A HERBRANDSTON couple is championing a new smart phone app which has allowed them to monitor their unborn baby during a troubled pregnancy.

Mark and Tina Boulcott are expecting a little girl in early September, but the pregnancy has been somewhat of a rough ride with Tina suffering from bouts of severe sickness and having to be admitted to hospital.

“It’s been hard going,” she said.

“Being so sick and not being able to eat has made me anxious.”

The couple, who have three older children between them, work as a principal dental surgeon and dental nurse at Herbrandston Dental Health Practice.

Worried about the "downgrading" of maternity services at Withybush Hospital, Mark and Tina contacted the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where they were paired up with consultant, Dr Bryan Beattie.

Dr Beattie is one of Wales’ leading obstetricians, and has been developing gadgets to help parents during pregnancy. One of those devices is the Unborn Heart app, which he asked Mark and Tina to trial.

It consists of a doppler, similar to that which midwives use to listen to a baby’s heart, and a lead which attaches to any smart phone. Once connected, a specially designed mobile app will allow parents to listen to their baby’s heart from the womb.

Tina said: “It’s been very reassuring. If you’re worried that baby hasn’t moved for a few hours you can just pick up the device.

“Most people think dopplers are huge machines that can only be operated by midwives, but this one is smaller than my phone. I just pop it in my bag and off I go.”

The app allows Tina to make two minute recordings of her baby’s heart beat which she uploads to Dr Beattie’s phone, who then listens to and assesses it.

Mark said it has also helped him feel connected with the baby.

“I suppose it’s quite nice for the fathers as well as they get a chance to be a bit more involved in the pregnancy,” he said.

Dr Beattie is currently working on other gadgets and apps where he can analyse blood pressure and urine to check for life-threatening conditions such as pre-eclampsia.

“I think it’s the way forward,” said Tina, “but it doesn’t replace proper medical care. You still need to go and see your midwife.”

Mark said: “I suppose they are toys for the ‘worried well’ as we in the medical profession say.

Tina will help Dr Beattie demonstrate the effectiveness of the device at an international symposium in Cardiff later this month.

She said: “In Pembrokeshire we’re a little bit behind the times, so I think it’s worth other mums finding out about this. It has helped me, and I’m sure it can help them.”

The devices cost between £40 and £60. Find out more at www.unbornheart.com and www.bellabeat.com