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You can keep calm and carry on with Expectful

App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

There are plenty of pregnancy apps out there that focus on a baby’s stages of growth, tracking fertility and ovulation cycles, and there are even wearables to monitor contractions. But sometimes, moms tend to forget about nurturing their mental health — that’s where Expectful steps in.

The app provides guided fertility meditations for women trying to conceive, or women preparing for birth and delivery. When creating Expectful, the team devoted a lot of time researching what they refer to as “mind/baby connection” —  the way women’s emotions during pregnancy affect the baby’s development and growth later on.

The team used studies such as the Quebec ice storm — where women who were pregnant during the storm were left without power for long periods of time, creating high stress levels.

“Their findings showed the infants and children of women pregnant during [the Quebec ice storm] had impairments in IQ and language skills, which were sustained even as they got older. Although this example speaks to an extreme level of stress, typical levels are normal and can still promote fetal development,” Anna Gannon, Expectful’s community guide and editorial lead, told Digital Trends.

So what’s Expectful’s solution to reduce these types of stress levels, and other struggles during pregnancy on both parents and children? Meditation. Through meditative sessions, the app attempts to ease depression and anxiety to avoid any negative effects on the baby.

According to other statistics found on the company’s site, research showed 50 percent of women were less likely to give birth early if they participated in mindfulness training compared to women who didn’t. Another study discovered meditation can also help reduce pain by 40 percent with meditators also experiencing lower pain sensitivity.

Gannon said the Expectful team interviewed women in different stages of their pregnancy and gathered data on the challenges or obstacles they faced during each trimester. Using this data, they worked with a psychologist and a team of licensed hypnotherapists to create meditation sessions.

The interface is super simple to use and visually-pleasing due to the use of light colors and an easy-to-navigation structure. All the sections are clearly separated, and each session includes a description of what to expect while meditating.

Of all the main categories on the app — preparing to conceive, trimesters one through three, motherhood, and urgent care — I started with preparing to conceive. The categories are further divided into emotional awareness, physical awareness, and couples meditation, with specialized sessions for each section. I’m not pregnant or preparing to conceive (for an extremely long time, trust me) but I already have anxiety and nightmares about the entire process — why not start mentally coaching myself early.

Under the preparing to conceive section, I noticed the sessions are specifically focused on strengthening the relationship you have with yourself — topics like inner connection, forgiving judgement, and releasing anger. The point is to allow yourself the chance to release any negativity you’re holding on to, and begin the journey with an open mind.

Meditation has always been an activity I struggled to enjoy because I don’t have the patience to sit still and shut my brain off, but the 10 and 20 minute sessions you get to choose between were bearable. One aspect I really enjoyed is how well-rounded the sessions are. The topics are realistic — they don’t sugarcoat the reality of how rough pregnancy can be, and the range of emotions you’ll experience. But the app provides you with a calm voice to guide you through all of it, giving you a chance to collect your thoughts and stay in the present.

Once I moved on to the different trimesters, it seemed as though the sessions started to build upon the strength you’ve formed with yourself — and started to encourage you to focus on how you’ll apply that power to the relationship with your baby. The motherhood section emphasizes letting go of fear that might arise knowing you’re now responsible for another human being. This includes anything from practicing patience, and releasing expectations, to trusting yourself.

When I asked my co-workers — who are mothers themselves — on the experience of being pregnant, they all agreed the first time was definitely the scariest. They expressed that because it was all so new, the pregnancy was all they would think about and at times, obsess over. However, once the second time came around they were too busy taking care of their first child to have any time to really overthink the pregnancy.

While having loved ones around to comfort you during the new journey can obviously help, they might not always know the right thing to say or do. Pregnancy will always scare me, but Expectful — available on iOS for free — might actually convince me to download more mediation apps to use on a daily basis.

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