First-time Mothers' Understanding and Use of a Pregnancy and Parenting Mobile App (The Baby Buddy App): Qualitative Study Using Appreciative Inquiry

Elizabeth Bailey, Samantha Nightingale, Nicky Thomas, Dawn Coleby, Toity Deave, Trudy Goodenough, Samuel Ginja, Raghu Lingam, Sally Kendall, Crispin Day, Jane Coad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Internationally, there is increasing emphasis on early support for pregnant women to optimize the health and development of mothers and newborns. To increase intervention reach, digital and app-based interventions have been advocated. There are growing numbers of pregnancy health care apps with great variation in style, function, and objectives, but evidence about impact on pregnancy well-being and behavior change following app interaction is lacking. This paper reports on the qualitative arm of the independent multicomponent study exploring the use and outcomes of first-time mothers using the Baby Buddy app, a pregnancy and parenting support app, available in the National Health Service App Library and developed by a UK child health and well-being charity, Best Beginnings. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to understand when, why, and how first-time mothers use the Baby Buddy app and the perceived benefits and challenges. METHODS: This paper reports on the qualitative arm of an independent, longitudinal, mixed methods study. An Appreciative Inquiry qualitative approach was used with semistructured interviews (17/60, 28%) conducted with new mothers, either by telephone or in a focus group setting. First-time mothers were recruited from 3 study sites from across the United Kingdom. Consistent with the Appreciative Inquiry approach, mothers were prompted to discuss what worked well and what could have been better regarding their interactions with the app during pregnancy. Thematic analysis was used, and findings are presented as themes with perceived benefits and challenges. RESULTS: The main benefit, or what worked well, for first-time mothers when using the app was being able to access new information, which they felt was reliable and easy to find. This led to a feeling of increased confidence in the information they accessed, thus supporting family and professional communication. The main challenge was the preference for face-to-face information with a health care professional, particularly around specific issues that they wished to discuss in depth. What could have been improved included that there were some topics that some mothers would have preferred in more detail, but in other areas, they felt well-informed and thus did not feel a need to seek additional information via an app. CONCLUSIONS: Although this study included a small sample, it elicited rich data and insights into first-time mothers' app interactions. The findings suggest that easily accessible pregnancy information, which is perceived as reliable, can support first-time mothers in communicating with health care professionals. Face-to-face contact with professionals was preferred, particularly to discuss specific and personalized needs. Further studies on maternal and professional digital support preferences after the COVID-19 global pandemic and how they facilitate antenatal education and informed decision-making are recommended, particularly because digital solutions remain as a key element in pregnancy and early parenting care. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR2-10.1017/S1463423618000294.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32757
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number11
Early online date21 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


  • antenatal education
  • antenatal support
  • communication
  • digital
  • mobile phone
  • pregnancy
  • pregnancy apps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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