Heartbeats are the sound of life—which is why it’s so exciting when you get to hear your baby’s at home.
Fetal dopplers make it possible to hear a fetal heart rate in between your check-ups. However, since the devices can detect other noises, understanding the difference is critical to using it properly.
In this post, we’re sharing the 10 secrets you need to know to find your baby’s beating heart.
What is a Fetal Doppler?
To put it simply, a fetal doppler is a handheld device that you can use at-home to hear your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still in the womb. Depending on the model, this can be heard either through speakers or earphones.
Expecting mothers love fetal heartbeat monitors for several reasons:
- Provides reassurance in between check-ups (it does not replace appointments)
- Increases bonding between mother and baby
- Gives your partner a rare opportunity to bond with baby before birth
- Great way to introduce children to their new sibling
- Allows the entire family to gather around to listen
- Some models have an audio output, allowing you to record any suspected irregularities and play it back to your doctor or midwife for advice
- Makes a great gift (birthdays, holidays, baby shower, etc.)
- Safe when used occasionally for short periods of time (fetal doppler’s ultrasound waves are significantly weaker than those emitted in an ultrasound)
If you’re wondering how it works, here’s a quick overview:
- Mother-to-be lays down and puts a glob of ultrasound gel on lower belly
- Turn fetal doppler on
- Slowly glide probe, rocking from side to side from the pubic bone up to belly button
- When heartbeat is detected, you’ll hear it or see beats per minute (BPM) on screen
- Clean off doppler for next use
Many women start hearing a beat around 12 weeks of gestation, although some may hear it earlier or need to wait longer. This depends on the mother’s shape and the baby’s size, and position. Not hearing a heartbeat (even if you’ve heard it before) doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong; it could just mean the baby isn’t in the ideal position.
To learn more about fetal heartbeat monitors, read:
- How Does a Fetal Doppler Work?
- How to Use a Fetal Doppler – The Proper Way
- 4 Reasons Why Fetal Heartbeat Monitors Are Amazing: As Explained By Our Customers
- The Truth Behind 5 Common Fetal Heart Monitor Myths
- Can Fetal Dopplers Detect Problems or Complications? The Honest Answer
Where Can I Buy a Fetal Heartbeat Monitor?
Good news: You’re already here! You can buy a variety of fetal doppler models on BabyDoppler.com, ranging from an affordable $19.95 to a professional-grade one for $68.95. As a bonus, each doppler comes with a sample of ultrasound gel, so you have everything you need to get started! If you’re planning on using it a few times, you may want to think ahead and purchase a full-size bottle of gel.
Here are the differences to watch out for in the models:
- LCD screen
- Built-in speaker
- Output for headphones or to record sound
- Earphones included
- Waterproof device or probe
- Reduced static (on higher quality models)
- MHz of probe
Want a model comparison? See which is right for you.
If you need more help choosing a model or have questions once you’ve received yours, email us at email@example.com or call us at 1-800-590-2767.
Tips for Finding Fetal Heartbeat with Doppler
Detecting a sound on a fetal doppler doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve detected a heartbeat. In fact, the sound you hear could be the placenta or your own arteries. When you first use a doppler, it may be a bit confusing to tell the difference. But, by using these tips, you should be able to discern your baby’s heartbeat in no time.
#1 Start Low, Go Slow
If you haven’t heard your baby’s heartbeat yet, it’s a good idea to start with the probe around the middle of your pubic bone. As you work your way up in a gentle rocking motion, be sure to go slow. Since there’s many noises it can detect, you don’t want to accidentally pass over the fetus heartbeat. While you may think pressing down on the probe forces it “closer” to the baby, that’s not true. Gently angling it is the best method.
#2 Be Generous with the Gel
During your ultrasounds, you may have realized that the technician squirts quite a bit of gel on your lower belly—and that’s because it makes detection easier. Although you may want to be frugal with the gel, it helps reduce static. If you’re worried about running out, a full bottle goes a long way. Don’t rub it into your belly like a moisturizer. Instead, apply a glob in one place and use the probe to spread it.
Some people try to use whatever they have on hand, such as lotion. However, this is likely to produce weaker results and more static. If you need an alternative, aloe vera gel or lubricants are the second best options.
#3 Use Fetal Heartbeat Monitor on a Full Bladder
If you can, try to plan to have a full bladder before you use a fetal doppler. This helps push your uterus out of your pelvic cavity. As a result, the sound can be clearer and more easily detectable.
#4 Use 2MHz Probe if Overweight
As we discussed, one factor in determining how easy it is to detect a heartbeat is the shape of the mother. If a mother is overweight, it’s often more difficult to pick up the correct sound. To make it easier, we recommend choosing a model with a 2-2.5MHz probe (or buying a replacement probe). Many standard models come with a 3MHz probe, so make sure to look for that specific feature if you’re a plus sized woman.
Fetal dopplers that come with 2MHz probes:
#5 Pay Attention to the Heart Rate Range
Worried that you’re picking up your own heartbeat instead of your baby’s? Here’s a quick way to tell:
- 60-80 beats per minute (bpm)— Most likely your own heartbeat
- 120-180 bpm*— Most likely your baby’s heartbeat
*Note that caffeine, alcohol and nicotine may raise the baby’s heart rate
Over time, you’ll come to notice that a baby’s heartbeat is much faster than your own. If you hear her rate fade, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. It could just mean that she’s switching positions.
#6 Watch for the Whoosh
Whenever you use a doppler, you’ll hear a variety of sounds depending on where it’s placed. A “whooshing” sound usually indicates either placenta or movement. Some people also describe the noise as similar to that of blowing trees. This should not be mistaken for a baby’s heartbeat.
#7 Study the Sounds
One of the best ways to tell the difference between your baby’s heartbeat and something else is to study what it should sound like. You can do this by listening to videos. To get an even more precise idea depending on how far along you are, you can search YouTube for “fetal doppler at X weeks.” However, be cautious of mothers who may also be confused when posting their video. Many people describe the sound as similar to a galloping horse. Here are a few to get you started:
#8 Wait, Am I Having Twins? What Is That?
Hearing two heartbeats may startle you, but unless your doctor has indicated that you’re having twins, you’re probably just picking up the same heartbeat in two different places (echoing). If “two” heartbeats are within 10bmp of each other, it’s likely just your baby playing a trick on you!
#9 Clean After Every Use
Build-up on the probe can create more static and make it more difficult to detect a heartbeat. To keep your fetal doppler in the best condition for next time, clean the probe off after every use. You can simply wipe it clean with a dry cloth and let it air dry. Others prefer to sterilize it using 70% ethanol. Do not submerge the device in water or use cleaning chemicals.
#10 Take a Break
If you’ve used all of these tips and still can’t manage to find your baby’s heartbeat, it may be too early or your baby may be in a position that makes it difficult. If you suspect something is wrong, contact your doctor immediately. Otherwise, try again later or another day. If not hearing the heartbeat is giving you anxiety, you may choose to put the doppler away until your baby has grown and can be more predictably detected.
Have you used a fetal doppler yet? If so, we’d love to hear your experience in the comments below! If you have any pregnant friends, share the joy by sending them this post!
P.S. Before buying your doppler, be sure to check out our other products, too! Our new favorites include the super comfortable yet effective electric breast pump and the Snotty Buddy, a new hack that works better than your standard nose aspirator.