The excitement of a pregnancy is fuelled by the unknown and profound changes that it brings to you and your family.
Filling in that information to make it a little less “unknown” can be a daunting task as you navigate from government department to non-profit organization to experienced family members and friends./
But, there is now an app for that.
Yukon Baby is a locally created app that sits in your hand – in your smart phone.
Download it for free, enter your first name and your due date and Yukon Baby will start by showing you how big your fetus is. For instance, at 23 weeks it will be the size of a grapefruit.
There will also be timely tips, such as, “Fried and greasy foods can worsen nausea.”
Then there is the Toolkit that can lead you to Resources, an Event Calendar, a Pregnancy Timeline and Pregnancy FAQ.
Frequently Asked Questions include Food and Nutrition, Activity and Exercise and Labour. But it also delves into the first weeks after birth with such topics as Breastfeeding, My Postpartum Body and Newborns.
Explore a little further and you can read about goopy eye, excess crying, proper positioning of the car seat and “What does normal baby poop look like?”
But this article isn’t just about how wonderful technology is (it is, and the download is free at both the Apple and Android App Stores) but, rather, how four Yukoners, each with expert and diverse skills, teamed up with a programmer Outside to create the Yukon Baby app.
It was at the Hacking Health North event, two years ago, that Dr. Chris Naylor pitched an idea to the weekend conference. The local physician had one minute to excite one or more of the fellow attendees to join his project to use technology to advance health in the Yukon.
Shannon Ryan, a genetic counsellor under contract with the Yukon Government, was already in touch and ready to join.
“How do you lower birth defects?” she asks from the Health Promotions Unit office in downtown Whitehorse, a space we borrowed for the interview. “Well, you have healthier pregnancies… that’s how I came onto this team.”
Kathleen Cranfield, a registered midwife, was in the audience and she felt she could contribute.
Then there was Katie Swales who literally wrote the book on resources for babies and their moms in the Yukon, called Healthy Beginnings. She is the coordinator of Partners for Children, a federally funded Community Action Program for Children that is sponsored by Yukon College.
“A whole community of us created this booklet,” Swales says.
But thousands of the first print run ended up in the recycling centre after one month because an organization had pulled many of its programs.
“I wanted it to be virtual and online so that it can be updated easily and the organizations themselves can update them,” says Swales.
A website was a possibility, but not every woman has ready access to a computer.
“But a majority of women have a smartphone,” says Ryan. “They may not have a lot of minutes on it or a lot of data, but they have a smartphone and they are on it.”
The final member of the team is Wes Wilson, a programmer from British Columbia with a medical background. He was at the Hacking Health North conference remotely and had heard the pitch.
“It was amazing how we all came together,” says Swales.
“All of these health professionals saw the need in isolation and we came to this place.”
“It was very synergistic,” says Ryan.
“Yeah, yeah, it was…” Swales starts.
“…it was coming together,” Ryan finishes.
Now, the hard work began. Just as an expectant mom searches all over for resources, this team of professionals searched all over for “content” for the Yukon Baby app.
The Healthy Beginnings booklet was a huge start. Then they found that three First Nations were working on an event calendar.
“That was awesome,” says Swales. “I was looking into it and it is expensive to do and they were in the process of doing it already.”
They were allowed to use it, so now they continued building on the app with meetings every couple of weeks, with Wilson joining in with his face looking out from a laptop sitting on a table.
“We tried to bring it all together in one place,” says Ryan.
“That is one of the determinants in health,” Swales explains, adding, “It was the Chaos Theory: there are no connections, just great things happening everywhere, and, good luck.”
To be accessible, though, it had to be free. So they explored funding opportunities and gained support from Yukon Government’s Health and Social Services, Partners for Children of Yukon College, Partenariat communauté en santé, Technology Innovation and Northwestel.
Last month, after two years, Yukon Baby was launched. But, “this is a living, breathing thing and it continues to evolve,” says Ryan. More interactive features will be added to make it fun and encourage people to go to it every day.
All of the information is vetted with federal standards and all of the information is in there regardless of varying opinions that may exist.
“We come from all perspectives,” says Ryan. “We try to make it as unbiased as possible by having all of these perspectives and that is a huge strength.
“These are the things you can discuss with your health provider.”
“This is the great equalizer,” Swales adds. “All pregnancies should have the same support.”
Now, they must get the word out further. Ads will appear on city buses, a banner will appear at the Canada Games Centre and there will be Google ads and Facebook ads.
And there will be meetings with First Nations, community health centres and pregnant women wherever they can be found.
Considering there are about 500 pregnant women in the Yukon at any one time, the team is happy with the approximately 140 downloads in its first month.