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Pitching in ice cold water and childbirth are both leaps into the unknown

The Natal Mind research team won the Polar Bear Pitching competition last weekend in Oulu. Obstetrician Aura Pyykönen tells us what it was like to pitch in the ice-cold water. Annika Järvelin, Riikka Lemmetyinen and Henni Tenhunen are other members of the winning team at Aalto Department of Industrial Engineering and Management.
Natal Mind winning team, photo by Polar Bear Pitching
From left: Viera Karam (BusinessOulu), Annika Järvelin, Aura Pyykönen, JBear Jason Brower (Polar Bear Pitching) and Riikka Lemmetyinen. Photo: Polar Bear Pitching.

Aura Pyykönen, how did it feel to pitch in an ice hole?

My background in ice hole swimming was a significant advantage. But I couldn’t really feel the cold properly – it was such an exciting experience. All my concentration went into the performance, and the cold only hit afterwards.

The experience was absurd and fun, it had its own comicality.

What is the Natal Mind innovation?

The idea came from a Biodesign programme by Annika Järvelin, who observed everyday work at maternity and child health clinics for three weeks. Mothers are left alone, with unmet needs. Mental health support is totally lacking. Even screening of mental health has been reduced because there are no places to send the mothers for treatment anywhere.

In Finland, we started with fear of childbirth, but more broadly we are talking about perinatal mental health. We want to provide a solution to support mothers and families.

There is also a need internationally: the same phenomenon can be seen in other systems.

The solution we are developing is based on emotion tracking and psychotherapy exercises. The mobile application provides psychotherapeutic exercises based on emotional factors. We are developing it further into a more comprehensive solution with more functionalities. For this, we will use artificial intelligence based on a language model.

We are currently starting a clinical trial, and are now recruiting 200 women from all over Finland.

Aura Pyykönen pitching in the ice hole, photo by Polar Bear Pitching
Aura Pyykönen pitching in the ice hole, photo: Polar Bear Pitching.

What do pitching in ice cold water, the profession of obstetrics and the fear of childbirth have in common?

The profession of obstetrician is useful when pitching in an ice hole. It is about getting the job done quickly and efficiently, i.e., giving birth. Decisions must be consistent, and at the same time you have to be convincing.

A leap into the unknown also links pitching in avanto and parenthood. Childbirth is the first step to parenthood. And it's really hard to control. You just have to go through it and believe and trust that it will fine. It's also a leap into the unknown.

Read more:

Illustration: Juuli Miettilä.

Avatars and genuine interaction

Aalto University’s researchers are contributing to the creation of redesigned maternity and child health clinics and positive childbirth experiences in their research projects. The visions seize the potential of technology, such as childbirth simulation in a 3D-video conference using an avatar, a virtual character. On the other hand, the researchers would also like to hold on to the best practices from the past, such as the traditional child health clinic card, genuine human interaction and the rotina tradition, visits by family and close-ones to meet the newborn and bring foods as a gift.

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Annika Järvelin and Hanna Castrén-Niemi have spent three weeks at three different clinics in Helsinki. Photo: Otto Olavinen, Biodesign.

One hundred years of Finnish maternity and child health clinics - researchers are exploring how health technology could be used to meet new needs

Researchers are now exploring how to meet the needs of the next century of maternity and child health clinics using Biodesign methods from Stanford University.

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