Nikki Newhouse

digital health and wellbeing



bump2bump: Designing and Evaluating Technology to Promote Maternal Wellbeing in the Transition to Motherhood

The notion of wellbeing is synonymous with feeling competent, supported and satisfied with one’s life.  Understanding how to sustain one’s own wellbeing is important at times of significant life change. The transition to motherhood is characterised by major emotional and physiological changes, which can impact on maternal subjective wellbeing and affect pregnancy outcomes.  While human computer interaction has begun to address some of the challenges in the prevention and treatment of affective disorders in vulnerable perinatal groups, approaches that promote holistic maternal wellbeing in the low-risk majority have received less attention.

So, I did Google quite a lot, and so I guess I was kind of exposed to quite a lot of pregnancy related internet.  Most of which is really stupid.

– Participant 1

My doctoral work at UCL focused on the role of technology to support maternal wellbeing in the transition to new motherhood. Conducted under the supervision of Prof Ann Blandford (UCLIC) and Prof Elizabeth Murray (UCL eHealth Unit), my research drew upon the multidisciplinary legacy of digital intervention development, utilising best practice from behavioural science and human computer interaction to develop and evaluate bump2bump, a digital resource for pregnant women and new mothers. I utilised a variety of methods, including textual narrative synthesis, in-depth qualitative interviews, design workshops and a longitudinal, in-the-wild mixed methods evaluation supported by ecological momentary assessment methods. My thesis was accepted in November 2019 with no corrections.

Bringing together the disciplines of behavioural science and human computer interaction in the sensitive context of first-time motherhood was highly challenging and required close cooperation between individuals drawn from the fields of design, software development, user experience, parenting education and maternity services. The work was fiercely committed to understanding and addressing the needs of the target user and input from over 30 pregnant women and new mums was integral to the work.

This work contributes knowledge to the conceptualisation of maternal wellbeing, the ‘systematisation of creativity’ through interdisciplinary research, user engagement and ecological momentary assessment technologies, including:

A better understanding of the concept of maternal wellbeing at the transition to motherhood, particularly amongst the low-risk majority. Previous conceptualisations have lacked important context; in-depth qualitative work highlighted critical pinch points in the perinatal journey and underlined the widespread focus on physical rather than holistic maternal wellbeing.

A contribution to knowledge in the form of an interdisciplinary set of recommendations intended to support the development and evaluation of digital health interventions. Usability and HCI experts have a critical role to play in the multidisciplinary development of perinatal digital tools. Women choose to engage with commercial digital resources largely as a result of persuasive design features and ease of use. Aesthetics and usability are critically important but must be combined with evidence rather than used as a hook for engagement alone. Findings from my doctoral work point to the importance of including certain types of information in digital tools used at the transition to motherhood and that this information is best presented in particular ways.

A deeper understanding of key components of digital resources which might support maternal wellbeing in the transition to motherhood. Responses from design workshops, one-to-one evaluations, focus groups and a longitudinal, in the wild study showed that features which provide credible, brief, just-in-time, practical parenting information from peers and professionals and which facilitate face to face interaction with similar others in the local community are important for promoting wellbeing in early motherhood and antenatal engagement with such resources might be an important factor. Healthcare professionals are well placed to champion such resources and provide guidance, and pregnant women expect this as part of their holistic maternity care.

Publications and presentations

Newhouse, N. (2016). Online support and new power: the bump2bump study. 2nd UCL CBC Digital Health Conference. (Oral presentation)

Newhouse, N. (2016). bump2bump. Online Peer Support in First-Time Pregnancy. CHI’16, San Jose, CA, USA. (Doctoral Consortium)

Newhouse, N., & Blandford, A. (2016). ‘My Facebook is a bit of a multiple personality at the minute’: Social Media and the Transition to New Motherhood. NordiCHI ’16, Gothenburg, Sweden. (Workshop)

Newhouse, N., & Blandford, A. (2017). Becoming Mother: Designing Online Resources That Support and Empower. CHI’17, Denver, CO, USA. (Workshop)

Singh, A, Newhouse, N., Gibbs, J., Blandford, A., Chen, Y., Briggs, P., Mentis, H., Sellen. K., & Bardram, J. (2017). HCI and Health: learning from interdisciplinary interactions. CHI’17, San Jose, CA, USA. (SIG)

Blandford, A., Gibbs, J., Newhouse, N., Perski, O., Singh, A., & Murray, E. (2018). Seven lessons for interdisciplinary research on interactive digital health interventions. Digital Health, 4, 1–13.

Newhouse, N. & Blandford, A. (2019). “Having come through the other side, I’m not sure anything would have prepared me for what’s happened”: the role of technology in supporting the perinatal journey. CHI’19, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. (Workshop)

Prabhakar, A. S., Newhouse, N., Simpson, E., Mburu, C. W., Ahmed, N., & Chen, Y. (2019). MatHealthXB: Designing Across Borders for Global Maternal Health. CHI’19, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. (SIG)

Newhouse, N., Blandford, A., & Murray, E. (2019). bump2bump: A digital resource to support maternal wellbeing in low-risk, first-time pregnancy. 5th UCL CBC Change Digital Health Conference. (Poster presentation)