Jordan Friedman, SPECIAL FOR USA TODAY
ATLANTA (USA TODAY) -- Pregnant? There's an app for that. Many, in fact.
Between scheduled doctor appointments, more and more expectant mothers are turning to their smartphones to get tips on staying healthy, share baby bump photos and keep track of their weight.
Take Jennifer Wong, who describes herself as the "typical busy working mom." In late 2009, when mobile apps focusing on health were just starting to emerge, Wong was pregnant with her second child.
Before launching the BabyBump mobile app with her husband, she relied on her phone to keep track of appointments. She read books and searched the web for information. She kept a journal.
But Wong, founder and CEO of Alt12 Apps, realized she could stay better organized by merging all of those features. "There was really nothing out there addressing women's health and pregnancy," she says. "Women's health was a neglected area."
Things have changed as new pregnancy apps are consistently making their way into iPhone and Android app stores, Wong says. "It's definitely a growing area as people grow more and more interested in using mobile apps for health," she says.
Some of the more popular apps have millions of downloads and active users. BabyBump has racked up more than 11 million downloads and 2 million monthly users since its launch a few years ago, Wong says. Another app, I'm Expecting, developed by MedHelp, has reached 3 million downloads since its July 2010 launch.
Developers say pregnancy apps are meant to serve as a supplement to regular doctor appointments. This was the case for Meredith Baker, 31, of Baltimore, Md., who used the My Pregnancy Today app, created by BabyCenter, until she gave birth last month.
"It told me what to expect at different doctor appointments," Baker says. "It would tell me what kind of tests I'd have. I knew what they were talking about at the appointments."
While some pregnancy apps have a more specific function - like Peaceful Nursery, which provides a shopping list for a baby's eco-friendly bedroom - others are multifaceted.
Among them is Sprout, an app created by Med ART Studios and American Baby Magazine, which offers digital images of what a fetus might look like at a certain pregnancy stage, as well as a weight tracker, kick counter and contraction timer.
Susan Hutchinson, 34, of West Chester, Pa., is the mother of 15-month-old twins. She used the Sprout app during her pregnancy, both on her smartphone and iPad. "It was a matter of convenience," she says. "My iPhone is always at my side."
Condensing information about pregnancy is one of the main goals of Sprout, says Rob Kern, co-founder of Med ART Studios. The app enables gives weekly updates - written by doctors - about different stages of a pregnancy.
"There's a lot of information already out there," Kern says. "People can go to the web. There's so much content and information that exists. We wanted to distill this information into very short pieces of information you can see each week."
As social media becomes more ubiquitous, it's also making its way into health and pregnancy apps. BabyBump contains a built-in social network, where expectant mothers can "meet moms who are at the same point in the pregnancy as you" to share experiences and ask questions, Wong says.
Pregnant women can also share photos, create polls and form groups to chat.
"It's almost your pregnancy personal system," Wong says. "Your phone is always with you. That's the heart of the inspiration of BabyBump for me."
Some apps are even more personal. BabyWatch allows an expectant mother to hear and determine her baby's heart rate by connecting an external device to her cellphone.
The app launched in July and has about 1,200 users so far, wrote Urška Sršen, the COO and co-founder of BabyWatch, said in an email. It has received health approval from agencies including the Food and Drug Administration.
"Often our loved ones can't participate at the examinations because of distance or time restrictions, so sharing the emotions and experience digitally or through social media becomes very important for pre-birth bonding," she wrote.
Beyond pregnancy, apps - including ovulation and period trackers - can aid a woman as she tries to get pregnant, while others are made for the new mother. Baby Connect, for instance, allows a parent to monitor feeding, diaper changes, medication and sleep.
"I still use them beyond pregnancy," Hutchinson says. "I've moved on to other apps that help you once your baby is born."