Mom credits app with saving baby's life

Emily Eekhoff said Count the Kicks helped reveal that her baby was in distress.

ByABC News
June 27, 2017, 8:15 AM

— -- The Iowa mom who credits a cellphone app with helping to save her daughter's life is sharing with other pregnant women what she learned from the near-death experience.

Emily Eekhoff was 33 weeks pregnant when she said she noticed her baby's movements had changed. Eekhoff had been a frequent user of the app Count the Kicks, which helps a mom track her child's movement patterns during the third trimester of pregnancy.

“I was aware just of how much she usually moved during the day with the app's help,” Eekhoff said in an interview that aired today on "Good Morning America.” “The kicks were not happening as frequently as they usually did and when she did move, it was really, like, soft, subtle, not, like, hard kicks like normal.”

PHOTO: Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.
Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.

Concerned, Eekhoff went to Mercy Medical Center on May 30 in Des Moines, to get checked out. That same day, a heart rate test and ultrasound revealed that Eekhoff's baby was in distress and Eekhoff had to undergo an emergency C-section, according to Neil Mandsager, medical director of the Perinatal Center of Iowa at Mercy.

"We knew the baby was in trouble and we alerted the obstetric emergency doctor and advised him to get the baby delivered," Mandsager told ABC News. "They found an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby's neck three times. It's very possible that this baby was not going to make it much longer."

Baby Ruby was born at 33 weeks, 5 days along and had a 10-day stay in the NICU.

PHOTO: Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.
Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.

Eekhoff said she didn’t realize the “magnitude” of how the app helped in Ruby’s early birth until she said her doctors told her going to the hospital just one day later “would’ve been too late.”

“The app helped me to know her patterns of movement so when the pattern changed, I knew something was wrong, which did save her life,” Eekhoff said. “Because I might have waited longer had I not known her patterns or been using the app, and that could've been too late.”

PHOTO: Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.
Emily Eekhoff told ABC News that the the app "Count the Kicks" saved her baby's life.

Eekhoff said she hopes other pregnant women learn from her own experience to listen closely to their bodies.

“They need to just be aware of their body and their baby and notice and so that when things change that they can go and get help sooner rather than later,” she said.

Mandsager knows the five Iowa moms who started the Count the Kicks app in 2009, after they each lost a daughter to stillbirth or infant death. They first began their stillbirth prevention efforts in 2004 by working with the Iowa legislature to create Iowa’s Stillbirth Registry.

After learning of a campaign that taught pregnant women how to monitor fetal movement with kick counts, the women decided to launch Count the Kicks. The same year, the women created Healthy Birth Day, Inc. -- a nonprofit organization to help fund efforts in spreading the Count the Kicks message.

Emily Price, executive director of Healthy Birth Day and Count the Kicks, told ABC News that moms should count at least once a day to see how long it takes baby to get 10 movements, or "kicks, rolls or jabs."

"If the amount of time it takes to get to 10 changes significantly, they should contact their provider right away because a change in how long it takes to get to 10 could be an indication that something is wrong," Price wrote to ABC News in an email. "When you and I don’t feel well we move less. We want to lie on the couch or in bed and not move. It’s the same thing with babies. When they are not feeling well, they move less. Sometimes kick counting is the only indication --- and the earliest indication --- that something is wrong in there."

She added: "We are so grateful that Count the Kicks empowered Emily and helped save Ruby. When moms have the Count the Kicks app in their hands they have a lifesaving tool. We are also deeply grateful to Mercy Medical Center and Dr. Neil Mandsager for telling moms about the importance of kick counting. They are powerful partners in saving babies with us."

Eekhoff – who describes Ruby now as a “healthy” and “easy” baby -- even met with some of the moms who started the Count the Kicks app.

“I'm thankful for them for doing something out of their loss and saving my own because I don't know if I would've caught it had I not been using the app,” Eekhoff said. “They are so thankful and grateful and likewise, so I think we do have a bond just because they have made a huge impact on my own family.”

Mandsager said he encouraged the women to start the app, which he agreed, may have saved baby Ruby Eekhoff's life.

"We've certainly seen it happen where we can directly connect mom counting baby's actions as saving [a life]," he added. "Ruby is one great example. There have been others. Most of the time, women will come in and they'll say baby's movements decreased and everything will be fine. We would much rather have a false positive, but we are happy to see those babies to make sure they are OK."