For many parents, hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time really helps bring home how real your pregnancy is. In their haist to hear the heartbeat, increasingly parents are buying fetal dopplers.
In this post, we’re going to go into why you should steer clear from these devices.
Let’s get started.
Hearing The Heartbeat
I remember clear as day the first time that I heard my babies heartbeat for the first time, it’s a sound that will stay with me forever. During that moment I experienced such a rush of emotions and a sense “oh my goodness, we’re having a baby”.
Hearing that sound for the first time, I felt relieved that everything was okay, the baby’s heart was beating and she was developing.
My only wish was that my partner could have heard it with me.
That’s when I first came across a fetal doppler – a machine that would let me hear baby’s heartbeat from the comfort of my own home.
Initially, this seemed like the ideal product, not only could I share the magical sound with my husband but I could also keep an ear out that everything was okay for baby.
Then I read the horror stories!
A Note About Baby’s Heartbeat
Baby’s heartbeat is truly one of those miracles of life. Starting at around five weeks after gestation, your baby’s heart continues to develop each day. Initially, the heartbeat will fluctuate depending on which stage of development your baby is in.
At nine weeks, your baby’s heart will be averaging around 175 beats per minute and will usually range from 120 bpm and 180 bpm for the rest of your pregnancy.
During the last ten weeks, the heart rate will drop to a range of 110bpm and 160bpm.
Unlike with adults, a high resting heart rate in babies is completely healthy and should be no cause for concern.
What is a Fetal Doppler?
A fetal doppler is a small, portable machine that detects your baby’s heartbeat and turns it into sound; they’re also referred to as fetal heart monitors.
How Do Fetal Dopplers Work?
These devices are designed and marketed to be super easy to use.
The device is broken up into two parts:
- The control unit and speaker
- The featal doppler
To use the fetal doppler, place the wired ends onto your stomach and move them about until you hear a heartbeat.
You should note that not only will the dopper pick up baby’s heart rate but it’ll also pick up yours.
And this is where the problem with fetal dopplers lies…
Are Fetal Dopplers Safe To Use
No, you should never use a HOME fetal doppler.
There are increasing reports of mommas loosing babies because they used a doppler and thought that everything was fine when really they should have gone to see their healthcare professional.
Here’s why you should avoid using a fetal doppler.
Missed Warning Signs
As you go through pregnancy, you learn and understand your baby by feel. You notice patterns of kicks, you learn their daily routine and most importantly, you learn how much your little one moves on a daily basis.
There are an increasing number of cases where a momma hasn’t felt the baby move and used a doppler to check if everything is okay rather than heading to the doctor or hospital. As the doppler has picked up her heartbeat and not babies, she’s tragically thought everything was fine when it wasn’t.
The fetal dopplers that you can buy online are inaccurate at best and significantly less accurate than an ultrasound machine.
As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
When you own a fetal doppler you have the ability to check on baby’s heartbeat at any time. While this might sound like a good thing, the level of stress this causes is crazy.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, stress is bad for baby and can lead to premature birth, lower birth rate and immune system issues.
You Aren’t Qualified
There’s a reason that you need to be qualified to be a sonographer – it’s a difficult job that takes years to learn.
Guess what, unless you just so happen to be a sonographer, you ain’t qualified to use that device and there’s no way that you’ll be able to tell the difference in heartbeats.
What’s The Difference Between A Doppler and An Ultrasound
A fetal doppler is a toy compared to a proper ultrasound machine, in fact they couldn’t be further apart in terms of what makes them different.
An ultrasound uses vibration to map the shape and sounds of your baby whereas a fetal doppler only amplifies internal sounds.
How Can I Know That My Baby is Healthy During Pregnancy?
While we don’t condone the use of fetal dopplers during pregnancy, we understand why mothers-to-be use them.
Pregnancy is stressful and the promise of piece-of-mind, thinking everything is okay can be tempting.
So if you shouldn’t use a doppeler, how can you know your baby is healthy during pregnancy?
The very best way to know that everything is right with your baby is by counting the kicks (also known as quickening or fetal movements).
Between weeks 20 to 25 of your pregnancy, you should begin to feel your baby kick.
Once you start noticing baby move, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists note that over a two hour period, you should be able to feel at least ten times.
Don’t worry if at first you don’t make it to ten, simply try again later during at a time when you normally notice baby being more active.
The Bottom Line
The use of fetal dopplers seemed to have a boom period where many bloggers were writing about them. However, as time has gone on and the tragic stories are coming to light, the general consensus is that they aren’t suitable to be used. If you’re looking for a better way to share your pregnancy with your partner, try something like belly mapping.
Ellen Fetters, is a former Children's and Young People's Nursing Practice with an BSc from the University of Sunderland. After completing her SCPHN - HV she then worked as a Health Visitor within the local community.
In 2017 Ellen left nursing to launch Parenting Click, an online parenting resource aimed at creating happier families through better parenting.
She lives with her husband, beautiful baby girl, and two darling dogs. She spends her free time writing, running and learning how to become a better parent.