All About Fetal Doppler at Home

As a pregnant woman, there are a lot of things that you want to know, most of them regarding the little one growing inside of you. Why are you having certain symptoms, what changes happen to the hormones in your body, how fast is your baby growing and are they well?

In the uncertain times when you are filled with worries and doubts, you look for reassurance from your doctors. One of these reassurances comes in the form of reports and proofs about the wellbeing of the growing fetus. A baby heartbeat monitor is one of the devices used by the doctor to give tangible evidence of the baby living in your bump. Even if you are not looking to be reassured, hearing your baby’s heartbeat is still a milestone moment in your journey of motherhood, something to be treasured. Nowadays, expecting parents also try to get this cherished moment at home.

How can you listen to baby heartbeat at home?

Other than a baby heart monitor at your doctor’s, it is also possible for you to actually hear your unborn baby’s heartbeat at home. With the help of an at-home fetal doppler, you can listen to the baby’s heartbeat around 8 to 10 weeks into pregnancy. It is often not possible to be able to hear a baby’s heartbeat in the first trimester of pregnancy even with professional equipment that a gynaecologist has. Some need at least 12 weeks before that baby’s heartbeat becomes audible.

Pregnant woman using an at-home fetal doppler

What is a fetal doppler?

If you understand the concept of an ultrasound machine, then a fetal doppler is easy to understand as well. It is basically a hand-held ultrasound device that also uses sound waves to listen to the heartbeat of your fetus. At the doctor’s, they generally warm up the gel that needs to be used to help in this process and apply it to your bump. While the experience of listening to the baby heart monitor for the first time might be priceless, how is doing this at the doctor’s or your own home any different? Let us discuss this further in detail.

At-home fetal doppler v/s Fetal doppler at doctor’s clinic

The main difference you will find between these two is that an at-home fetal doppler is not meant to replace the one at your doctor’s office. In fact, the purpose of it is to be used in between your scheduled check-ups. The reasons for this are listed below:

  1. The at-home fetal doppler that you might get in the market is of poorer quality as compared to the standardised and professional equipment available to a doctor. 
  2. Your doctor will have a device that is of higher quality and is approved by agencies that have the required authority. Whereas the one in the market does not have any such guarantee that it will function in a similar manner. 
  3. Many companies are allowed to make such a product and sell dopplers online, but not all of them are genuine or without any side-effects. You have to research carefully before buying so that it is safe for you and your little one.
  4. Despite the implied ease of use that an at-home doppler comes with, you can never be too sure about whether you will be able to use it properly or not. At hospitals, the nurses and doctors are trained and know how to use a baby heart monitor properly, whereas, you might struggle to listen to baby heartbeat at home.
  5. Another important point of difference in using an at-home fetal doppler and the one at a hospital is that your doctor can diagnose and deal with any problems in case there are any, whereas you can’t do that at home.

How does a fetal doppler work?

Although the basic concept is the same, every fetal doppler available in stores or online is different. Some say that you can listen to baby heartbeat at home after 8 weeks, others claim 12 weeks and some even say after 16 weeks. Whichever brand of at-home fetal doppler you may be using, their basic functioning works in a similar way. Here are a few helpful steps in using a basic fetal doppler at home on your own:

  1. Put the batteries in place if they are not already inside the doppler.
  2. Lie down on a comfortable surface and uncover your baby bump.
  3. Spread some sonogram gel on your stomach. In case you can’t find a sonogram gel, you can use aloe vera gel or even some thicker body lotions for this.
  4. Switch on the doppler and slowly move it around your belly to see where you can hear the heartbeat. If you are in the early phase or even second trimester of pregnancy, you might hear it near your lower abdomen. 
  5. Keep in mind that you will also be able to hear your own heartbeat, so don’t confuse it with your baby’s. Your baby’s heart beats much faster than your own. 
A doctor using professional fetal doppler to hear the baby’s heartbeat

Concerns about Fetal Dopplers

Many mom-to-bes purchase a fetal doppler to soothe their anxiety about pregnancy and curb their doubts. However, there are some concerns and potential issues that a fetal doppler can have. Here are some things to keep in mind before using any at-home fetal doppler:

  • While ultrasound is used for medical purposes universally without any significant side-effects, excessive usage of it can heat up tissues and even cause small bubbles to form there. It is imperative for any expecting parents to not use it every day or even too frequently. 
  • Some studies in the UK also suggest that it can be dangerous to have a fetal doppler at home because they can give you a false sense of security when there could be real complications and problem symptoms that you ignore in favour of listening to the heartbeat.
  • Sometimes women find their own heartbeat instead of their baby’s and take it as soon that everything is well when it might not be. Getting regular professional medical consultation is necessary during pregnancy rather than trying to be your own doctor.
  • Conversely, there are also instances of such doppler devices malfunctioning or you being unable to catch the heartbeat of your child. In this case, you will get worried unnecessarily when there is no cause for it.
A doctor using professional fetal doppler to hear the baby’s heartbeat

It is understandable that you will want to use a fetal doppler and listen to baby heartbeat at home and cherish that precious experience. But one must not ignore the cons of using in the excitement of all the pros that it claims to have. When you take care of every little thing in your life so that your baby is safe and is growing well, giving this decision a little more thought is also natural. If you are in need of advice regarding at-home fetal dopplers, your doctor is a great person to ask for help too.

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