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Enabling prenatal bonding between unborn child and father to be

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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal Dec 01, 2021
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Background:
A close friend of mine got pregnant a few months back. While the couple were ecstatic about welcoming a new member in their family, my friend complained about her partner not being as involved with their pregnancy as she would like. Her significant other explained that he would like to contribute in every possible manner, the only problem being it did not come naturally to him and he had to consciously remind himself of the baby’s presence every day.
Problem:
I realized that this is not a very uncommon problem. Once fathers have fertilized an egg, they have no physiological connection with their developing foetuses while mothers feel their bodies change and the baby grow inside them with each passing day. This makes it easier for women to develop a bond with the baby growing in their womb while men feel disconnected most of the time, having to anticipate if their paternal instincts will kick in on holding their baby for the first time or whether they would be good dads. This made me realize the need for products that help soon to be dads to connect to their babies in the mother’s womb.
Idea:
Expecting mothers can feel the baby move and kick inside them. This, in combination with the backaches, mood swings and other symptoms of pregnancy like nausea, cramps and the like make it impossible for women to forget they are pregnant. What if we could selectively replicate the “good symptoms” of baby kicking and moving in the womb for fathers to feel throughout the gestation period as well?
I came across this study by researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology who developed non-invasive sensors that allow expectant parents to track the heartbeat of the developing foetus at home. The device can record vibrations sent through a mother’s abdomen when her baby’s heart beats or when the foetus moves and kicks.
  • If this device could be linked to another article for e.g. wristband worn by the father, the father could be continuously reminded of his baby with the help of weak pulsating sensation generated by the band to mimic the baby's heartbeat. When the baby moves around in the womb and kicks the pulse generated by the band would become more intense. This would serve as a constant reminder for the father.
  • One could pair up such a device with other products available on the market like Bellybuds- prenatal headphones that allow one to play music to their baby in the mother’s womb. The bellybuds could be remotely controlled by the expectant father allowing him to play music and voice notes to his future kid in the mother’s womb and subsequently feel any movement the foetus makes in response to his voice or music played by him. The idea is to have a product that connects the father to their unborn baby even when he is not in the immediate vicinity of his pregnant partner, for e.g. when is away at work or running chores.
Not only will this help expecting fathers feel more connected to their baby but will help inculcate a habit of nurtuting the young one too.
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Creative contributions

Play the baby's heartbeat on a speaker

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Michaela D
Michaela D Dec 15, 2021
In the study you mentioned researchers were able to detect the vibrations from the baby's heartbeat through a wearable the mother is wearing. Apparently, this is a better method to detect the baby's heartbeat than what is in the market and the idea was to warn the parents in case something goes wrong with the baby.
To go this idea further, the vibration signal could be transformed into a sound signal that could be sent to a phone or a speaker through Bluetooth. So, parents could listen together to the baby's heartbeat anytime. This would be a bonding experience for the couple itself and the couple with the baby.

[1]C. Yang, C. Antoine, B. K. Young and N. Tavassolian, "A Pilot Study on Fetal Heart Rate Extraction from Wearable Abdominal Inertial Sensors," in IEEE Sensors Journal, vol. 19, no. 22, pp. 10773-10781, 15 Nov.15, 2019, doi: 10.1109/JSEN.2019.2930886.

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General comments

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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia7 months ago
Hi Aashi Agarwal , I absolutely love the idea! I think it would be nice that the "stimulus" the father feels would not be continuous (like the heartbeat) because it could get annoying, and men tend to be less patient than women. Additionally, our brain is very good at filtering out stimuli that are not useful or are very repetitive, that's why you don't see your nose or feel the clothes you're wearing. Additionally, I think it would be great if the fetus' movement would be transmitted in a way that would be "rewarding" when felt, so as to better associate it to a positive feeling and create a stronger bond. I love the part about the music and the voice, I think it's really neat!
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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal7 months ago
Manel Lladó Santaeularia Hi Manel. Thank you for your inputs. I pretty much agree with you. I was apprehensive about a continuous stimulus as well but then thought.."Hey! women deal with worse constant reminders so lets put men in the same shoe for once" (but I guess you are right about men not wanting this feature lol) Also about the "rewarding" feeling, I was thinking about something on the lines of small doses of dopamine (feel good hormone) or oxytocin (bonding hormone) being administered to the expectant father on baby's movement. However, I am not sure how this can be done and if it might have any negative impacts on the receiver. Do you know about any such microdosing experiments in men? This is a topic that needs further research but if found to be unassociated with any negative effects, it might as well be incorporated into this idea to make it even more interesting. Thanks!
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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia7 months ago
Aashi Agarwal The problem with hormone microdosing is delivery. How would you do that? I would suggest adapting your proposal with the vibrating bracelet, but making sure that the stimulus given is always "pleasurable", either with a specific type of vibration or with a different kind of stimulus. About the continuous stimulus, while I agree with you I believe that the constant stimulus could get the wrong reactions and associations if it becomes annoying. The woman is "annoyed" continuously but has a lot of other positive experiences, most of all the big release of oxitocine and other hormones, that wire the link to the baby in the brain. I think the objective would be to generate the same kind of positive effects in the man and try to limit the negative ones, we just need to find the best possible way.
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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal7 months ago
Manel Lladó Santaeularia I cannot think of making a vibrational stimulus "pleasurable" per se. It could be "not annoying" but how could we make it pleasurable still remains a question.
For the hormone microdosing, there are upcoming technologies that can make wearable microdosing device possible in the near future. I am an Intellectual property rights professional and in one of my recent encounters I came across a patent application describing a wearable device capable of dispensing controlled volumes of liquids (in this case- perfume) at defined intervals, making it possible to use it for microdosing. It lists "microdosing psychedelic medicines (e.g. LSD, psilocybin) for therapeutic use" as a potential application as well as enables "hormones" as a potential liquid. I think if we incorporate this into the vibrating bracelet, it can serve the purpose of providing "rewarding stimulus". However the safety and dosage of hormones for microdosing would need to be determined.
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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia7 months ago
Aashi Agarwal That's a really interesting concept. However, hormones don't work like that. Hormones are normally delivered to the bloodstream where they reach the different organs where they have an effect. Most hormone treatments use pills or hormone patches, but I haven't seen anything about skin microdosing of hormones, but I'll look into it. Obviously safety and dosing are very important topics, but also the fact that hormones don't do only one thing and can have a plethora of effects in the body, as well as cause addiction (in the case of positive hormones like serotonin, which are involved in the development of addiction to habits, substances or activities that cause us pleasure).
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