Your Virtual Midwife Is Here

Charlotte Kuijpers
December 15th 2017

An external device that helps you to conceive, carry and raise a child. Seems scary and futuristic? Or extremely useful? It's up to you to decide! In fact, this possibility is already here - to some extent.

Let’s talk about sex. And smartphones. Because the two can be closely related. You can find hundreds of fertility trackers in the app store today. Some might use them because they are ready to have children, others because they really aren’t. And also while the proverbial 'bun is in the oven', there are many smartphone apps that provide an additional augmented experience.

Fortunately, there is an increasing number of options for preventing as well as assisting conception. Here’s a guide to download the artificial midwife in different stages of the process.

STAGE 1: Fertilization

Natural Cycles is an app connected to an external oral thermometer. After the app gets to know the user for a couple of cycles, it can predict a woman's fertility window. Like true AI, the more information you feed it, the smarter it becomes. That’s why Natural Cycles could also be useful for women who aren’t ready to have babies yet: once they are, the app can tell them when they are most likely to conceive. Natural Cycles is just one of the many temperature-based fertility tracker, such us Ava or Yono.

But fertility isn’t just about her. Trak can be used to test the user's sperm health based on his lifestyle. By receiving information on how their health and habits affect their fertility, users find out what they can do to improve their possibilities to conceive.

STAGE 2: Verification

For those who are trying to conceive, a pregnancy test is the logical following step. So, one or two stripes appear, but then what? That’s where First Response’s Pregnancy Pro comes to help you. This Bluetooth connected pregnancy test syncs with your smartphone. It guides you through the process step-by-step, and even provides entertaining videos to reduce stress while you wait for the positive or negative answer. It can estimate the baby's due date, or tell the users when they should try to get pregnant if this hasn’t happened yet.

STAGE 3: Gestation

For counting baby kicks, looking at ultrasound pictures and tracking the growth of the baby, there is Pregnancy+. Among other things, this app will tell you if your fetus is more avocado or mango-sized. A more tangible experience for all parents and co-parents involved can be provided by Huggies' Hugbelt. This belly-covering wrap gives future dads the possibility to experience the sensations related to pregnancy, feeling the baby as it moves and kicks. Sharing haptic perception, this could be a step towards a sharable external womb. In the future we might be able to actually take off the entire baby belly and hand it over to our partner. But for now, a second-hand kicking-sensation like the Hugbelt is all you can get.

STAGE 4: Parturition

Your smartphone wouldn't be your midwife if it didn't help you count your contractions. While the smartphone stopwatch might also do, it won't tell you when to call your real-life midwife. But your virtual midwife app, Contraction Timer does. If you need some extra virtual help when giving birth, you can hire this free-of-charge Doula. There is no app for soothing your labour pains, but some (virtual) guidance can at least possibly help you. Breathe in, breathe out.

STAGE 5: Supervision

Congratulations! Now, you brought a new human into the world. To keep track of your child's growth, health and sleeping pattern, Baby Nursing can provide some basic guidance. You're all set. Now it's all in your hands!

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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