Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Count the Kicks: An app that’s been tracking baby movements for a decade

Grief turned to advocacy, which became a nonprofit organization and developed into a mobile app.

That’s the story of Healthy Birth Day—a Des Moines-based nonprofit—that first formed in 2003 after five Des Moines mothers lost a baby late in their pregnancies to stillbirth.

“Those conversations led to why is this still occurring?” co-founder and current Senate Majority Leader Janet Peterson explains. “Women who make it through pregnancy should have a healthy baby, so we kind of channeled our grief into advocacy.”

After five years, the organization launched the “Count the Kicks” public health campaign along with the “Count the Kicks”free mobile app in 2008; QCI in West Des Moines developed the app.

The campaign educated health providers and moms on the importance of tracking baby movements in the third trimester. Because if a baby changes its movement pattern, it could be an indication there’s a problem with the baby.

“Originally we had some kick trackers for people to write in by pencil,” Peterson says. “Then once apps started being developed we thought it would be perfect for moms everywhere to have the ability at their fingertips to count the kicks and track movements.”

Count the Kicks recommends expecting mothers in the third trimester of their pregnancy schedule time each day to, “Count the Kicks.” The app tracks and records each session and moms are supposed to count how long it takes to reach ten kicks/movements.

Since launching in 2008, the app—which is available in Spanish—has been downloaded in all 50 states and 34 total countries. It can count for one baby or twins.

“To see how you can use technology to bring people together, we can make the world a healthier place,” Peterson says. “I think of the babies that we’ve saved and how that will forever change a family and the people that surround them. It’s a really good feeling.”

Count the Kicks
The user interface of the Count the Kicks app. Moms are asked to press the foot each time they feel their baby kick. The app records how long it takes to get to ten kicks.

Why we should ‘count the kicks’

Before she was named the first Executive Director of “Count the Kicks,” Emily Price worked as a reporter for KCCI, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines. She remembers working on a story about Peterson when she lost her daughter Grace in 2009 and a visit to her obstetrician office a year later when she was pregnant.

“I was in my doctor’s office telling my doctor my son’s movement had changed,” Price said. “My son was trying to be born at 30 weeks…”

Price wonders what would have happened if she hadn’t known about “Counting the kicks” or hadn’t spoken up.

“I know they (Count the Kicks/Healthy Birth Day) had a hand in bringing him here healthy,” Price says.

Price says the Count the Kicks app saves between 50-60 babies a year and has reduced stillbirth rates in Iowa by 26 percent since launching in 2008.

Goals for 2018

Count the Kicks
A mom using the mobile app, “Count the Kicks.” Photo courtesy of Emily Price/Count the Kicks

Price said six counties in Iowa with stillbirth rates higher than the state and national averages:

Those counties are:

  • Polk
  • Story
  • Blackhawk
  • Scott
  • Linn
  • Woodbury

“We don’t know why these six counties are higher but we do know they have more diverse populations and there are some real racial disparities when it comes to stillbirth,” Price says. “So 2018 we will hyper-focus on underserved and at-risk populations, targeting them where they are, holding focus groups to determine how they get their health information, where do they get it and what is being said that will influence them to know it’s important.”

Price said African American women are twice as likely to lose a baby to stillbirth and Hispanic women are one and a half times as likely because of various factors like stress, a history of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and toxic racism.

“These are things researchers tell us,” Price says. “There are lots of maternal health providers who believe in us, but there is still a fraction of doctors or nurses who don’t take women seriously when they come in complaining of reduced fetal movement.

“That just shows we have more work to do.”


Count the Kicks: An app that's been tracking baby movements for a decade | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now