Free Michigan-made pregnancy app tests nutritional IQ of expecting mothers

Testing your IQ might not rise to the top of your daily to-do list, but if you are an expecting mother, state physicians urge that it’s worth considering. Testing your pregnancy nutritional IQ, that is.

Two Grand Rapids-based doctors—Mark Gostine, M.D. and Gareth Forde, M.D., Ph.D. of Spectrum Health—have pioneered a pregnancy app named babyQ for smart phones, computers, tablets and handle-held gadgets alike.

mzl.astpckod.320x480-75BabyQ quizzes, evaluates and educates mothers-to-be on their pre-neonatal nutrients, arguing that proper diet supports the best genetic quality in an unborn child.

“We say babyQ is your pregnancy IQ,” Gostine said. “How well are you taking care of yourself and your baby while you’re pregnant?”

To kick-start babyQ, Gostine and Gareth conducted a study of 39,000 pregnant mothers.

“What we learned from that (research) was that there are lots of things young women could do to improve health outcomes in pregnancy,” Gostine said.

So they developed a brief, 22-question survey, which takes roughly three minutes, according to Gostine.

The survey asks mothers-to-be about lifestyle, exercise, nutrition and stress management with questions that change based on how far along you are in your pregnancy term.

Then, based on your score, the app will deliver one nutritional tip each day as well as show you how to improve your baby IQ.

”And we do it personal to each individual,” Gostine said.

BabyQ offers tips such as eating cleaner vegetables and fruits.

Since pesticides are a big concern, Gostine urges expecting mothers to eat produce with thick skin, like bananas, oranges, pineapples, avocadoes, cabbage and even broccoli, which has low pesticide residue because it is applied early in the broccoli life cycle.

“Anything with a thick skin is great during pregnancy because it’s low in pesticides and you don’t have to buy organic,” Gostine said. “The thicker the skin, the cleaner the fruit or vegetable.”

He also points out the importance of sleep and impact of Vitamin D during pregnancy.

“We’ve found some interesting stuff—the babyQ community is teaching us as well,” he said. “And that’s the whole thrust of babyQ—to help people individually and also identify trends at large.”

Some of the main trends the babyQ team plans to address through helpful nutrition facts and reminders is preterm deliveries, an increase in Cesarean-section (C-section) births and the decline in birth weights.

“So this is our effort to try to help reverse those trends in a very cost-effective way—because you can’t get more cost effect than free,” Gostine said.

And mothers have already taken to the idea of accessing physician-backed advice from a device that fits in their pocket or purse.

Expecting mother Heather and husband Justin Merritt, of Waterford, can't wait to meet their son Liam Douglas next month.

Expecting mother Heather and husband Justin Merritt, of Waterford, can’t wait to meet their son Liam Douglas next month.

“It’s actually pretty neat,” said first-time expecting mother Heather Merritt, of Waterford, who is new to babyQ.

Merritt says the biggest tip she has learned in the past eight and a half months is “that everything I do and put into my body is directly passed down to my child,” she said. “That kind of makes me realize how important nutrition is.”

Being an avid pop-drinker, adjusting her diet to cut out the daily caffeine boost has been a big change for her.

“Whatever you would do for a child in the womb, would you do it if they were here? Would you give them a Coke?” Merritt said, envisioning her soon-to-be son Liam Douglas.

Another tip she has for expecting moms is to enjoy the journey, “as cliché as it sounds,” she said.

“Just take in every moment because this is a mothering opportunity the day you become pregnant.”

While some mothers might find reminders from babyQ helpful, others prefer to stick to their own plan.

Laura Hall, of Pontiac, is also an expecting mother but feels differently about pregnancy advice other than from her physician.

“Obviously I believe getting proper nutrition is important during pregnancy,” Hall said, “but that’s something I believe about non-pregnancy as well.”

“We know that women carried children and gave birth for centuries without all this “do/don’t” advice, and while advancements in medical knowledge are certainly worth considering, they haven’t really rocked my lifestyle.”

She, too, has the overall goal of enjoying her first-time being pregnant and suggests eating a variety of colorful foods and avoiding processed and refined sugary foods when possible.

“My doctor gives me the advice that I need,” Hall said, “and I haven’t felt the need to seek out anything else.”

Family ties

Even though the app was released earlier this year, Gostine and his team already have plans to debut a new generation in less than a month.

One of the biggest upgrades the babyQ team is looking forward to is eventually allowing women to share their pregnancy story with others.

“We think that’s really important,” Gostine said.

With the original idea of babyQ stemming from his daughter’s first pregnancy, Gostine, who has four children, loves sharing happy memories with parents.

“Whether it was my kids or being there for a mother giving birth,” he said, “pregnancy is just such a joyous event.”

For more information about babyQ, be sure to visit or download the app at the app store for free.

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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