Senior Studio — Mothers’ Postpartum Experience

Challenging the conversation around the transition into motherhood


The Final Deliverable:

As we close out this project, below is an overview of all that we created and the different components to the website that added to the message that we aim to impress on our audience.

As a reminder, the main problem space we set out to address was:

The conversation around new motherhood is often glamorized and focused on the baby. This lack of truthful and holistic representation keeps the public unaware, and thus unempathetic, and leaves mothers feeling isolated and helpless.

Mommy-Issues is an exploratory website aiming to add to the conversation around motherhood. Through 13 research-based, mixed media “micro-projects,” we’ve used our differing design practices to visualize, reflect, and push ourselves (and each other) to learn how we can gain empathy through our practice.

The website features four key components:

  1. The Conversation Through Time: This feature was a nod to the underlying goal of our project: adding to the conversation around motherhood. We felt it was important to gain a better understanding of what that conversation actually is and how it has continued to develop over time. This account is in no way a complete history, but rather a collection of major moments that have directly impacted the way that American society engages with motherhood (eg: Delivery methods or medical “advances”, Mass media and the representation of maternal figures, Controversial beliefs, Parenting eras, Massive political events…)
  1. Conversation Bubbles: Each of these conversation bubbles are meant to be one of us, separated by color and type. Scattered throughout, on the home page and project pages, these bubbles feature an on-going conversation about things this project has prompted us to think and reflect on. We also wanted to represent some of our insights we’ve learned from our research through interaction. Starting out with blank bubbles, we wanted to represent this idea of not knowing what’s to come and having this element of reveal or discovery with the on hover interaction. They eventually disappear after some time to make viewers have to re-hover to emulate the repetitiveness and physical nature of motherhood.
  1. Micro-projects: The website houses 13 unique, multi-media projects (video, photosets, gif, interaction, etc.). We chose to do a combination of both group projects and individual projects. The individual projects were more or less self directed after we’d had an initial conversation about the intent of it and the medium we were planning to use. In the group projects, we all worked from the same prompt and set a few restrictions, but the goal was to really be able to see our distinct voices through how we chose to execute it.
  1. Insights: The 8 insights, shown on the top menu of the website, come directly from our conversation and research with mothers and are a foundational element to the website. Each micro-project represents one or more of these insights. In addition, the website includes descriptions of each of these insights throughout the website to give the viewer a deeper look into our research synthesis.
  • The About Page, though not a key feature, is also important to giving context to the website and helping guide the audience into understanding why this website exists and how to appreciate the different projects within.


We’ve all been working hard on wrapping up all of our content.

In terms of the actual website, our visual has taken a 180 from our previously more modular grid. We’ve also moved away from the insight shapes/icons in favor of emphasizing the text bubbles/conversation.

Here were some iterations:

Update — 04/26/20

As we continue to work towards the final deliverable, we have been spending a lot of time on creating content , tweaking the website design, and forming a more persuasive message throughout the website.

The website will include around 12 finished micro-projects thats mediums are a variety of video, photo, and interaction.

(from top right → to bottom left) micro-project about monotony, lack of control, making sacrifices, and guilt

Right now, the thing we are focusing most heavily on is forming a more cohesive link between the website’s visual language and message about “adding to the conversation.” This might come in the form of modals throughout the website that house our reflections on the topic. Like the examples below:

Updates — 04/22/20

Continuing to work on micro-projects, so far we have: guilt, haircutting, societal expectations and collages basically done. We have a couple more in the works. Anna is taking the lead on working on the “conversation”/ history tab of the page. Maddie + Serina are trying to clean up the visuals and figure out that system better. Right now with just the shapes, it feels a bit empty or a bit too “soft”, so exploring to see if there’s a way to give it some edge.

Maddie + Serina working on an axure interaction for a micro-project on “lack of control”

Big Update: We also just bought an URL and hosting for our website so that’s exciting to see it live!

In terms of our pamphlet/booklet submission here is what we had:

Title: Mommy-Issues

Tagline: Challenging the conversation around the transition into motherhood

Names: Anna Gross, Maddie Headrick, Serina Liu

How Might We Statement: How might we add to the conversation around the transition into motherhood through designing experimental reflections

Description: A collection of expressive and interactive micro-projects that attempt to capture the transition into motherhood in order to:

→ Explore the physical and emotional insights we gained from our research more deeply through making

→ Challenge the means by which we as designers gain empathy

→ Question how this process will change our own perception of motherhood

→ Question the lack of transparency around our society’s representation of motherhood

exploring other possibilities for visuals of site
header images for projects

Website Update

Visual Identity Exploration — 04/15/20

In terms of the visual identity, one of the things I was realizing while I was working on a mock-up was that header images/more intentionally designed home page images were much more visually effective at tying everything together. To contrast the modular grid’s seriousness and simplicity, I was exploring adding these pastel shapes to give it a softer and more playful tone. In addition, we’re exploring the option of adding hand-written quotes/text to also create a sense of personal touch.

Update — 04/10/20

Now that we have a more concrete path moving forward, we are in the (fast-paced) making phase of our design process. While we work on the visual language and brand of our design solution, we are also working on the micro-projects that will populate a website that will house all the micro-projects. Finally, we have been wireframing and mapping out the website experience. Below are some snapshots of our process thus far:

left: wireframing for the website, right: a prototype of a collage video micro-project

Project Production and Working from Home

To produce videos and images, we’ve had to scout locations from around our homes. Below are three potential backdrops/lighting situations for the “Escape Fantasy” haircut video. recruiting people to help with this video was a bit of a challenge because I needed multiple sets of hands and had access to only two people (both with very different work schedules that do not overlap well with ideal filming daylight). Despite the hurdles — we’re all adjusting as needed! The bathroom backdrop won out after a few tests do to the skylight above it and ease of draping the seamless background over the curtain rod.

Scouting house locations for video recording

Soap Baby Project

In attempts to make a sculpting material out of soap, I put my trust in a DIY soap mold blog. This was a mistake. The blogger said that if using dove soap (because it has some lotion type ingredients in it and can be softer than other types) to half the amount of water in the “recipe,” however, I think this may have worked better with no water. After shaving my bar of soap down with a cheese grater I put it in a pot with the suggested amount of water and melted it down. After a long process of stir and melting etc. I poured it into my “mold” (an old bandaid tin that was a nice sized rectangle). It said it would take a day to set and then could come out of the mold to completely dry over the course of another two to four days. It has now been a week since it has been out od the mold and the consistency is similar to cream cheese. In an effort to not waste more soap in the time of the coronavirus, I will not be attempting the process again, however, I’m continuing to let it dry in hopes it might somehow come together.

Visual Language/Branding of Website

We are still working towards what our visual language should be. As we make more content, the color palette will hopefully become more clear. Currently working on iconography and some sort of visual system to organize the micro-projects through.

Looking at type/color palettes
Copy is also being worked on for the site — mainly of what the insights pages will say

We have also finished working on our second joint micro-project. We finished our first joint one on Wednesday.

Keeping track of these projects via our team google drive

Inspiration for Visual Language and Website:
our team Pinterest board is here

Next Steps — 03/30/20

  • begin prototyping first three micro-projects
  • website interface wire-framing
  • visual language/brand development
  • brainstorm naming and key content needed for website
  • ideate any micro-projects that we still need in order to touch on all our insights from research

New Pivot— 03/26/20

After having a conversation with Kristin and Dina, we started thinking about all the mixed media that we could incorporate and the different forms it could take.

A collection of expressive and interactive micro-projects that capture the transition into motherhood in order to:
→ Explore the physical and emotional insights we gained from our research more deeply through making
→ Challenge the means by which we as designers gain empathy
→ Question how this process will change our own perception of motherhood
→ Invite the larger community to consider their own relationship to motherhood


  • Set alarms throughout the night (maybe as a baby crying) Portraiture / Vlogs done each time I’m woken up, shows the physical/emotional effects of interrupted sleep through video and facial expression/fatigue shown in the photos
  • Using a baby-wrap style scarf tie, carry something of similar weight and size on our body throughout the day, (maybe shown through video or portraits / a reflection of what was particularly difficult / the physical toll it took)
  • Guilt — writing down everything I’ve ever felt guilty for (video) using a sharpie / brown paper, involving all three of us, relating this back to the feelings of guilt a parent faces / how this changes into motherhood. Maybe writing down a list of my own mom’s guilts in her parenting/more generally and putting the lists side-by-side (showing transforming priorities/worries)
  • Time-lapse photos of not showering/changing clothes for three days (the average span between each shower for new moms), seeing hair get more greasy and clothes getting messier
  • The physical space a child’s things take up, a photograph of all the childhood toys/stuffed animals/crayons/etc. that still exists in our house. Taking all of these items and laying them out very neatly (lined up on a white tarp in the driveway maybe). After 22 years (likely ten years of not using a lot of this), all these things still remain, as well as the child (me) sitting with it all.
  • Reflection piece/conversation with my mom, incorporating the numerous photo albums in the house, maybe collaging something / making timelines of our overlapping experiences / shared and not shared emotions/thoughts at specific times of events
  • Cutting hair video — around longing for independence/freedom. Multiple hands tugging at shirt/hair, cutting the connection by chopping the hair off with scissors, a sense of relief (tugging represents responsibility/child care/so much dependence on the mother, chopping it off is the “fantasy” of escape numerous moms have expressed in more private conversations).
  • Using comics/drawing paired with writing as a vehicle for more personal, reflective content
  • Wearable, sculptural objects (maybe using child-focussed objects) that either constrain, weigh down, or put pressure on the wearer, depicting guilt/expectations/anxiety/fear for the future/etc.
  • Depicting boredom and monotony through a video of repetitive, mindless actions between all three of us. EX. washing a plate and putting it down, on the counter → cuts to another scene of a plate being dirty on the counter and washing it again → repeat
  • Digital interaction around “not knowing what's to come,” EX. the user is instructed to type something in but obstacles in either the letters being put down /the placement or order of the words occur. EX2. the user is instructed to click on a certain button but as the mouse approaches it the button reacts, moving closer, further away, up/down, etc.
  • Creating a collaborative playlist: asking people to submit one song that makes them feel guilty when they hear it… and tell us why/the story behind it
  • Visualizing fake money that you can use to “buy” yourself a shower or 10 minutes of silence
  • Some sort of translator → you put in something that could sound rude or short (because you’re stressed) and it’ll translate into something nice so you can tell that to your partner
  • Fillable Mad-lib of apologizing
  • Start with various hobbies/free time and slowly stripping that away day by day until there’s none of that but work
  • Showers getting shorter and shorter each time as an indicator of how something so normal has to be adjusted (without your actual control) because of your new lifestyle
  • Idea of the bathroom being really the only safe space in the house or the only place to have some “free time” → video of us doing our free time tasks in the bathroom (sketching, playing mobile games, etc).
  • Trying to do as many things/household tasks as possible while holding a “baby” (a bag of flour or something to symbolize the actual weight in your arms)
  • Audio track of “intelligent conversation” or conversations about yourself and your life slowly changing to only questions about the baby
  • Create a 10 hour+ track of quiet white noise and a baby crying
  • Use the voices of mothers to create a track with overlapping words and sentences that reveal the emotional journey that moms go through
  • Collage video that represents the image of a women (representing identity pre-partum) being covered up by images/symbols/words that represent “motherhood”
  • “Throwing away the key”: Try to solve a puzzle or problem without all the pieces or missing the directions, mimicking the feeling many moms have not knowing what to expect or how to “solve” a baby’s daily changing needs
  • Each annotating on photos of ourselves, reflect on what societal expectations we don’t feel that we meet
  • Do something around fasting (skipping meals) or eating “quick meals” investigating the lack of time new mom’s have and the basic things they sacrifice for their baby

Inspiration / Finding Examples of Like Work

12 Kinds of Kindness — general inspiration around designers putting themselves into positions that challenge their understanding of a topic, creating more performative work

Nathan Tokyo — A grid of interactive experiences that could work well in the context of our project as well.

Interactive Web Elements — inspired by the digital interactions housed in these sites/pages, thinking about incorporating responsive website interactions as designed aspects for research insights like “not knowing what’s to come”

40 Days of Dating — inspired by their use of conditional design techniques paired with reflective elements and visual content

Headless Horse Website — Interesting website that presents project in an interactive collage.

Joan Jonas Performance work —a video of Joan Jonas’ work with performative art in New York City reminds me of Conditional Design and inspires me with the power of video and performance as a way of communicating a concept or message.

Poolside FM — inspired by the modular way of presenting work

Performative design as a term — “performative design” as a practice that draws on graphic design, events, bodies and action to effect social change.

Emotional Design as a term — sharing personal stories as form of activism

IAD Lab — Web design inspiration showing content as a journey

Emotive Brand — UI/UX Inspiration

UI/UX inspiration

Midterm Presentations — 03/23/20

Moving forward, we’ve highlighted the most important slides from our midterm presentation. These directly relate to our new pivot. We’re shifting from a more “solution based” design intervention to awareness based, speculative “campaign”/commentary.

Highlighted segments are the similarities that we found from our new moms insight and people currently in social isolation.

Some examples of the overlaps

Social Media Examples:

Social media usage has increased a ton, particularly on Instagram and Tik Tok, since COVID-19. Tracking user behavior, Obviously, a marketing company, saw Instagram campaign impressions increase 22% from Q1 to Q4 and TikTok influencers have seen engagement jump by over 27% on average from February to March.

We’re noticing the rise of COVID-19 related memes, services, promo codes and all types of content being based around the virus. Since a lot of the feelings around the virus are so universal, people are coming together through a lot of shared experiences and engaging with the content more personally. We think creating social media content will be a great way to put things into the real world in real time and try to engage with people.

Our three proposed deliverables are meant to go hand in hand with one another. The speculative products and social media campaign are meant to draw people in and spark interest/engagement while the website is meant to be more informational, insightful and give grounding to our choices with the speculative products and campaign.

We are working on gathering specific aspects or feelings we want to target, like “noise” for example. A possible speculative product could be something like having a Tamagotchi speaker in your room that cries, screams, etc. at different times of the day. How can we create objects that would add an additional layer?

While these are “speculative products”, they’re grounded in experiences or existing things, but pivoted to make work in order to express what we want to shed light on the new mom experience. In that way, people are able to understand what the product is and then imagine what that experience would be like instead of telling exactly what the experience is like. In addition, we feel like non-moms/outsiders are able to connect with something that involves them to imagine and see themselves in situations, but with different stakes.

To further this, how can social media/branding visuals help elevate this object? How can a website with more information help tie everything together? We have done a lot of research prior and we definitely want to utilize our insights and findings as much as possible.

Moving forward, Anna will be leading the speculative products segment, Serina will be leading the social media campaign and Maddie will be leading the desktop website. However, we definitely see there being a lot of crossover in the roles. We’re scheduled to meet after our individual chat on Wednesday with the professors to talk about logistics and start getting the ball rolling on prototyping and content creation.

Pre-Midterm Presentation Group Check-In — 03/20/20

Reflecting on our process so far:

Week 1: Exploring womanhood — how can young women find resources that are catered to their own values?

Week 2: Stay at home moms — how can stay at home moms maintain their identity and find community?

Week 3: Matrescence — how does the transition into new motherhood affect physically and emotionally?

Week 4: Postpartum Body Healing (Physical) — how can the postpartum body healing process be made easier while also empowering new moms?

Week 5: New Moms’ Identity (Mentally/Emotionally) — how can a physical product help ease the transition into motherhood and prompt self reflection?

Week 6+: New Moms’ Identity + Communication within their partners — how can a physical product help bridge gaps in communication for new moms and their partners while empowering new moms to feel more comfortable in their new identity?

What Now?

With COVID-19 calling for a transition into virtual collaboration, our team had to make a decision on how to move forward. When we hopped onto our group zoom, we were in agreement that we were all weary about how our current idea could be successful through virtual/digital collaboration, shift in priorities and the fact that no shops were open. We didn’t feel great about having to compromise our original plan of making something tangible into something digital and ending up with something that felt like the “second best” option.

Instead, we agreed that we couldn’t ignore the current experience and environment we were in. We suddenly went from spring break and normal classes to social distancing, virtual classes and feeling bored, isolated, and out of control. When we started to talk about our own experiences with social distancing and staying home, we realized that there were so many parallels with what we had heard many of our new mom interviewees say.

Imagine social distancing and all the feelings you’re feeling… but now add a new born baby that needs 10 hours of your attention daily.

Working via Zoom

Design Probe

Design Probe Designed for New Moms

Before Spring Break, we designed a probe for new moms to fill out. The intension of this probe was to understand the course of a new mom’s emotions as she travels through this new experience. With the outcomes of this probe, our intention was to use any patterns or insights we identified to create physical objects that would help moms to process through these emotions. We intended to use it this week in the new mom’s coffee group that our team was invited to attend by Kathy McGrath, however due to the current situation, all mom’s groups were cancelled.

Where we’re at — 03/04/20

1)Business Canvas Exercise Key Takeaways:
- consider how there are more customer segments than simply the mother, child, and spouse — like big name companies (J&J, P&G…), hospitals, insurance companies, etc.
- consider what the typical cost is for a postpartum mom in the insurance/hospital company
- be more narrow with the value proposition — once it is more concise, everything else will fall into place

Business Canvas

2)Primary Customer persona: working to flesh out the key characteristics of the new mothers that we want to design for

First-time Mom Persona

3)Key insights related to our topic: below are the key insights from our multiple interviews that we are interested in addressing and thinking about

  • First time moms often have intense feelings of guilt related to 1) how they perceive “they’re doing” 2) what they see other moms doing 3) what social media conveys 4) how they do not meet their own expectations 5) how they experience challenges in connecting to baby, breastfeeding, adjusting to new lifestyle, etc.
  • Touch Saturation” is something many moms face that can relate to spouse intimacy and connection postpartum
  • Along with having a clear physical journey, mothers also go through very distinct steps emotionally coined as an “emotional course
  • All moms face a “grieving” phase postpartum when they realize the losses that they experience when they transition into motherhood
  • The spouse “is the unsung hero” -Kathy McGrath — the spouse plays a big part in the mothers postpartum experience
  • All moms experience changing priorities postpartum

4)Moving Forward:

  • MAKING! — with research and brainstorming about metaphors related to a new mother’s experience, we want to begin prototyping products that will help women connect better to themselves and their spouse
  • Going to New Moms Coffee Group
  • Making our value proposition concise and specific
  • Deciding all elements of our system/service (product? web component? brand? etc…)


Update — 02/24/2020

Affinity mapping our research findings by “players” (eg. spouse, friends, doctors, self)

Moving forward, we are aiming to narrow down on the specific problem area and involved people. This has helped us identify how key findings from research relate to multiple people in the postpartum journey.

We are now working to brainstorm metaphors, motifs, and ‘stories’ that will give us a starting point towards thinking about the context of our physical solution as well as how branding will be incorporated in the product we create.

Update — 02/17/2020

Synthesis and affinity mapping our interview findings thus far (6 interviews)

In the last couple weeks focusing on mother’s physical healing postpartum, our conversations with moms have pivoted us towards now looking into the emotional and holistic aspects of postpartum experiences. In our research process we have discovered an important theme among new mothers about conversation with their spouse, their “confidant,” and their community of friends. While many mothers identified the importance of having close friends and relatives to talk to about their fears, excitement, and transition into motherhood, they also spoke to the tension that often accompanied those conversations; many mother’s did not know how much or little to share, and had to constantly be aware of other’s specific experience with pregnancy and childbirth (infertility, breastfeeding challenges, ease or struggle in childbirth, etc.).

With these insights in mind, we’re aiming to create a toolkit that women can use to navigate their unique needs and explore the lesser discussed emotional transition — whether it be in connecting to their partner, their children, or themselves. Our end goal is to be able to empower and ease the transition into motherhood by helping women feel more comfortable in their new identity. Below is inspiration we have found that use products to help facilitate conversation and/or ease the process of some task:

Next Steps for us include:

  1. Talking to experts in the field (doulas, midwifes, etc.).
  2. Creating a design probe that will help us as we look toward creating physical products. We want to map women’s experience postpartum on a timeline with the moods they experienced at each stage of their journey.
  3. Setting up more interviews with moms to gather data with the design probe we create.
  4. Synthesizing our research with moms in order to narrow down on the end goal of our product and what specific problem area in the postpartum journey that we want to address (eg: facilitating better conversation, figuring out how to better include the spouse in the journey, helping mothers transition into their new identity, etc.).

Visiting Magee Womens Hospital — 02/15/2020

This past week the team took a visit over to Magee Womens Hospital, a hospital that specializes in women’s health and has a renowned birthing center. While we were only able to access the visitor lobby, gift shop, and cafeteria, we noticed some interesting things. One of the biggest takeaways surprisingly came from our visit to the gift shop. The gift shop was full of baby blankets, stuffed animals, and cards, but we were surprised that there was no mention of or gifts centered around mom’s postpartum recovery. Besides some lip balm and hand mirrors, the gift shop lacked any products specifically for women postpartum. Across from the gift shop there was also a lactation consultant store/office, but it was unfortunately closed (on a Wednesday at 2pm!). While the lactation store had many more products for mothers (breast pumps, nipple creams, etc.), all the products centered around breastfeeding.

In all, it was good to get a better idea of the kind of experience many Pittsburgh moms face when preparing to have a child.

Photos from the Magee Giftshop

Quick-Paced Prototyping:

Prototype #1: the Mommy box (WIP)

Initial brainstorming for prototype idea. (orange star indicates promising spaces to develop on)

What is it? A subscription service that begins in a soon-to-be mother’s second trimester of pregnancy and helps prepare mother’s expectations for postpartum healing and allows them to try out and preselect self-care items for their recovery journey.

Key features of this subscription service borrows from many successful systems today like Rent The Runway and Ipsy that deliver preference-specific goods to the user. This service is aimed at 1) setting expectations early on and 2) getting the soon-to-be mother more acquainted with products she might use postpartum.

It is something that could be initiated by the soon-to-be mother herself, or a loving spouse or friend.

It could also act as a means to community as this type of service could identify other mothers who are in the same area getting boxes delivered to their doorstep.

(pamphlet) soon-to-be mom’s first look at the system and mission

Prototype #2: Postpartum Vending Machine

Initial brainstorming for prototype idea

What is it? A vending machine in maternity wards near snack (or other) vending machines. It carries postpartum product staples like: nipple shields, mesh underwear, inflatable cushions, peri bottles, sitz bath salts, etc.

What is it meant to do? Prompt the people who are around the mother at the hospital to also think about the mother’s healing process. In the frenzy of a new baby, people often forget that moms need care too! By having it near a vending machine that people may use to get a snack or a drink, it’s supposed to be a reminder or an introduction that products exist for the healing process.

Storyboard — Spouse interacting with vending machine in hospital

Vending Machine Interaction Mock-up

This is just a possible mock-up of an interaction that could be presented via a touch screen on the vending machine. Since not many people have prior knowledge on postpartum products and trying to promote others to buy for the new mom, a quiz like interaction could be a great way to show the diversity in products.

image and bios of products are taken from

“Advertisements” — promoting postpartum products

some “ads” prompting recognition of items that could be beneficial for a new mom’s self care

I was inspired by the fact that Uniqlo vending machines have been popping up all over the place in airports. I’ve seen people get off the plane and buy a down jacket because it was there to remind them that maybe they forgot to pack one for their destination. Beyond that, it’s a different/unexpected interaction to buy a jacket so there is a ~fun~ factor to it. This made me think about how a vending machine in a maternity ward space could function similarly.

examples of some unconventional vending machines brands have been utilizing for experiential marketing

Prototype #3: Healing and Connecting with Physical Touch

What is it? This idea focusses on the various benefits touch and bodily exploration can bring in the postpartum period. The product is a bedside device that utilizes four different types of sensory “attachments” — heat, breath, pulse, and massage.

What is it meant to do? Each attachment aims to help either self-exploration postpartum (reacquainting yourself with your body/exploring the differences in physical features and sense) or encouraging a more intimate connection with your partner in times of high stress.

Discovered through our research (x)(x), disconnect with your postpartum body and identity an all too common struggle for many women — motherhood support groups even coining the term “matresence,” comparing the postpartum experience with that of adolescent puberty. While developing the vocabulary to understand and talk about mothers’ shifts in body and mind is incredibly empowering, I was curious as to what a product solution for this experience may look like. What interactions promote relaxation in high-pressure times while also encouraging reflection and intimacy?

Initially inspired by the idea of skin-to-skin contact techniques with newborns and healthy bonding, I began to look into a few of the benefits of touch with both yourself and with a partner.

“Allow yourself to be touched- Now I know the last thing you may want is to be touched, especially when you are so exhausted and may not feel like your most beautiful self. And if you are breastfeeding, then your breasts are raw and tender to the touch. But, allow yourself to be touched by someone other than your baby; be it yourself, a partner or friend. Even just mindfully applying lotion onto your body or allowing your partner to massage your hands or feet will help you connect physically and shows gratitude to your body.” — Reconnect With Your Body After Childbirth,

Receiving physical touch from a partner seemed to top the self-help lists of topics from “how to feel more secure in your postpartum body” to “how to reintroduce sex postpartum.” Even outside of the new motherhood realm — physical touch has been scientifically proven to have numerous health benefits, from reducing stress to lowering heart rate and blood pressure (x). A sensual (non-goal-oriented, ie. not directly leading to sex, etc.) massage from a partner will help relieve both physical and mental strain.

My idea attempts to help seamlessly integrate and prompt touch into a particularly high stress/highly exhausting time.

Storyboard — Postpartum stresses and product breakdown

The four attachments of the handheld device each serve a particular function:

  • Heat — focusses on muscle relaxation as well as the notion of security or closeness.
  • Breath — gently inflating and deflating, this attachment encourages syncronizing breathwork to a slower, deeper pace (increase in oxygen and control of breath, as inspired by yoga practices)
  • Pulse — vibrations to explore the body and promote transitioning into sexual intimacy when the time is right
  • Massage — a firmer, textured attachment to explore bodily sensitivity and work out muscle tension

When prompted, the base will glow in time to help with breathwork despite the attachment.

3D model of the general concept

Dan Lockton — 02/03/20

Hearing Dan give a refresher of different research methods and probes was helpful in getting us into a headspace of thinking beyond just a traditional interview. In conjunction with our interviews, we want to do an activity after where the moms are asked if they recognize or know what a product (printed onto a card) is for. We’re hoping that based on their answer, we can see if they had a problem with a certain area, but didn’t know that a product “solution” even existed for it.

Dan Lockton’s exercise

Updated Brief Summary — 1/30/20

In our preliminary research and conversations, one of the reoccurring themes was how both body and mind go through an extreme transition. The healing period, the first 12 weeks, is often the most hectic time frame. Caring for the new baby and adapting to their postpartum body, new moms often mind themselves overwhelmed. Many new moms lack the resources to navigate their new lifestyle. In the center of our stakeholder map are new moms. Directly connecting to them are spouse, new born baby, doctor, doula, and social circles. We’ve started reaching out to new moms through Facebook groups and are developing interview questions targeted towards the changes in body. Our end goal is to create a physical product with original branding and an informational system built around it. While there are already existing solutions in this problem space, most of them involve assembly or a hard learning curve. We hope that through testing with local Pittsburgh moms that our prototype is able to empower and ease the transition of the postpartum healing process.

Notes from 01/27/19

  • Why now?: Media (magazines, social media, etc.) has a tendency to only project how “good” mothers are doing, causes new moms to have more anxiety — lack of transparency, un-attractive parts of motherhood are rarely spoken about
  • New moms aren’t even able to admit to themselves their own mixed emotions about motherhood until 18 months in


  • Women/mothers, become more transparent and vulnerable — starting to change the discourse, public-facing part of motherhood to be more transparent
  • Women being more self-reflective — changing the public-facing perception
  • Feel more confident and empowered to be more publicly vulnerable
  • More representative of what real motherhood is like, good or bad

Updated territory/stakeholder map

Casual Interviews with our own mothers — Anna’s Mom

How much preperation was done beforehand? What did you use as a source of knowledge (mentors, parents, books, etc.)

  • The book “what to expect when expecting,” was the bible because there was no google/not a huge range of books the helpt with this process
  • From helping with all her brothers and sisters growing up she had a bit of a clue how to raise kids
  • Didn’t have a lot of friends who had been pregnant, only 2 — both of which never thought they would be pregnant but did, 1st friend= smoked and drank + her personality completely changed after due to postpartum depression, 2nd friend= gained 72 pounds but loved the thought of having a kid
  • couldn’t use her mother as a resource because pregnancy or delivery like mine, knocked them out and used forceps to remove the baby
  • no support from husband’s side — his mom was struggling with bipolar disorder
  • her mom’s advice: “that baby is bored”, as soon as she could sit up it was fine
  • her mom’s advice: “the baby is hungry” gave her food at two months or three months “the first year” book said six months before they should get solid food, which her mom told her was crazy — Additionally, don’t give it baby food, stupid to waste money, just grind up whatever you’re eating

Bodily changes — what was it like, what changed, what didn’t?

  • Never had to see celebrity women losing post-baby weight so just had her own fat fear — her doctor said she could gain 33 lbs so she gained 33 lbs, never had bad cravings and kept up moderate exercise, after giving birth she lost the weight pretty quickly, however, it took her best friend till her kid was 29 to loose the last five pounds of baby weight
  • Was one of the few people then who wore a bikini with a baby belly
  • Stomach didn’t sag horribly until she hit menopause, never got stretch marks BUT boobs never look the same — saggier after
  • BREASTFEEDING — couldn’t breastfeed — nipples bled, her mother had issues with breastfeeding too, breastfeeding is supposed to build up an immune system but the pumps weren’t like they are now, as a new mother, who is extremely tired and has a crying baby that wants to eat right away, she just went for formula
  • The vagina is not really stretched out but not really as tight — she didn’t care, really became stigma attached to women after her

What was the biggest transition factor after giving birth?

  • Her privacy and alone time was gone, shot, never was going to be the same
  • Felt like someone was in her house that she barely knew
  • Little projects like drawing or making were gone, everything was put aside because of the baby
  • Before the baby her spouse and she were equals, now the baby comes and the baby comes first — a baby who shes “doesn’t even know yet,” — stopped working and just became someone’s mother and wife, no longer felt like she owned her image

What did you struggle with most? Biggest insecurities (physical, parenting, mental, relationally)?

  • The baby’s intrusion into her life
  • people start to get competitive and comparing babies against each other within the mom groups she attended, all babies are different, but as a new mom you don’t know or fully understand that, so it puts a lot of pressure on the mothers because some kids are going at different rates or reaching milestones before others
  • People (friends/family) would talk about how to raise a baby, and then realizing what works for their babies likely isn’t gonna work the same way for your baby, but at first, you don’t know that, you just think your baby is slow and needs to get tested
  • The “maternal encouragement” and telling them how great they are — not her strong point, wasn’t super gooey/wouldn’t lie about the kid’s abilities

Scariest moments?

  • The very first time she brought the baby home, her husband went off to work and no one else came with her from the hospital, it was just her and this “screaming red monkey” (a baby)
  • Never wanted to hurt the baby, but sometimes wanted to get in the car and drive and never come back, but that wasn’t postpartum, she was just a particularly difficult newborn

What were you most confident in?

  • keeping her children occupied, a great player and entertainer (from playing as a baby sitter for all of her brothers and sisters)
  • Keeping them clean and healthy

What was the role of other people in the pregnancy/birth experience? (spouse, parents, community, friends)

  • Husband wasn’t around, never went with her to any appointments during pregnancy because he worked 6 + days a week
  • Parents were zero help, she was an older pregnancy and they weren’t into it, only some advice about how to raise a toddler
  • During the delivery — only husband was there, her parents came over a day later and her dad happened to have been on rounds in the hospital — he had 8 kids already so there was no urgency to see the grandchild
  • Her husband picked her up hours late from the hospital, bringing flower from the garden in a pickle jar (not like the bouquets other women were getting)

What was the role (if any) of the community in the process?


What do you remember doing for yourself in your spare time during this time of transition?

  • Exercising — she could use the gym daycare and then talk to other women her age that weren’t talking about babies
  • Had to be something small because you only have about 1 hour to yourself
  • Would’ve liked to do reading or drawing but found she couldn’t concentrate, when you sit and read it’s something totally for yourself, would think I should be doing something else, but exercising or swimming was staying healthy, reading and drawing was just so self-indulgent
  • Part of it was her husband because he never stopped working and never really complained about it, she felt if she sat down and started reading it would be selfish, knowing her husband was out working — his job ended at the office but then he’d help clean up dinner and make his own lunch and then go look at the finances, so it wasn’t like he was taking a break when he got home
  • Felt guilty if she “sat on my butt and read a book”

Connection to child? (immediate bond)

  • Her best friend said when she saw her daughter she couldn’t believe how lucky she was, so in love, but she didn’t feel the same, she felt as though this human was someone she just met, felt responsibility but not that immediate connection
  • “You have this little thing in the house that you don’t even know and now it’s a huge amount of responsibility. It’s not like a puppy, can’t just leave it home”

Intimacy — sex, physical contact? Did it decrease? Increase? Feel different?

  • Did not want to have sex until everything was healed physically, a lot of the lack of sex drive was just being tired,
  • “I didn’t feel like the baby was the most important thing, some men complain about how after their wife delivers that it’s just her and the baby and he’s the third wheel, but that’s not what our relationship was like” still desired husband
  • Everything kinda picked up where it fell off, pretty casual about sex, no date nights and no one was keeping track of when they did and didn’t have sex

Casual Interviews with our own mothers — Serina’s Mom

My mom was born in Beijing, China. She lived there for 35 years before she came to America in 1996. Before she came to America, she worked a full-time job. A year later she had me in Queens, NYC, at age 39. She had my brother, John, in Beijing when she was 29 years old. She still currently works a full time job at Mt. Sinai hospital doing science research.

How much preparation was done beforehand? What did you use as a source of knowledge (mentors, parents, books, etc.)

  • Read books mainly, talked to some friends
  • Super prepared, owned this pregnancy book that was meant to show women how to change their lifestyles in order to manifest a baby boy or baby girl — one book for male and one book for female
  • Followed the book, especially with diet related things, one of the tips was to especially not eat things with high cholesterol (for a boy)
  • Since you could only have one child in China, the pressure to have a male is higher, so she followed the book very seriously
  • Was a big planner so all pregnancies were intentional
  • Brought the book with her when she came to America

Bodily changes — what was it like?

  • Gained a lot of weight, 180 lb when she gave birth to me, 185 lb when she gave birth to my brother
  • Post birth, went on a diet — post birth, she was basically in bed for 2–3 weeks though, it’s part of Chinese culture to stay in bed and basically not be on your feet unless you’re using the bathroom for 1 month. you’re told to always wear a lot of clothes to stay warm and keep your forehead warm
  • Body hurt, muscles hurt, legs really hurt at night, have you have a big pillow to put leg over/on top of otherwise I couldn’t sleep
  • John — up to the day before he was born, she was still biking to work every day and on her feet, “everyone in China was like that then”

What was the biggest transition factor after giving birth?

  • Felt like she matured, your responsibilities are more important and beyond just yourself since you now have this kid
  • Must work harder and make more money because of your kid, want to set them up for a good future — economics definitely became more difficult, started the minute a baby came into the picture (my dad got cancer a year and a half after I was born and being in a new country was overall just pretty stressful)
  • Your attention is like all on the kid, everyday feels like something has changed about the kid, growth happens so fast
  • Maternity leave for 3 months in China, when my mom came to America, she didn’t work from the start and didn’t really go to a “job job” until I was 2 years old
  • Always wanted to go back to work, did a lot of crafts (that were sold) when I was born, my brother would deliver these crafts

What did you struggle with most? Biggest insecurities (physical, parenting, mental, relationally)?

  • Felt pretty big after the pregnancy, not super confident in body
  • Language barrier in America, felt very nervous about how to raise kids, then always felt kind of uncomfortable/ashamed at like PTA meetings, meeting child’s friends, regretful that her English was not as good
  • Often compared to other people/seeing other parents — felt the pressure, felt like it was own fault
  • Noted that if she gave birth now, I would definitely be more self-conscious, young moms and American moms have a lot of different types of stresses

What were you most confident in?

  • That I would be able to keep our family close, felt like I could do a good job at parenting
  • Can provide a good life/good environment for kids

What was the role of other people in the pregnancy/birth experience? (spouse, parents, community, friends)

  • Husband was always there for her, pick up the slack, came home and would take care of them, would recognize that I was tired and stressed and worked really hard, even when Husband was sick, he was always really supportive and helpful
  • Husband would take John outside in the middle of the night because he was scared John might wake me up
  • John, parents would help and buy things because they were close by, parents always wanted to be a part of it and wanted to help
  • Serina, counted on ourselves because no extended family in the US
  • Friends, would come over and see kids, never really saw my friends without baby, when back at work though, it was fine, it was less stressful than being at home
  • Didn’t have a major feeling that she “lost” her own life, just an extension
  • In China, everyone lived pretty close by to one another, the kids will play with each other and we would meet each other and they would be friends, if your kids are around the same age, then it seemed like she talked more or were closer w/ those people because of the kids
  • Didn’t feel really isolated from not having a group, liked to hang out with baby and was also taking care of John (who was 10 y/o), would always bring the kids if she was going anywhere
  • Do group gatherings, every Friday, gather at one of our houses, older kids together, put baby near mom/in crib in other room, then just chatted over dinner with friends and played poker

What was the role (if any) of community in the process?

  • Didn’t feel lonely over the fact that there was not really community
  • Didn’t have relatives over here
  • All just friends that I knew from China that were also in the US

What do you remember doing for yourself in your spare time during this time of transition?

  • Watch TV, read books
  • Just wanted to sit really, was tired, didn’t really know what to do either
  • Crossword and sudoku, books and books of them

Connection to child? (immediate bond)

  • Yes because you can feel the kicks and stuff in the stomach pre-birth
  • Enjoyed being pregnant (mainly because you get to eat more) — mentally prepared for this baby because she was a planner
  • Was mainly tired, but looking at the baby was a reminder that she was so in love and it was all good

What was the difference between your first child and any after that?

  • Biggest thing: more experience
  • First one was like way more prepared — read more books, ask friends, second one was much more relaxed, been there done that kinda attitude
  • American birthing is SO much easier, diapers, formula, etc.
  • John never had diapers, had to use cloth, milk was crap, very liquid and gross, and I had to work after 3 months, John cried SO much, Serina never did, just felt much more higher standards in the US

Intimacy — sex, physical contact? Did it decrease? Increase? Feel different?

  • Dropped off for a bit, was always so tired and didn’t have enough time
  • Was annoyed sometimes when I worked too much and all she wanted to do was sleep
  • Kids get older, it gets better a bit, fell back into our own ways
  • When we were having John, all 3 of us were staying in the same room, so it was always a little awkward/unsure of how to navigate through that

Casual Interviews with our own mothers — Maddie’s Mom

My mom was around 26 when she had her first child. She (and her husband) moved right as she found out she was pregnant, so she didn’t find work in her new home. She also did not return to work after having her first child.

How much preparation was done beforehand? What did you use as a source of knowledge (mentors, parents, books, etc.)

  • Read some parenting books — specifically with a Christian perspective
  • Talked to her mom and step-mom a lot

Bodily changes — what was it like?

  • Besides the normal healing period of 2–3 weeks, her body bounced back very quickly
  • she lost weight very quickly and weighed less after having babies
  • didn’t feel any anxiety about body image

What was the biggest transition factor after giving birth?

  • Was very “in love” with her baby
  • Her attention was now much more divided (she remembers husband feeling “left out”)
  • much more work

What did you struggle with most? Biggest insecurities (physical, parenting, mental, relationally)?

  • It wasn’t a big struggle for her in general
  • “I fell in love with my baby and everything else didn’t seem as hard”
  • The parenting aspect was very hard — letting the baby cry and not picking him up every time he cries
  • “I remember being so afraid to leave the hospital, I didn’t know how I would be able to look after a child on my own”

What was the role of other people in the pregnancy/birth experience? (spouse, parents, community, friends)

  • Husband went back to work immediately, so he wasn’t there to help with getting adjusted
  • Mom and mother in law came to help “so I wasn’t totally alone”
  • Had a very strong church mom community, everyone was in the same season of life

What do you remember doing for yourself in your spare time during this time of transition?

  • “I remember forgetting to eat because of how busy and consumed I was”
  • didn’t do that much for herself, she loved just being with her baby

Connection to child? (immediate bond)

  • It was an immediate “falling in love”
  • first baby’s temperament was very “easy” and calm

What was the difference between your first child and any after that?

  • “I remember crying when I was about to have Maddie, because I didn’t know how I was going to do with with 4 children”
  • It got progressively harder with more kids

More research on adjusted topic area:

Below is more research on our adjusted topic area about the emotional and physical transition that women face when they give birth to their first child

Synthesize Secondary Research

  • (x) — Interesting New York Times opinion article about the hard transition from being a working professional to staying at home with children. “The truth was, becoming a stay-at-home mother was not unlike experiencing the death of a loved one, but the loved one I’d lost was myself.”
  • (x) — Accepting your new, postpartum body — it can feel like adolescence/puberty again, Managing your emotional relationship with your body, self-care after pregnancy in addition to newborn care,
  • (x) — When a women becomes pregnant, and then a mother, she experiences changes in her brain, which are reflected in the unique emotions mothers have toward their child. “In a normal brain, activity in the amygdala grows in the weeks and months after giving birth. This growth, researchers believe, is correlated with how a new mother behaves — an enhanced amygdala makes her hypersensitive to her baby’s needs… The greatest brain changes occur with a mother’s first child, though it’s not clear whether a mother’s brain ever goes back to what it was like before childbirth”
  • (x) — Article talks about the transition into motherhood and its similarity to adolescence, except there is a general lack of knowledge shared and understood about the transition. The article highlights research by Dana Raphael who coined the term matrescence. The article also talks about the dichotomy between the idealized idea of birth and postpartum depression and the lack of an in-between. “It’s really empowering for women to have language, because then they can talk about what they’re feeling.” **
  • (x) — “Instead of focusing on the woman’s identity transition, more research is focused on how the baby turns out…When people have more insight into their emotions, they can be more in control of their behaviors.” New York Times article identifies four aspects of a changing mothers identity to “look out for”: Changing Family Dynamics, Ambivalence, Fantasy vs. Reality, and Guilt, Shame and “The Good Enough Mother.”

“Consider the Instagram image of the pregnant and postpartum supermom: a nurturing, organized, sexy-but-modest multitasker who glows during prenatal yoga and seems unfazed by the challenges of leaking breasts, dirty laundry and sleep training. This woman is a fiction. She’s an unrealistic example of perfection that makes other women feel inadequate when they pursue and can’t achieve that impossible standard.”

  • (x) — short research paper on the transition to motherhood that summarizes key themes based on a number of studies on new mothers.

“Miller’s research found that cultural expectations led women to conceal experiences and reactions which are difficult but normal…women need time and support to adapt to loss and change, arguing that this process is complicated by motherhood being seen as natural and desirable. A focus on the woman’s own feelings and needs can feel incompatible with her role as a mother.”

  • (x) — video showing different cultural methods of care in locations around the world
  • (x) — TED Talk, aspirational guilt, this idea that our idealized views of motherhood undermine the confidence of many new mothers, isolate women and fail to support them through their own personal goals and mothering
  • (x) — some tips meant to teach mothers how to adjust to this new motherhood (both physical and mental)
  • (x) — through neuro-imaging to track brain images, it’s seen that women lose gray matter during pregnancy because their brains are becoming more specialized in order to help them adapt to motherhood and respond to the needs of their babies. These changes could also play a factor in attachment difficulties and postpartum depression.

“As a parent, you’re now going to be solving slightly different adaptive problems, slightly different cognitive problems than you did before you had children,” he explains. “You have different priorities, you have different tasks you’re going to be doing, and so your brain changes.” (from source above)

  • (x) — “…becoming a mother is an identity shift, and one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience. The process of becoming a mother, which anthropologists call “matrescence,” has been largely unexplored in the medical community. Instead of focusing on the woman’s identity transition, more research is focused on how the baby turns out.”

“The history of psychiatrists ignoring how pregnancy impacts a woman’s development can be traced back to Freud. Women are often left with a false binary: They either have postpartum depression or they should breeze through the transition to motherhood.” (from source above)

(x) — Many women (due to it being taboo, lack of resource/open discourse, etc) are wildly under educated on post-natal care and all the things that happen to your body after giving birth

(x) — Interesting opinion piece written by a young woman at University of Georgia that talks about social media moms. “This novel idea of motherhood coincides with the modern feminist movement, which encourages women to recognize their full professional and personal potential. It’s a song of independence and progression. For centuries, motherhood defined women, but now, motherhood has become perk of womanhood, not its identifying factor.”

(x) — Comprehensive information about how postpartum care can be improved. See below

A list of elements that are critical for healthy postpartum care both physically and mentally for new mothers.
  • (x) — Facts about postpartum care and the risk of so few check-ups for mothers.

Identify local collaborators/partners

  • pregnancy centers:
    - (x) — Birthright Pregnancy Center
    - (x) — Angel’s Place — “Building emotionally healthy, self-sufficient families.”
    - (x) — Genesis of Pittsburgh — “Discovering that you’re pregnant can be a confusing time. Genesis offers resources to help you understand the physical and emotional changes occurring.”
    - (x) — Hope House
  • (x) — Treasure House Fashions: Outreach for women using clothing as a door to addressing self esteem and appearance
  • (x) — Pittsburgh Moms Blog

Stakeholders/policymakers that have impact on change
Councilperson Erika Strassburger — worked with the community of Pittsburgh (District 8 — including the Squirrel Hill, Shadyside area) to “ban employment-based discrimination against partners of pregnant workers and one of the few jurisdictions to prohibit discrimination before and after the gestation period.” (x)

Existing solutions in other contexts/regions

  • (x) — Family Connects: A Nurse home visit system for new parents to get convenient check-ups and assistance
  • (x) — Frida mom, a new kit of items that is meant to address the post-childbirth body
  • (x) — 4th Trimester: study led by group of doctors and researchers at UNC Chapel Hill, “for two years, they have been following postpartum women and health care providers to learn how new moms are served — and how health care for them could be better”
Key health themes identified by 4th Trimester
  • “France pays for perineal reeducation therapy, which helps women strengthen muscles to improve their overall vaginal health… Switzerland and China offer new mothers longer hospital stays. In Europe, midwives commonly make house calls after birth to check up on women.” (x)
  • (x) — Bodily: Birth Recovery and Postpartum products and advice
  • (x) — Mother Mother: online store for all-things mother related. They have products (from multiple different brands) for postpartum recovery, but not much “advice” or information to offer a new mom.

Policies/regulations in place to address the problem
-In April 2018, a coalition of health care associations led by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new recommendations redefining the postpartum visit. The group called for replacing the one-off, six-week postpartum visit with 12 weeks of ongoing support, tailored to the needs of each woman.” (x)
- “…in Durham, North Carolina, where the grant-funded program Durham Connects provides all women who give birth in the city home visits.” (x)
- The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists made a statement about improving post-natal care stating there is a need for “comprehensive postpartum visit [that] should include a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being, including the following domains: mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from birth; chronic disease management; and health maintenance.” (x)

Brief Write up: 01/22/20

Though the role of a mother is a hugely important element to every person’s growth and development, the role of a stay-at-home mom is often overlooked within our career-oriented society. However, with the rise of more flexible jobs, policies dictating “the right to part-time”, subsidized child care, and the need to care for a child, more women are finding themselves at home on their own terms (x). However, the lack of boundaries between the home and work life often creates a more fragmented sense of self.

This is only heightened by the complete immersion of both body and spirit that comes with motherhood. In that perspective, it provides us an opportunity to help not only empower stay-at-home moms, but also promote a re-evaluation of self-connection to the body, maintain and facilitate the evolution of identity and personal mindfulness.

In the 1960s more than 40% of mothers were stay-at-home moms. With the rise in more equal opportunities for women in the workforce, there was a dramatic decrease in women choosing domestic roles. However, 2012 marked the first year that the population of stay-at-home moms rose (x). This recent increase has sparked conversation over the need for women to be recognized for domestic work in order to emphasize the importance of those that dedicate their lives to their families (x).

Significant voices in the discussion on stay at home moms are Sheryl Sandberg’s in her book, Lean In and Leslie Bennetts’s in her book, The Feminine Mistake. Both books confront the hard choice mothers have to make between parenting and working.

Within the Greater Pittsburgh Region, more than 20% of married women are stay-at-home moms. We’ve identified several partnerships in the Pittsburgh area that may be helpful to us moving forward. By doing research with moms already engaged in social communities (PGH Momtourage, Pittsburgh Brown Mamas, Nurture PA), we will be able to shift the conversation away from community or social isolation; exploring more directly their notion of motherhood in relation to their personal sense of self. In addition, mom “influencers” in Pittsburgh (x, x, x) also provide a fresh perspective on how their internet persona affects their self-awareness. Their ability to be relatable and the built-in audience can be a powerful asset to measuring our project success (seeing comments, number of likes, shares, etc.).

However, with our intervention area, we have made certain assumptions and identified barriers to success that might arise in our design process. For one, the nature of a stay-at-home-moms means that these families have the financial ability to have only one earning parent. This will surely affect the diversity of people we will interact with in our research and implementation of our design. In hopes to hear more diverse perspectives, it might be beneficial to reach out to various other mom groups within schools, recreational centers, and other prominent communities in Pittsburgh (x).

Above all, we have made the major assumption that stay-at-home moms struggle to maintain their individual sense of self (physically and mentally) and navigate the evolution of their womanhood. We hope to validate this assumption through research ranging from traditional one-on-one interviews (as a means of gathering ethnographic research), as well as workshops or designed pop-up events as a fun and collaborative way to gain more accurate insights.

Phase 02: Community

below are notes that precede our written brief

What is the local design opportunity?
Stay at home moms
- maintaining identity
- finding community
- addressing stigmas

Define Pittsburgh’s local identity
With Pittsburgh’s unique “three rivers” geography, many distinct neighborhoods, and growing infrastructure, the city has an identity like no other city in the US. The Pittsburgh neighborhoods are known to have a strong sense of identity and oftentimes community. At a glance, Pittsburgh’s Racial and family population looks like the below (according to the 2010 census). (link to data)

It’s also interesting to look at the employment status in Pittsburgh as it relates directly to our topic of interest. As shown below Pittsburgh does have a considerable amount of working moms. When looking at the map distribution however, there are certain pockets of areas that have far more “stay at home moms” than others (Bluff, Bedford, East Liberty, and Squirrel Hill).

Territory Map / Stakeholder Map

Synthesize Secondary Research
- research on stay at home moms and effect on family (and self?)

  • (x) — this idea that mothers past 50 don’t need a “second act” to feel fulfilled. not every mom should feel pressured to “continue” their lives once their kids are off to college and there should be more mainstream media depicting all the different genres of mothers.
  • (x) — this article is an opinion piece on how 1% wives are helping kill feminism and making the war on women possible. she talks about meeting smart women who are stay-at-home moms and feeling betrayed. She states, “To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met — none of whom do anything around the house — live in New York City and Los Angeles, far from Peoria. Only in these major metropolises are there the kinds of jobs in finance and entertainment that allow for a family to live luxe on a single income.”
  • (x) — piece in response to the previous article: “families I have met in New York and L.A.” is always a risky proposition. In this case, according to a 2009 data release from the Census Bureau, 75 percent of stay-at-home moms live in households where family income is less than $100,000 per year — such families, after all, rely on only one salary — and families with stay-at-home moms are, not surprisingly, on average poorer than those where both parents have incomes. The states of Utah and Arizona have the highest percentage of families where one parent stays home. And insofar as the states of New York and California have above-average numbers of stay-at-home moms, it is largely because “Stay-at-home mothers were more likely to be Hispanic than non-stay-at-home mothers,” and “stay- at-home mothers were more likely to be foreign born.”
  • (x) — research on stay-at-home mothers (social approval in regards to the 2014 Pew Research Study that states: “60% of Americans say children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, while 35% say they are just as well off when both parents work outside the home.”
  • (x) — research by Pew Research Center on decline of Stay at Home Moms over the decades. 2012 was the first year in a few decades that the population of stay-at-home-moms increased.

Identify local collaborators/partners
- School Communities (x) (Parent Teach Association, Parents Groups associated with sports, etc.)
- Mom influencers in Pittsburgh (x, x, x)
- Church/religious Communities
- Recreation Centers of Pittsburgh
- Mom Groups (PGH Momtourage, Pittsburgh Brown Mamas, Nurture PA)

Stakeholders/policymakers that have impact on change
- STEM for women campaigns(more STEM opportunities for women → less incentive to stay at home)
- Pittsburgh Schools — School Boards, Teachers, Mentors

What are key turning points throughout history? / Reflect on key relationships/partnerships that have been influential to date
- Stigma change from all stay at home moms → working moms
- On the Basis of Sex (movie / movement)
- Women are now having kids much later in life, and are already on a career path when they have kids
- Numbers from 2014 Pew Research Study, “71% of moms do work outside of the home, 29% are staying home. That number is +6% from 1999.”
- more bipartisan policies to give women more choices to work full-time

Existing solutions in other contexts/region
- European countries? What is the culture/identity of mothers and their role there?
- what is the differences of motherhood across the nation (soccer mom vs millennial mom vs nanny moms)?
- cultural expectations for childcare

Policies/regulations in place to address the problem
- Longer, required maternity leave
- Cheaper after school care opportunities
- “Right to work part time” (x)
- Subsidized child care for working mothers

Barriers to success
- A families economic ability to have a non-working parent
- What is the measurable impact? How do you measure soft topics like self care/self and reflection?
- How do you find measurable evidence of the problem?
- Time/business of a moms life
- Time of the project might be too short to fully explore the issue
- Creating vulnerability with our “research partners”(moms)
- “Cultural” disconnect for some ethnicities, economically diverse moms

Assumptions/guidelines/constraints you are using as a basis for future work
- We’re using our own experiences as a starting point
- We need to be mindful of the ways we phrase and deal with the topic with moms (it’s sensitive)
- Demographic/regional characteristic of mom in Pittsburgh might differ drastically based on where you research
- We won’t be able to cover the full diversity of stay-at-home-moms
- We assume that the population of stay at home moms is considerable
- We Assume that stay-at-home-moms genuinely have problems finding community/feeling lonely?

Identify design research methods
- in-depth interviews (with empty nesters — have distance from the experience or people that grew up with a stay at home mom)
- conduct a workshop with stay-at-home-moms

Team schedule

A few interesting projects as we frame our idea

Connecting to yourself —

Group Discussion Notes —

How can we equip people with the tools to be more reflective/introspective?

Toxic self-care habits — as excuses

Horoscopes vs personality psychology

Singleness and self — outside of mainstream meditation (what does a connection to yourself mean?) EX: “Little Women” Jo!

Motherhood — reconnecting with yourself after becoming a mother, how does your community shrink or shift? how does your connection to your individual identity change?

Stay at home mom — stigma and identity

How do you measure being good at your job, how does that affect the self-esteem of the parent?

Phase 01: Catalyst

Three debriefs of social innovation projects

Case Study #1: Girl Effect’s Global Brand, Springster

Why this project now?
This project was started in 2017 as the designers and innovators at GirlEffect realized a trend in more and more girls in the Global South getting access to mobile phones. This created an opportunity for girls to get critical information and tools for empowerment through their phones. This project came at a time where empowering girls came to the forefront of both social media’s and big companies’ new mission.

What was their concept? Who were they key partners?
GirlEffect’s concept for starting Springster was to use the universal visual language of girls and trends in youth culture to create an inviting platform where girls can get reliable information easily. The main goal of Springster is to empower young girls to confidently seek out and understand the issues they face as they look towards adulthood. From navigating their life goals to understanding their changing bodies, Springster is a platform to provide helpful information on all things girls. Springster partnered with Facebook’s Free Basics and Vodafone to specifically reach girls who have limited access to data. Facebook’s Free Basics platform provides people access to websites (that are partnered with them) without data charges. In addition, they worked with DesignStudio, a global brand agency, to work on bringing Springster to life.

Moments/phases in their process that were pivotal?
Design Studio in the UK helped to develop an effective brand through research in four different counties. Design Studio talked with girls and experts around the globe to create a brand that was relatable across vastly different cultures. GirlEffect also teamed up with Vodafone to understand girls access to and usage of mobile phones. This study was critical to understanding the reach that Springster might have in girls in the Global South. ( With the insights gathered by Vodafone and Girl Effect, and the

Was this project lead by design?
Though this project was not lead by design, design had a big role in bringing it to life. The brand work that Design Studio created for Springster helps to bring the mission to life. With the visual language employed, girls are given a space that feels natural where they can express themselves and easily navigate content. Girl Effect also certainly uses design research methods to gather important insights to improve the Springster brand.

How was it applied?
Once it was in the Facebook Free Basics platform it was open to girls in the target regions. They implemented a mixed quantitative and qualitative research methodology. That consisted of online comment analysis, control vs. exposed trials, etc. in order to measure the performance of Springster.

How much did it cost?
The cost of the project is not explicit. However, the branding agency, DesignStudio did mention that they worked with the team on a specially negotiated rate and volunteered their time towards Girl Effect’s mission.

How was the impact measured?
Impact of the project was measured by the amount of girls reached on their mobile app. The app has reached 12.7 million unique users, that covers over 65 countries. Springster also measured the general impact of the app on the well-being and growing confidence of girls by active participation. This included measuring how many stories and comments were added by girls (over 36k comments and 6k user-created stories). Finally they used traditional interview and feedback methods to receive over 17,000 interviews for feedback. (, accurate as of 2017)

Did they define it as social innovation? Do you agree?

The result is Springster — a global mobilefirst platform which builds vulnerable girls’ confidence and skills online to help them fulfill their potential offline. (DesignStudio)

While this project was never explicitly defined as social media, it is clear that GirlEffect and DesignStudio both highlighted the impact that this project had on young girls in underdeveloped regions. The result of the global brand, Springster was a mobile platform that has not been seen before. Springster helped provide new interactions and unique content to girls that they would not be able to find elsewhere. I agree that this project has key elements of social innovation in it including its targeted approach to a specific audience, and how it works with a variety of disciplines (content creation, technology, and cross-cultural design) to bring rise to more social change.

Why is this case study relevant to your project?
This case study is relevant to our project as it relates to empowering girls in the middle-high school range. More specifically it centers on providing girls with content and design that is targeted to their needs and experiences. With this project being solely focused on the mobile experience, I would be interested to explore how this project could have extended social change through a physicalized experience as well.

Case Study #2: Birth Control Support System with a Sex-Positive Design, Bedsider — part of Bedsider’s yearly #thxbirthcontrol day

Why this project now?

Bedsider is an IDEO project created to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in women 18–29 years old. Within this age demographic 7 out of 10 pregnancies that occur are unplanned. Unintended pregnancies are more often attributed to a lack of contraceptive knowledge and inconsistent use of the birth control form rather than a lack of availability, thus, Bedsider was developed — aiming to give women the tools they need to make educated decisions about their birth control methods and the power to use them effectively. The project began in 2009 when less information about contraception was easily available. The site has been kept very up to date in terms of available birth control options as well as their nearby clinics feature, however, the think pieces and video interviews are becoming a bit dated (their featured article is from 2013 and their latest social media campaign is from 2018).

What was their concept? Who were the key partners?

The goal of this project was to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in young adult women by creating a “multi-touchpoint” system. This system would provide women with the information they need to effectively choose and use the best birth control for their individual lifestyles. IDEO collaborated with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies, a nonprofit NGO also working as “Power to Decide,” to develop a sex-positive, easy to navigate, comprehensive resource website.

Moments/phases in their process that were pivotal?

The first pivotal moment of the project was IDEO’s realization that women not only needed to what options existed, but also their pros and cons, how to use them, where to find them, and how to switch when that option no longer suits your needs. In other words, providing women with the information and support they need throughout their entire experience with birth control, even day to day usage. Additionally, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies wanted to help promote the most effective methods of birth control. While still very much embracing the “Power to Decide” energy (i.e. empowering women to make their own decisions around their contraceptive methods), the website clearly brings to light the fact that the IUD and the implant are by far the most effective options (99% effective, to be exact), debunking common myths and horror tales along the way.

Due to the complex nature of the topic, the IDEO team interviewed, researched, and conversed with nearly every involved groups (young women, doctors, counselors, etc.), all with their own beliefs surrounding birth control. After developing a better understanding of the young woman’s experience with choosing birth control options, they were able to develop early versions of what is, today, Bedsider.

Was this project lead by design?

This project was absolutely lead by design. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies published the following overall project/grant statement emphasizing the importance of design within their campaign,

“The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (the Campaign) uses Design Thinking as a strategy to unlock innovation and develop solutions to complex challenges. In order to accomplish this goal, the Campaign has implemented Innovation Next, a program that engages two cohorts of approximately 10 innovation teams who are using Design Thinking to address complex problems like reducing rates of teen pregnancy. Design Thinking, done right, guarantees that you will find solutions to the problems you seek to solve through insights that come directly from the target audience. You can’t move forward without a deep empathy for your audience gained through interviews and observation.”

— Office of Adolecent Health, 2017

How was it applied?

Clearly, from the grant statement above, design throughout this project was highly valued. IDEO being specifically chosen to help develop Bedsider only emphasizes the campaign’s design-centered approach. Through early project framing stages as well as research and development, design played a key role, ultimately producing an extraordinarily successful final product.

How much did it cost?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies receives $1,499,988 in annual funding. The cost of producing and maintaining the Bedsider site specifically was not listed, however, it was seemingly one of Power to Decide’s main projects at the time and is still a fundamental aspect of the organization’s offerings.

How was the impact measured?

The impact of the project was measured by Three Flights, an independent organization that provides government and nonprofits with evaluation and applied research services. 2,284 women were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group was exposed to Bedsider while the second group was a control. The results they found were extremely impressive. When compared to the control group, the women in the Bedsider exposure group were significantly less likely to experience pregnancy scares, unintended pregnancies, or engage in unprotected sex.

Below are two graphs from Three Flights’ research that show the effectiveness of IDEO’s work in educating women on their options as well as supporting the consistent usage of their chosen form.

Not only did IDEO’s work help to prevent unplanned pregnancies, but by doing so gave, and continues to give, women and men the chance at healthier, happier, and more stable futures,

“Bedsider is the first digital intervention in reproductive health in the U.S. — with adults as an audience — that has shown to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Turns out that when women and men have the ability to plan, prevent, or space pregnancies, they’re more likely to finish school, achieve their goals, and ultimately have healthier families, according to the nonprofit organization.”

— IDEO, Building a Birth Control Support Network for Women, 2014

Did they define it as social innovation? Do you agree?

While the term social innovation was not directly used within the IDEO project description, their goals and accomplishments definitely fall under innovation design. The National Campaign’s grant statement above (under “Ws this project lead by design?”) describes the organization’s hopes to “unlock innovation and develop solutions to complex challenges” with this work. IDEO’s project statement clearly lays out the challenge of addressing a social issue“Address the pressing social challenge of unplanned pregnancies in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic.” In my opinion, the matters of inefficient birth control use and unplanned pregnancies are absolutely social issues and the work that IDEO did was undoubtedly successful as well as being the first resource of its kind — what I would define as innovative.

Why is this case study relevant to your project?

I feel that the Bedsider site actually incorporates a lot of features we as a group have been vaguely discussing. For example, within the “methods explorer” contraceptive options can be filtered depending on your priorities.

This filtration system based on individual priorities/values was one of the main reasons we’ve been thinking about deliberate mentorship + advice forums — one type of advice does not fit all.

Bedsider also incorporates many features that help to humanize and de-stigmatize the process of young women and sexual activity. Because this is still quite often a bit of a taboo in the USA (especially in high school/early college years), reaching out for medical advice and support can be intimidating. The friendly and helpful tone of the website makes the information significantly more approachable and easy to digest, while still maintaining a high level of professionalism and trustworthiness. All of these tones (helpful, trustworthy, approachable, easy to understand, open communication) are ones we hope to apply to our own work around navigating womanhood, wherever our project might lead us.

Case Study #3: #TrollingisUgly, Body Positivity — this campaign is a permanent story highlight on her profile


Why this project now?

Cyberbullying and harassment through social media has become something extremely prevalent, especially on young women. For many of the young women growing up, social media is an essential part of their social growth and development.

According to Cybersmile’s research, 40% of internet users say they’ve personally experienced digital abuse. This can lead to social isolation, self harm, depression, suicide and the American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying one of the most prominent risks for teenagers today. Cybersmile Foundation, a non profit organization, aims to provide educational programs, support systems and awareness campaigns to combat the toxicity of online bullying.

What was their concept? Who were the key partners?

The Cybersmile Foundation partnered up with adam&eveDDB to create a campaign addressing internet trolling and social media harassment on young women. The concept behind this project was to show the effect and potential outcome of negative and abusive comments through a viral campaign video. Partnered with influencer, Chessie King, she posted a series of videos and photos finally feeling comfortable in her own body. Once she started receiving negative comments, altered/edited videos were posted in real time based on the negative comments people had left. This was all then combined into a video reel to show her transformation for herself to someone completely unrecognizable and unnatural.

Moments/phases in their process that were pivotal?

The phase that was extremely important was identifying an Instagram influencer to be their spokesperson. They needed someone that held up the values and principles of their campaign, but was also okay with participating in something that would have a lot of negative comments about their physical appearance.

Was this project lead by design?

This project doesn’t seem like it was lead explicitly by design, but rather the PR strategy space with its conceptualization of a viral video and attention to messaging. However, these spaces often find themselves intersecting with design. It’s more about the ability to communicate and connecting with people with visuals as their medium. I wouldn’t say lead by design (since the nitty gritty of conceptualization and thinking wasn’t talked about), but rather worked hand in hand with PR and strategy. It also definitely included a lot of designers and hard technical design skills since they needed the support of in-house production teams and photo editors.

How was it applied?

The most clear way was the fact that photo editors and the in-house production team needed to help create assets for the stories in real time. Above that, I’m sure techniques like storyboarding the concept and laying out the general gist of the visuals were all part of the process. This is very similar to a lot of communication design practice processes.

How much did it cost? N/A

How was the impact measured?

Since the campaign was through social media, the impact measured was measured through its engagement on the internet and social media platforms. Not only did it win a ton of awards/recognitions, but it has 128 new articles written about it in over 10 countries, 22.8k new article shares, 480k video impressions in the first 24 hours, 5.52 million video views on social media, 1.8 million news articles views, 4396 comments on Instagram, 41809 engagements on Facebook and 2436 comments on Facebook.

Did they define it as social innovation? Do you agree?

Yes. It fits into the social innovation space. Social innovation design is described as design that takes responsibility to make a positive impact, in whatever medium, to drive human behavior in a way that is better for society as a whole. Through their social media campaign, Cybersmile was able to visually show the effect of these negative comments on social media. It definitely sparked social conversation and even as a viewer leaves a chill at the end of the officially compiled video so I can only imagine how weird it would be to see in real time.

Why is this case study relevant to your project?

Our project is focused around understanding your womanhood and cyberbullying, body image, and social media are all big affecting factors of development for young women. I am, however, more intrigued with the way they executed their final product. The use of instagram stories and real time photo editing holds a lot of power. It’s something that is more readily accessible to young women all around the world. Instagram stories are usually something that are clicked through very quickly, but the jarring imagery that grows with the story is intriguing and prompts a slower tap through. I think the use of an influencer is also beneficial to their cause. Influencers are such prominent parts of social media and are definitely people of interest for young women, so to tap into that as a resource was a smart move for Cybersmile.