and the real deal.
For instance, at one point I was seeing about 7 contractions an hour, lasting around 2 minutes each, and 5:30 minutes apart. That’s pretty close to when they tell you to go in to the hospital because you’re in labor. Well I knew I wasn’t because I had zero pain and it was week 37, but is there a clear way to determine that aside from using your instincts? After speaking with Belli, here is what I found out:
“What doctors recommend is looking for regular contractions that are getting closer together and lasting for about a minute (see this post by ACOG). Braxton Hicks contractions are usually very irregular and don’t take on a pattern (long/short contractions that aren’t evenly spaced out). At the end of the day, you should definitely take into consideration other things about how you are feeling. Honestly, the best goal for us would be that Belli can help train you to be in tune with your body when the big day arrives and it’s time to make that decision, you can 100% trust your instinct.”
After learning more about its intended purpose, I was able to better use the data in a way that helped me make decisions. I would have many braxton hicks contractions close together followed by a period of nothing, so I knew I wasn’t in labor. But it was nice to know how braxton hicks felt and whether they were becoming more frequent.
Who will get the most out of Belli
In my opinion, this product is made for first time mothers. When I would go to the doctor and she would ask if I was having any contractions, I would just stare at her. I was a newbie and had no idea what things felt like. It was hard for me to determine whether I was feeling the baby push or a braxton hicks contraction. It also made me feel ignorant for not knowing the difference. After using Belli, I could see in real time when I was having a braxton hicks contraction, so I was a little more relaxed about what I was feeling. I didn’t have a typical experience at home. My water broke and my contractions didn’t start in earnest until I got to the hospital. But when I watched the patterns on the hospital monitor, I could see how they differed from what I saw on Belli with braxton hicks. For first time mothers in a similar position, I would highly recommend you give Belli a try. How often you wear it is up to you, but it will help you to feel more relaxed about your baby’s arrival day.
While Belli hasn’t officially launched, you can sign up for early access. Just visit their website and click “get early access” in the top navigation. Currently, they charge $29/week to rent the device and you can choose when you want to get started.