skip to main content

Title: Pregnant women’s daily patterns of well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland: Longitudinal monitoring through smartwatch technology
Background Technology enables the continuous monitoring of personal health parameter data during pregnancy regardless of the disruption of normal daily life patterns. Our research group has established a project investigating the usefulness of an Internet of Things–based system and smartwatch technology for monitoring women during pregnancy to explore variations in stress, physical activity and sleep. The aim of this study was to examine daily patterns of well-being in pregnant women before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland. Methods A longitudinal cohort study design was used to monitor pregnant women in their everyday settings. Two cohorts of pregnant women were recruited. In the first wave in January-December 2019, pregnant women with histories of preterm births (gestational weeks 22–36) or late miscarriages (gestational weeks 12–21); and in the second wave between October 2019 and March 2020, pregnant women with histories of full-term births (gestational weeks 37–42) and no pregnancy losses were recruited. The final sample size for this study was 38 pregnant women. The participants continuously used the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch and their heart rate variability, and physical activity and sleep data were collected. Subjective stress, activity and sleep reports were collected using a smartphone application developed for this study. Data between February 12 to April 8, 2020 were included to cover four-week periods before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions. Hierarchical linear mixed models were exploited to analyze the trends in the outcome variables. Results The pandemic-related restrictions were associated with changes in heart rate variability: the standard deviation of all normal inter-beat intervals (p = 0.034), low-frequency power (p = 0.040) and the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio (p = 0.013) increased compared with the weeks before the restrictions. Women’s subjectively evaluated stress levels also increased significantly. Physical activity decreased when the restrictions were set and as pregnancy proceeded. The total sleep time also decreased as pregnancy proceeded, but pandemic-related restrictions were not associated with sleep. Daily rhythms changed in that the participants overall started to sleep later and woke up later. Conclusions The findings showed that Finnish pregnant women coped well with the pandemic-related restrictions and lockdown environment in terms of stress, physical activity and sleep.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Ryckman, Kelli K
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Background The physical and emotional well-being of women is critical for healthy pregnancy and birth outcomes. The Two Happy Hearts intervention is a personalized mind-body program coached by community health workers that includes monitoring and reflecting on personal health, as well as practicing stress management strategies such as mindful breathing and movement. Objective The aims of this study are to (1) test the daily use of a wearable device to objectively measure physical and emotional well-being along with subjective assessments during pregnancy, and (2) explore the user’s engagement with the Two Happy Hearts intervention prototype, as well as understand their experiences with various intervention components. Methods A case study with a mixed design was used. We recruited a 29-year-old woman at 33 weeks of gestation with a singleton pregnancy. She had no medical complications or physical restrictions, and she was enrolled in the Medi-Cal public health insurance plan. The participant engaged in the Two Happy Hearts intervention prototype from her third trimester until delivery. The Oura smart ring was used to continuously monitor objective physical and emotional states, such as resting heart rate, resting heart rate variability, sleep, and physical activity. In addition, the participant self-reported her physical and emotional health using the Two Happy Hearts mobile app–based 24-hour recall surveys (sleep quality and level of physical activity) and ecological momentary assessment (positive and negative emotions), as well as the Perceived Stress Scale, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Engagement with the Two Happy Hearts intervention was recorded via both the smart ring and phone app, and user experiences were collected via Research Electronic Data Capture satisfaction surveys. Objective data from the Oura ring and subjective data on physical and emotional health were described. Regression plots and Pearson correlations between the objective and subjective data were presented, and content analysis was performed for the qualitative data. Results Decreased resting heart rate was significantly correlated with increased heart rate variability (r=–0.92, P<.001). We found significant associations between self-reported responses and Oura ring measures: (1) positive emotions and heart rate variability (r=0.54, P<.001), (2) sleep quality and sleep score (r=0.52, P<.001), and (3) physical activity and step count (r=0.77, P<.001). In addition, deep sleep appeared to increase as light and rapid eye movement sleep decreased. The psychological measures of stress, depression, and anxiety appeared to decrease from baseline to post intervention. Furthermore, the participant had a high completion rate of the components of the Two Happy Hearts intervention prototype and shared several positive experiences, such as an increased self-efficacy and a normal delivery. Conclusions The Two Happy Hearts intervention prototype shows promise for potential use by underserved pregnant women. 
    more » « less
  2. Background

    Maternal loneliness is associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes for both the mother and her child. Detecting maternal loneliness noninvasively through wearable devices and passive sensing provides opportunities to prevent or reduce the impact of loneliness on the health and well-being of the mother and her child.


    The aim of this study is to use objective health data collected passively by a wearable device to predict maternal (social) loneliness during pregnancy and the postpartum period and identify the important objective physiological parameters in loneliness detection.


    We conducted a longitudinal study using smartwatches to continuously collect physiological data from 31 women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The participants completed the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) loneliness questionnaire in gestational week 36 and again at 12 weeks post partum. Responses to this questionnaire and background information of the participants were collected through our customized cross-platform mobile app. We leveraged participants’ smartwatch data from the 7 days before and the day of their completion of the UCLA questionnaire for loneliness prediction. We categorized the loneliness scores from the UCLA questionnaire as loneliness (scores≥12) and nonloneliness (scores<12). We developed decision tree and gradient-boosting models to predict loneliness. We evaluated the models by using leave-one-participant-out cross-validation. Moreover, we discussed the importance of extracted health parameters in our models for loneliness prediction.


    The gradient boosting and decision tree models predicted maternal social loneliness with weighted F1-scores of 0.897 and 0.872, respectively. Our results also show that loneliness is highly associated with activity intensity and activity distribution during the day. In addition, resting heart rate (HR) and resting HR variability (HRV) were correlated with loneliness.


    Our results show the potential benefit and feasibility of using passive sensing with a smartwatch to predict maternal loneliness. Our developed machine learning models achieved a high F1-score for loneliness prediction. We also show that intensity of activity, activity pattern, and resting HR and HRV are good predictors of loneliness. These results indicate the intervention opportunities made available by wearable devices and predictive models to improve maternal well-being through early detection of loneliness.

    more » « less
  3. Background:

    Sleep disturbances are associated with adverse perinatal outcomes. Thus, it is necessary to understand the continuous patterns of sleep during pregnancy and how moderators such as maternal age and pre-pregnancy body mass index impact sleep.


    This study aimed to examine the continuous changes in sleep parameters objectively (i.e. sleep stages, total sleep time, and awake time) in pregnant women and to describe the impact of maternal age and/or pre-pregnancy body mass index as moderators of these objective sleep parameters.


    This was a longitudinal observational design.


    Seventeen women with a singleton pregnancy participated in this study. Mixed model repeated measures were used to describe weekly patterns, while aggregated changes describe these three pregnancy periods (10–19, 20–29, and 30–39 gestational weeks).


    For the weekly patterns, we found significantly decreased deep (1.26 ± 0.18 min/week, p < 0.001), light (0.72 ± 0.37 min/week, p = 0.05), and total sleep time (1.56 ± 0.47 min/week, p < 0.001) as well as increased awake time (1.32 ± 0.34 min/week, p < 0.001). For the aggregated changes, we found similar patterns to weekly changes. Women (⩾30 years) had an even greater decrease in deep sleep (1.50 ± 0.22 min/week, p < 0.001) than those younger (0.84 ± 0.29 min/week, p = 0.04). Women who were both overweight/obese and ⩾30 years experienced an increase in rapid eye movement sleep (0.84 ± 0.31 min/week, p = 0.008), but those of normal weight (<30 years) did not.


    This study appears to be the first to describe continuous changes in sleep parameters during pregnancy at home. Our study provides preliminary evidence that sleep parameters could be potential non-invasive physiological markers predicting perinatal outcomes.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Pregnancy is a unique time when many mothers gain awareness of their lifestyle and its impacts on the fetus. High-quality care during pregnancy is needed to identify possible complications early and ensure the mother’s and her unborn baby’s health and well-being. Different studies have thus far proposed maternal health monitoring systems. However, they are designed for a specific health problem or are limited to questionnaires and short-term data collection methods. Moreover, the requirements and challenges have not been evaluated in long-term studies. Maternal health necessitates a comprehensive framework enabling continuous monitoring of pregnant women. In this paper, we present an Internet-of-Things (IoT)-based system to provide ubiquitous maternal health monitoring during pregnancy and postpartum. The system consists of various data collectors to track the mother’s condition, including stress, sleep, and physical activity. We carried out the full system implementation and conducted a real human subject study on pregnant women in Southwestern Finland. We then evaluated the system’s feasibility, energy efficiency, and data reliability. Our results show that the implemented system is feasible in terms of system usage during nine months. We also indicate the smartwatch, used in our study, has acceptable energy efficiency in long-term monitoring and is able to collect reliable photoplethysmography data. Finally, we discuss the integration of the presented system with the current healthcare system. 
    more » « less
  5. Introduction

    Food cravings are common in pregnancy and along with emotional eating and eating in the absence of hunger, they are associated with excessive weight gain and adverse effects on metabolic health including gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Women with GDM also show poorer mental health, which further can contribute to dysregulated eating behaviour. Food cravings can lead to greater activity in brain centres known to be involved in food ‘wanting’ and reward valuation as well as emotional eating. They are also related to gestational weight gain. Thus, there is a great need to link implicit brain responses to food with explicit measures of food intake behaviour, especially in the perinatal period. The aim of this study is to investigate the spatiotemporal brain dynamics to visual presentations of food in women during pregnancy and in the post partum, and link these brain responses to the eating behaviour and metabolic health outcomes in women with and without GDM.

    Methods and analysis

    This prospective observational study will include 20 women with and 20 without GDM, that have valid data for the primary outcomes. Data will be assessed at 24–36 weeks gestational age and at 6 months post partum. The primary outcomes are brain responses to food pictures of varying carbohydrate and fat content during pregnancy and in the post partum using electroencephalography. Secondary outcomes including depressive symptoms, current mood and eating behaviours will be assessed with questionnaires, objective eating behaviours will be measured using Auracle and stress will be measured with heart rate and heart rate variability (Actiheart). Other secondary outcome measures include body composition and glycaemic control parameters.

    Ethics and dissemination

    The Human Research Ethics Committee of the Canton de Vaud approved the study protocol (2021-01976). Study results will be presented at public and scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

    more » « less