You’re so excited to hear your baby’s heartbeat from home.
You pull out your fetal doppler, turn it on, and get ready to lie down.
Then you realize you forgot something really important: Ultrasound gel.
So, you ask yourself, what can you use instead of ultrasound gel?
Luckily, there’s a few fetal doppler gel alternatives you can use and most of them you probably already have in your home.
In this post, we’re showing you how you can use a doppler without gel and which products are a good replacement.
Why Do You Need Ultrasound Gel for Fetal Heartbeat Monitors?
A fetal doppler is a device that allows you to hear your baby’s heartbeat. It works by sending high-frequency sound waves, called doppler waves, through the mother’s stomach. These waves detect sounds, like your baby’s heartbeat. For this process to work smoothly, there needs to be a barrier, like gel. Without a barrier, the sound waves have a hard time traveling through air. Even if it works, friction of the probe on the dry stomach will create too much static. That makes it harder to hear your baby’s heartbeat or determine whether it’s the correct sound you’re looking for.
Sound can transmit easier when using easy-to-glide products, like gel. That’s because it stops extra air, acting as a seal between the probe’s surface and your belly.
Ultrasound gel is made from water and propylene glycol, an ingredient found in many food and cosmetic products. The thick and sticky consistency allows it to be spread on the mother’s belly without sliding off. This is a potential issue with fetal doppler gel alternatives. If the product is too thin, it could run or drip off, creating a mess. So, although ultrasound gel may feel gloopy and uncomfortable, it needs to be that way to reduce static and stick to your skin. Other products, like lotions or oils, are more comfortable but they’re made to sink into the skin. When this happens, the barrier for the doppler dissolves, and the sound quality suffers.
Using Doppler Without Gel: Choosing Fetal Doppler Gel Alternatives
Ultrasound gel is the best option to use when working with ultrasound devices, like a fetal doppler. If you run out of your last bottle or don’t have any around, here’s some tips before choosing an alternative product:
- Avoid Products That Sink In. If you don’t have anything else, you may try using a cosmetic lotion, cream or oil. However, you’re better off choosing an ultrasound gel alternative that doesn’t sink in. If the product is designed to be absorbed, it will stay on the skin’s surface for a smaller amount of time, meaning that the thin barrier will likely have a lot of static.
- Avoid Runny Products. One of the reasons ultrasound gel is used is because it won’t run off the mother’s belly and onto the floor. Try to use a product of similar consistency and that’s thick and gloopy rather than thin.
- Keep in Warm Place.One common complaint about ultrasounds is how cold the gel feels on your stomach. When you’re using a fetal doppler at home, you can control this factor. Keep your gel or gel alterative in a warm place inside your home so that it’s room-temperature when you’re ready to use it.
- Use on Full Bladder.If you’re using an ultrasound gel alternative, the quality may suffer, so you need all the help you can get to make it better. One way is by using the fetal heartbeat monitor on a full bladder. Some people wonder, “does a full bladder help with my doppler?” When you get an early pregnancy ultrasound, you’ll be asked to come to the appointment on a full bladder. Having your stomach full of fluid makes it easier for the sound waves to bounce back, which leads to better images. It also helps push your uterus out of your pelvic cavity.
- Have Wipes Ready.When using any ultrasound gel or alternative, it’s a good idea to have some wipes or paper towel by your side. This way, you can wipe off your belly when you’re finished without having to get up and drip it on the floor.
8 Ultrasound Gel Alternatives
Every fetal heartbeat monitor we sell comes with a free sample of 60ml ultrasound gel. We recommend getting a full bottle to ensure the best quality. But if you run out, what can you use instead of ultrasound gel?
Before trying any of the fetal doppler gel alternatives below, consider that your fetal doppler is made to be applied with ultrasound gel. Applying some products could damage some models. Also, some options may irritate your skin, so be sure to test a patch first if it’s a product that’s new to you. Since ultrasound gel always works best, you probably can’t expect the same quality with some alternatives.
#1 KY Jelly
Out of all the options on this list, KY Jelly may be the closest substance, in terms of consistency, to ultrasound gel. It’s thick enough that it won’t run off the belly and create a mess.
KY Jelly is often used for gynecological and prostate exams in doctor’s offices, so it’s a good choice. However, you can use another lubricant that’s water-based and water-soluble. You’ll want to steer clear of flavored products if possible.
Bio-oil can be a good fetal doppler gel alternative because you may already own some to ward off pregnancy stretch marks. If not, it’s typically sold in drugstores in the skincare section.
Since bio-oil is a more runny consistency, you’ll have to be careful not to make a mess. However, its texture should allow the probe to slide right through, reducing static.
#3 Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is typically used as a skin gel to ease sunburns. It’s also a popular option for fetal doppler gel alternatives. Like ultrasound gel, it has a gloopy consistency, meaning it should create a similar barrier between the womb and the probe.
#4 Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
Almost everyone has cooking oil in their home, making it a popular alternative for women who run out of ultrasound gel. To make it less messy, it may be easier to pour some into a small dish so you can dip your fingers in and apply it to your belly. Although it will create a barrier similar to gel, it may not work as well in reducing static.
#5 Baby Oil
Can you use baby oil with a fetal doppler? Although ultrasound gel should be your first pick, baby oil can work when your bottle runs out. Unlike other oils, such as vegetable oil, some women prefer baby oil because it’s scented.
#6 Coconut Oil
Can you use coconut oil for fetal dopplers? If you’re trying to use your fetal doppler without gel, you may try some coconut oil. Although it’s not a widely used alternative, one trial found that it worked just as well as standard gel as a coupling medium in therapeutic ultrasound (a treatment often used in physical therapy). Although it may create some static, some women report using it on their fetal doppler with success.
#7 Creams and Lotions
As we discussed above, lotions and creams should be one of your last options since it sinks into the skin. Compared to lubricants and oils, these products won’t transmit sound as well, so it could be very difficult to hear your baby.
The upside is that you probably have some laying around if you’re in a pinch and want to try it out.
#8 Hand Sanitizer
It may sound weird, but hand sanitizer may be a good alternative to ultrasound gel.
A few years ago, researchers studied low-cost alternatives to ultrasound gel. The goal was to find options they could recommend to low-resourced countries so they could continue to care for patients.
Researchers tested 6 common household liquid products to see if they produced results of clinical quality. They tested baby shampoo, hairstyling gel, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, liquid dishwashing detergent and olive oil. Hand sanitizer received the best score. This led one researcher to conclude that although more research needs to be done, it could be a cheaper alternative.
It’s worth noting that fetal dopplers are designed to tolerate ultrasound gel but not necessarily other products. For example, a study before this one tried using mineral oil, but it eventually wrecked transducers. The researchers checked with the probe manufacturer before testing hand sanitizer, but there’s no guarantee it’s safe your specific product.
And, since hand sanitizer hasn’t been widely tested on fetal dopplers, experts are quick to point out that they need more information on the safety of using it for specific procedures, such as abdominal exams. Since this could be a more risky ultrasound gel alternative, you should talk to your doctor first.
P.S. Ultrasound Gel Let’s You Hear Your Baby Best. Get Sound Enhancing Gel for Less Than $7.