Pregnancy, especially the first time around, can be a bewildering time. "Is this hip pain normal? Can I really not eat Brie? And what is the baby doing in there, taking tap-dancing lessons?" are just a few questions that might come up.
A plethora of pregnancy apps promise answers and support during this life-changing time. Our favorite (as reviewed by someone in her third trimester) is WebMD Pregnancy (iOS). This app, created by the popular medical reference website, includes most of the features a pregnant woman could want, including information on week-by-week development, a checklist of suggested questions for prenatal visits, a weight tracker and kick counter, and even a contraction timer, for once labor begins.
The most important criteria we considered when picking our favorite pregnancy app were the quality of information and the information sources. WebMD's "Pregnancy 101" section draws on expertise from doctors, and the articles in the app are either reviewed by MDs, or include footnotes from medical sources to explain where the information originated. The "Pregnancy 101" section is organized into categories including "Your Baby Week-by-Week," "You Week-by-Week" and "Getting Ready for Baby," as well as information on nutrition, exercise and prenatal tests. The graphics in the week-by-week sections are well done, with little buttons to click for factoids about that stage of pregnancy.
The app is uncluttered and easy to navigate, with a home screen showing illustrations of fetal development based on the user's due date. There are checklists that can help you make sure you have the needed supplies for the new baby, nursery and postpartum-care, as well as an appointment calendar and an album to snap and store belly photos. One nice feature is a symptom tracker, where expecting moms can enter pregnancy symptoms and their severity day by day. Both the kick counter and contraction timer are easy to use.
And it's not all medical — WebMD covers the emotional side of pregnancy as well. The app includes a journal feature with prompts for entries, not unlike a virtual baby book. Moms-to-be can record how they found out about their pregnancy, who they told and memories such as the first view of the baby on the ultrasound and their birth stories. All of the entries can then be exported via email for safe backup. Mom can complete the journal entries at her leisure, or fill them in week by week in response to specific prompts on the home screen.
The WebMD app also includes a small section of articles, called "Just for Dads," which discusses ways to support a pregnant partner, a dad's role in labor and the transition to parenthood. Expecting twins? The WebMD app can be customized to give you information specific to pregnancies of multiples. The app is free.
One feature WebMD's pregnancy app does lack is a social component. This might be a blessing or a curse — many women report getting support from baby "birth month" clubs on online forums, but arguments and judgmental comments can run rampant on these message boards. If you can shrug off the drama and want the opportunity to chat with other moms and moms-to-be, your best bet is another free app: My Pregnancy Today (iOS, Android), by BabyCenter.
My Pregnancy Today's layout is a bit more cluttered than WebMD's, but the app is chock-full of videos, articles and even healthy recipes for meals during pregnancy and breastfeeding. We liked BabyCenter's videos of real women experiencing childbirth in different ways, including women who didn't use any pain medications, women who had an epidural and women who underwent a cesarean section. However, the articles within this app can be frustratingly vague in their sourcing and recommendations. For example, one article on eating peanuts during pregnancy cites three doctors, each of whom offers different and contradictory recommendations. Pregnant women may come away feeling more confused than informed.
Under its Tools menu, the My Pregnancy Today app offers pregnancy and baby-registry checklists, a kick tracker and contraction timer, and a "bumpie" feature for saving photos of your growing belly. For some, a big draw will be the BabyCenter community, where moms can share frustrations, ask about symptoms and look for advice. These message boards are very active and appear to be better moderated than some of the forums on other apps we tried.
Other good apps
If WebMD and BabyCenter aren't your style, there are many, many other options available. The following apps aren't quite as comprehensive as our top pick and runner-up, but they have their own strengths.
I'm Expecting (iOS, Android) is possibly the most adorable baby app. The home screen is adorned with precious newborn photos that will have moms-to-be forgetting to worry about the sleepless nights ahead. It sounds like a small thing, but amid the aches, pains and worry that can come with pregnancy, the photos are quite a lovely reminder of the upsides of pregnancy and having a newborn. I'm Expecting also features detailed weekly videos on fetal development and pregnancy. You can track your pregnancy weight, baby info and measurements, and baby bump. One of our favorite features was the symptom-tracker calendar. Simply tap the date and enter pregnancy symptoms and their severity. It's a nice visual way to see how pregnancy is progressing.
I'm Expecting is a free app, and includes community forums based on the month when you are due, or on your age — breakdowns not offered by other apps. It does not, however, include a contraction tracker.
Pregnancy ++ (iOS, Android) is another app with a gorgeous design. A dreamy, animated fetus with a golden glow floats behind the information on the home screen, and the menu options are easy to navigate. Like other pregnancy apps, this $3.99 option allows you to track your pregnancy daily and weekly, make checklists and appointment reminders, and count kicks. The big strength of Pregnancy++ is that you can see images of real fetuses from every week of pregnancy. You can choose to view fetal development as a computer animation, a 2D ultrasound scan or a 3D ultrasound scan.
This app offers no community forums, but there is a section on baby naming, which lists popular names not only in the United States, but worldwide.
Sprout Pregnancy (iOS, Android) costs $3.99, though Sprout Pregnancy Lite gives free access to the full app for a two-week trial period. The week-by-week graphics are attractive, and all of the basic tools are there: A kick counter, a contraction timer, hospital bag checklists and a doctor visit planner, where you can add questions for your provider. The app is pretty bare-bones (there are no community forums or above-and-beyond features) for one that comes with a $3.99 price tag, but it's easy to navigate and a solid choice.
BabyBump's free app (iOS, Android) will get you a daily pregnancy tip, week-by-week pregnancy and fetal development information, a daily journal for measuring symptoms, cravings, body weight and personal memories, and access to community forums. The advantage of BabyBump's forums is that they are broken out into support groups for specific situations, such as military families, high-risk pregnancies and even a dads-only community. To get the full suite of features — including a kick counter, contraction timer and tools for picking a baby name and making a birth plan — you'll have to upgrade to BabyBump Pro for $3.99.
The "What to Expect When You're Expecting"juggernaut is perhaps the biggest brand in pregnancy, and yes, there is an app for that. Advantages to the What to Expect Pregnancy & Baby free app (iOS, Android) include professional videos and the ability to easily add a second pregnancy and toggle between the two active (if sometimes contentious) community forums. But What to Expect's app gets only a grudging recommendation from us for these features because it is cluttered with ads and sponsored links, sometimes to questionable content. What pregnant woman needs to see a sponsored external link to a story about the tragic death of conjoined twins? And how did an accidental click lead to a news story about an abused elephant? The ads also intrude into the community forums.
The vast majority of pregnancy apps are marketed to moms, and that's where we've focused our reviews. But there are a few apps made for dads-to-be. The mPregnancy app ($0.99, iOS) offers many useful week-by-week tips, and uses a conversational tone. However, the app also tends to useirritating gender stereotypes (can a man not understand a fetus' size unless it's compared to that of a beer bottle or a football?). This app might be best for the macho man who's not quite sold on this pregnancy thing.
Who's Your Daddy ($2.99, iOS) is another app that uses humor to get its point across, but it also features some useful tools, like a contraction counter and a timeline to-do list (and looks far less goofy than mPregnancy).
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.