Effect of a Health System-Sponsored Mobile App on Perinatal Health Behaviors: Retrospective Cohort Study.

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Publication Date


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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth




BACKGROUND: Pregnancy mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular, with parents-to-be seeking information related to their pregnancy and their baby through mobile technology. This increase raises the need for prenatal apps with evidence-based content that is personalized and reliable. Previous studies have looked at whether prenatal apps impact health and behavior outcomes among pregnant and postpartum individuals; however, research has been limited.

OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of this study is to assess whether the use of a health system-sponsored mobile app-Circle by Providence-aimed at providing personalized and reliable health information on pregnancy, postpartum recovery, and infant care is associated with improved health outcomes and increased healthy behaviors and knowledge among users.

METHODS: This observational study compared app users and app nonusers using a self-reported survey and electronic medical records. The study took place over 18 months and was conducted at Providence St. Joseph Health in Portland, Oregon. The sample included patients who received prenatal care at one of seven Providence clinics and had a live birth at a Providence hospital. Recruitment occurred on a rolling basis and only those who completed the survey were included. Survey respondents were separated into app users and app nonusers, and survey responses and clinical outcomes were compared across groups using univariate and adjusted multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: A total of 567 participants were enrolled in the study-167 in the app user group and 400 in the nonuser group. We found statistically significant differences between the two groups for certain behavior outcomes: subjects who used the app had 75% greater odds of breastfeeding beyond 6 months postpartum (P=.012), were less likely to miss prenatal appointments (P=.046), and were 50% more likely to exercise 3 or more times a week during pregnancy (P=.04). There were no differences in nutritional measures, including whether they took prenatal vitamins, ate 5 fruits or vegetables a day, or drank caffeine. We found no differences in many of the infant care outcomes; however, there was an increase in awareness of "purple crying." Finally, there were no significant differences in measured clinical health outcomes, including cesarean births, length of hospital stays (in minutes), low birth weight infants, preterm births, small-for-gestational-age births, large-for-gestational-age births, and neonatal intensive care unit stays.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of the Circle app, which provides access to personalized and evidence-based health information, was associated with an increase in certain healthy behaviors and health knowledge, although there was no impact on clinical health outcomes. More research is needed to determine the impact of mobile prenatal apps on healthy pregnancies, clinical health outcomes, and infant care.

Clinical Institute

Women & Children


Obstetrics & Gynecology




Health Information Technology