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The latest parenting tech tracks your child in utero – CNET

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    by David Priest @david_p_priest

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For brand-new parents, the wait between prenatal appointments and sonograms can feel like forever. But new devices from both major developers and fledgling startups track children in the womb. Is this just another technology that preys on the anxiety of parents, or is it something everyone should buy?

The answer: Neither. But these devices are (mostly) affordable, and a lot of fun for new parents. Here are four options to keep an eye on.

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BabyCenter Alexa skill

The coolest thing about My Pregnancy, BabyCenter's Alexa skill, is the price. It's free. Basically, after you tell Alexa your due date, she can provide updates on the current stage of development you're experiencing. You can also check the Alexa app for pictures that demonstrate that development.

Of course, what the My Pregnancy skill offers isn't much different from what you can find online. But it's a simple skill that makes the information easily accessible. If you already have an Amazon Echo, it's a cool skill to check out — especially for first-time parents.

Hatch Baby Listen

Although it's not free, the Hatch Baby Listen is still a relatively affordable $50. The device is an app-connected fetal Doppler, meaning it can pick up your child's heartbeat, record it and even create audio visualizations.

Is Listen the most useful device? Not necessarily, since you won't get more info than from your standard prenatal appointments. But the ability to share the heartbeat with family or friends via email could be a cool perk for parents.

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Bellabeat Shell

Besides the cool name, the Shell boasts a really unique design. You slide the device directly onto your phone, and use it to track fetal heartbeat and movement. The kick counter helps parents keep track of their baby's movement for those prenatal appointments.

The downside is, at $70, the Shell is starting to get a little pricey.

Bloomlife

The Bloomlife is a little different from Hatch's and Bellabeat's products. First off, it's a wearable. Second, it tracks the muscle movements of the mother, rather than the heartbeat of the fetus. That means you can track your own body's development in preparation for delivery — a really unique approach.

The problem is, Bloomlife's dynamic subscription pricing will mean many users pay a couple hundred bucks for a device that won't necessarily help them that much. For a minority of users, a Bloomlife could assuage certain anxieties — especially if they're having trouble distinguishing between Braxton-Hicks contractions and early signs of delivery. But without FDA approval, you'd probably want to check with a doctor, anyway, rather than relying on Bloomlife for a diagnosis.

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The future of in utero monitoring

The idea behind all these services and devices is giving parents more information. And unlike some expensive devices that exploit parental anxieties, most of these pregnancy-tracking gadgets seem to focus more on helping first-time parents enjoy the ride.

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