After struggling with postpartum recovery, Courtney Williams set out to improve the maternal health outcomes for others.

During an interview with AfroTech, Williams said she experienced swollen legs, chest pain, shortness of breathe, and a “blinding headache,” a few days after returning home from childbirth. A call with her mother prompted a visit to the hospital. However, she soon grew frustrated over having to make multiple visits without any clear indication of her health’s progress.

“It was the height of the pandemic, and I didn’t want to go back to the hospital and get exposed to Covid,” Williams explained. “As someone who has studied maternal health, I didn’t want to believe I was in danger of becoming a statistic myself. As I waited for treatment for hours in the hospital, I was fearful that I would not be able to recover and be there for my family.”

She continued, “In the aftermath, I had to physically keep going into the doctor’s office multiple times per week for blood pressure readings — and it didn’t make any sense as to why I couldn’t do that at home. I had no sense as to my overall health trends and whether I was getting better or worse. I didn’t understand why there was not a remote solution in place by my doctor’s office for patients in this kind of situation. It was then that I realized that technology could have saved so much time, money and stress.”

The Journey Pregnancy Application

Williams later found out these were symptoms of preeclampsia, which is a serious health condition that causes high blood pressure that can stress the heart during pregnancy, endangering the mother and baby. Preeclampsia and related complications result in 10% to 15% of maternal deaths throughout the world, according to March of Dimes.

Williams’ maternal health experience inspired her to create The Journey Pregnancy App, developed through Emagine Solutions Technology, where she serves as CEO and co-founder.

Courtesy of Emagine Solutions Technology

“This app was created by a biracial woman in Tucson, Arizona, who has herself experienced a high risk pregnancy,” Williams shared. “This app is what I wish I had going through pregnancy, and what I hope all my friends going through a pregnancy will use to document their own maternal health.”

Black Ambition Prize

Williams received backing through Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition Prize. As reported by AfroTech, Pharrell launched the effort to provide Black and brown entrepreneurs funding and resources. The support enabled Emagine Solutions Technology to create the first version of the patient app and pilot it alongside an OBGYN (obstetrician gynecologist) in her state.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative of that experience. Black Ambition provided mentorship, business training webinars, a peer circle of other healthtech entrepreneurs, and then, of course, funding and the credibility that comes with an entrepreneur like Pharrell,” Williams explained.

Application's Features

Now, The Journey Pregnancy App is readily available to the public for free download, and Williams reveals that 40% of its users claim they feel safer in their pregnancies. This is partially due to the application’s ability to assist with tracking daily vitals and symptoms.

“Our overarching goal is to make maternal mortality a relic of the past,” she expressed. “To get there, we imagine a world where this kind of maternal health tracking is a new standard of care for pregnancy. When patients are able to have data-driven conversations with their doctor and can point to their maternal health trends and are able to advocate for themselves with their own health data, that can serve to help patients and their providers. When we are all tracking our health, the conversation becomes more objective — it may be harder for bias to enter if everyone has the ability to keep tabs on their health.”

Certified Pregnancy Wellness Coach

Additionally, users will have access to a virtual certified pregnancy wellness coach throughout their pregnancy and the postpartum period if they choose a paid subscription plan. The cost ranges from $99/month to $299/month. The resource could be especially beneficial in minority communities, where quality of care is lower and preventive healthcare is less likely to be provided, per Common Wealth Fund.

“When interacting with a healthcare system built with bias at the most vulnerable time in your life, it can be challenging for patients to get maternal healthcare,” Williams said. “Self-advocacy during a prenatal care journey can be especially important Black and Indigenous women who have disproportionately poorer outcomes than their peers of other backgrounds. Our app is a data-driven tool that can be used for patients to advocate for themselves, and our first-of-its-kind complementary wellness coaching service — which enables you to schedule virtual meetings with a certified pregnancy wellness coach — adds another layer of expertise, peace of mind, emotional support, and advocacy.”

For those interested in beginning their journey, click here.