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AI Doulas? How a chatbot is helping coach pregnant women in maternity


The company behind an AI-powered chatbot mirroring coaching and doula techniques for pregnant women is hoping to change the way mothers cope with their maternal mental health.

Erickson Coaching International, a Canadian-based coaching and training institution, has teamed up with Soula, an AI-powered health virtual assistant that helps new moms in all stages of maternity.

The app, which is currently available, on the Apple App Store and on Google Play, is not only limited to pregnant people but for partners and doulas.

Soula’s aim is to provide an “innovative AI mental health assistant,” according to a press release.

To limit maternal stress during pregnancy, which can impact a developing fetus to psychiatric and cardiovascular illnesses decades later, according to the American Health Association, Soula works on improving the emotional well-being of new mothers and their partners.

The stress hormone, cortisol, plays a role during pregnancy and fetal development, and its exposure to intense or lengthy stress can disrupt the development of an unborn child’s brain said the heart health organization.

Erickson Coaching says Soula’s mental health assistant helps prepare parents for birth and parenthood, reduce postpartum depression, and cope with fears and anxieties that may arise at any stage.

“By combining broad coaching expertise, together with extensive doula knowledge and the opportunities of Generative AI, we will work to achieve great results in raising mass awareness and destigmatizing maternal mental health issues,” said Erickson Coaching International CEO Louise Hendey in a press release.

Access to information isn’t the problem for parents today, rather it’s a lack of in-person support, said director of Doula Canada Training Stefanie Antunes in an interview with CTV News.

“I think access to information is always useful and this generation of parents has more access to information that ever before but is doing less well than previous generations. And one of the reasons for that is they lack practical experience,” said Antunes.

Antunes said previous generations have had more experience with babies and exposure to how newborns were nurtured because they’ve witnessed siblings being raised in bigger families or community.

“As a doula who has worked with thousands of families, 90-plus per cent of questions and worries people have are things that are not abnormal,” added Antunes.

Soula aims to help people “enjoy the unique experience of expecting a baby, get calm and confident, improve relationships with their partner, and bond with a child from the first months of pregnancy,” according to the press release.

Erickson Coaching and Soula have also agreed to collaborate on maternal mental health research during and post-pregnancy and to provide educational materials and online workshops for doulas.

According to Soula’s website they are “working on creating a community of doulas who will author the content” they provide to users.

Antunes says the plan to connect doulas in the app can be promising for real time access to information that relates to specific things however sharing the complexities of what’s occurring with a newborn and how best to support someone cannot be explained on email, app, or text.

“I need to see their baby. Truth is most people can’t diagnose things over the phone,” said Antunes. “Is an app really going to help with mental health issues? It’s very unlikely that it’s going to be useful for that.”


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