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Mobile App Collecting Placenta Health Data

EPV app screen shots

Screen shots from EPV app (itunes.apple.com)

27 October 2015. A new iPhone app allows women to report on the health of their placentas as their pregnancies develop, in a research study of placenta health to help reduce fetal death. The app is designed by researcher Harvey Kliman at Yale University medical school, director of the school’s reproductive and placental research unit.

The placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus during pregnancy, providing oxygen and nutrients to the fetus while removing waste products. The organ acts as a support system for the developing fetus, protecting the fetus from harm even if the mother engages in risky behaviors, such as smoking or taking drugs.

Nonetheless, death of the fetus known as intrauterine fetal demise occurs in about 1 percent of uncomplicated pregnancies, considered a miscarriage in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and fetal death after 20 weeks. The university cites data estimating 30,000 cases of intrauterine fetal demise in the U.S. each year.

Kliman and colleagues are conducting research on the size of the placenta, measured as estimated placenta volume, as a predictor of pregnancy outcomes, specifically if an undersized placenta contributes to intrauterine fetal demise. The research team noted reports of fetal death associated with very small placentas, and are seeking data to test that hypothesis, as well as offer mothers and their physicians or midwives additional measures of fetal health.

Earlier studies by Kliman identified three routine ultrasound measurements that estimate the placenta’s volume: maximal width, height at maximal width, and thickness along the same line as the height. Kliman’s lab incorporated these measurements into an iPhone app where the patient or health care provider can enter the data. The app then calculates the estimated placenta volume or EPV, and plotted on a graph that can be tracked throughout the pregnancy.

For the study, data from the app, also known as EPV, are uploaded to a secure server and de-identified. The patient or health care provider then adds the pregnancy’s outcome.

The app is built with Apple’s ResearchKit platform. ResearchKit is an open-source framework that makes it possible to collect medical data with surveys, like EPV, or with sensors connected to iPhones. The platform also contains templates to describe the conduct of studies and capture signatures for informed consent. In addition, ResearchKit integrates with HealthKit, Apple’s mobile platform for monitoring an individual’s health and fitness.

The EPV app is available as a free download from the iPhone App Store.

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