Published in Grand Rapids' Rapid Growth Media
April 25, 2013
|EMILY GOSTINE BRANN WANTS TO HELP MAKE SMARTER MOTHERS. - ADAM BIRD|
When Dr. Mark Gostine, MD found out his daughter Emily was expecting her first child, healthy pregnancies became an interest of his. This interest sparked babyQ, a website and mobile app dedicated to helping mothers have the healthiest pregnancies -- and babies -- possible.
Finding out she was pregnant with her first child came as a shock to Emily Brann. That's true for many women. Soon after this surprising news, however, Brann realized she had an advantage that most women do not. She had a direct line to a physician at all hours of the day and night -- her father.
"When you are pregnant, especially with your first child," Brann says, "it is a very vulnerable and insecure time in your life. But it's also very empowering."
Brann sent texts to her father, the physician, for advice. What should she eat? What kind of exercise is good and what kind is too much? How much should she change her lifestyle? What effect would daily stress have on her baby? Most of all, she wanted to know: what could she do to have the healthiest baby possible?
Brann's father, Mark Gostine, MD, sent back texts of advice to his daughter. Dr. Gostine is a specialist in pain management (founder and president of Michigan Pain Consultants), not obstetrics, but with the anticipation of his first grandchild, healthy pregnancies quickly became a keen interest.
"Initially, I gave Emily a lot of nutritional tips," says Gostine. "Then I was lying in bed one night, thinking about a recent study on vitamin D deficiencies."
Vitamin D deficiencies, Gostine had learned, appeared to have a strong link to preeclampsia, a condition in pregnant women involving soaring blood pressure and swelling of hands and feet. Preeclampsia can result in premature delivery, illness in the mother and baby, and even fatalities.
Gostine has been a physician for 30 years, and he has been voted one of the best 100 doctors in his field in the U.S. Nutrition and general health education have always been a passion, and he was accustomed to guiding his patients in health education. Thinking about the importance of vitamin deficiencies when it comes to pregnancies and births, he began to consider what else might make a difference in positive outcomes for his daughter and for women everywhere.
What if he created an app for his daughter and other pregnant women to use? Something that could quickly and easily answer all her questions about having a healthy pregnancy leading to a healthy child. Something that could increase her IQ about having babies. IQ… or, babyQ.
Gostine paired his medical knowledge with that of Gareth Forde, MD, PhD, obstetrician-gynecologist -- and a clinical professor and a researcher -- and the two physicians founded babyQ, a website, and a complementary app for Smart Phones and tablets.
Once a person has registered on the app or website, a 25-question survey gathers information about lifestyle, exercise, nutrition, and stress management, resulting in a score -- the user's babyQ score. BabyQ refers to this as the LENS system. After that, the user is offered daily tips personalized to her responses and chances to improve her score.
"I looked at studies of children born in the Netherlands during World War II," Gostine says. "Children born during the Dutch famine had many more health problems than children born a year later, under healthier conditions." From those tragic circumstances, Gostine says, has come valuable knowledge about what women can do to improve the health of their babies in utero.
Researchers saw less intellectual attainment over a lifetime in the babies born during famine, says Gostine. Babies were born smaller and earlier, metabolic rates were lower, blood sugars were at unhealthy levels. All because women weren't eating right and had high stress levels.
Lack of prenatal care, Gostine says, "can lead to ... "
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Photography by Adam Bird.