ARTICLE UPDATED 04/29/2018
How much can you really trust an app that gives you pregnancy advice?
In the case of Hello Belly, not a whole lot. This pregnancy app for moms was developed by a company called Hello Baby (Following me?), and if that name sounds familiar, it’s not surprising. At the time of this writing, the Hello Baby promotional video on Vimeo has more than182,000 views, a 4.2 star rating from 1000+ users on iTunes, and 4 stars out of 1700+ reviews in the Google Play store.
The video, full of smiling families and decidedly lacking in substantive information, refers to Hello Baby as the “Smartest Parental Assistant.” But that’s only true if you believe it’s okay for pregnant women to avoid eating.
That’s right. The app recommends that pregnant women take what Hello Baby calls “fasting days.” A fasting day, it claims, should be taken once a week, and that it is an “opportunity for the body to rest and get rid of unnecessary substances.”
That’s news to the experts. According to Psychology Today, which broke the story, “this advice runs contrary to that of the major nutrition and pregnancy associations. What’s more, studies suggest fasting may be linked to low birthweight babies, and some research estimates that 11 percent of pregnant women have eating disorders which can be exacerbated by ‘dieting’ advice.”
Through an emailed statement, the company told Parentology that of the approximately 309 tips on the app, “we didn’t think that this tip will be perceived as an obligatory.” The spokesperson added, “We have already updated this tip with WHO recommendations about calories intake and a CAPS notification that all the changes in the diet should be discussed with the doctor!”
Curious about the language in those quotes and who is behind Hello Baby? The two men who created the Hello Belly app, Vitaliy Urban and Tim Raiter, state on their website that Hello Baby “was started by 10-people team based in Moscow, Russia. Both founders have worked in own digital agencies as art directors for 10 years.”
The author of the Psychology Today article, Sunny Sea Gold, latched onto the Russia connection and gave her story the headline, “Is a Russian Pregnancy App Offering Fake News to U.S. Moms?” To this, a Hello Baby spokesperson told Parentology in a written statement, “the author seems to be catching the hype wave, not giving a review of an app.”
Fair enough. (Sunny Sea Gold did not respond to Parentology’s request for an interview through her Twitter account.) But the fact that an app dispensing pregnancy advice was created by men – and by art directors, not doctors – shouldn’t be cause for concern if the people they hire to actually write the advice are experts themselves.
Psychology Today points out that “according to the app’s website, the experts are a Russian pop singer, a Russian mommy blogger, a ‘pregnancy psychologist,’ and a ‘medical sciences candidate’ (equivalent to a PhD) in ob/gyn.”
Ok, but at the very least the so-called experts are parents, right?
“Not all of us have babies yet,” the Hello Baby team points out on their website — in what reads like broken English. “So we are using experience of all our relatives, experts, regularly making surveys among at least 3,000 moms.” Even the description on the app store leaves one questioning.
Ultimate and the cutest guide for future moms and dads 🍼 Get professional tips every day of your pregnancy, written by the top experts. No heavy medical information — only useful practical tips in cozy form. No doubt, each tip will make you smile!Hello Baby description in Google Play store.
In their statement, the Hello Baby team says, “All the information we place in Hello Belly is reviewed by the ob-gyn with medical education. If it matters, a Russian doctor.” They add, “Yes, we have heard the buzz about Russian influence on American life and politics. But we don’t have a goal to misinform the US moms-to-be.”