Digital ob/gyn: Gadgets for health tracking
Dr Levine is Practice Director, Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York, New York.
As a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, I work with patients who are highly motivated to prepare themselves for pregnancy. Of course, I discuss with them the importance of a normal balanced diet, prenatal vitamins, and regular exercise. In the recent ACOG Committee Opinion Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period (Number 650, December 2015), the abstract states, “physical activity in all stages of life maintains and improves cardiorespiratory fitness, reduces the risk of obesity and associated comorbidities, and results in greater longevity.”1 While it is easy to educate patients about the importance of exercise, in practice, few patients leave the office feeling that they are mentally and physically prepared to start a regimented physical activity and wellness program.
I find that one of the greatest hurdles for patients is the lack of objective markers of appropriate physical activity. Even the verbiage used to describe “recommended” levels of physical activity is vague. According to the nearly 7-year-old physical activity guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services, healthy pregnant and postpartum women should perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (ie, equivalent to brisk walking), which is to be spread throughout the week and adjusted as “medically indicated.”2 Even as a board-certified ob/gyn and a city-dweller with a standard brisk walking pace, I genuinely do not know how to interpret, let alone convey, this recommendation. So, what do we do? Smartphones, wearable devices, and apps can help.
Devices such as the Apple Watch offer users the ability to objectively measure their physical effort and monitor not only the quantity of their exercise, but also the quality. While I am relatively agnostic to devices, I must admit that Apple has done a wonderful job of direct-to-consumer marketing for their Apple Watch, and as the device gains popularity, it is starting to dominate the market for my patients’ wrist real estate.
NOTE: Because the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will occur after this issue goes to press, will refrain from comparing the current array of smart watches, since many new devices will be announced at CES. I plan to give you an objective review of the Apple, Pebble, Samsung, Sony, Tag and other devices in the spring of 2016.