From the moment of the first positive pregnancy test, both mother and father are filled with exhilaration and excitement. I too felt elated after finding out that I was pregnant but after the idea sank in, I began to ponder over the concerns about my child’s development. Although the last thing an expectant mother wants to think of is pregnancy complications that can affect my baby but the thoughts began to plague me. What if something goes wrong and I miscarry? What if my baby’s organs aren’t properly developed and it leads to stillbirth or permanent disability? What if my baby’s blood flow is inhibited and it affects the brain functions? So many questions ran through my mind, no matter how hard I tried to stifle them. At, that point I couldn’t help but think it would be nice if there was a way I could monitor my baby’s health on a regular basis. Visits to doctor’s place helped where I can “see” the baby inside of me but then the wait in between the appointments was the most painful. I wanted to find a way so that I can that experience on a regular basis. One day, while surfing the internet I stumbled upon this device called fetal doppler in one of the many pregnancy related blogs online. After going through them, I realized that this device is what I need. This is the device which can help me get that unparallel experience of “hearing” your baby growing inside you and for that I do not need to wait awfully long to visit the doctor. I can use it while lying in the comfort of my home!
So based on my research at that time and knowledge I have gained now, I have decided to write a guide on fetal dopplers for expecting parents to answer all the questions that they typically have. I’ll be writing this guide in two parts.
What is a Fetal Doppler?
Fetal doppler is a hand-held uterine monitoring device much like an ultrasound used by physicians and midwives. However, instead of displaying both picture and sound, a fetal doppler focus on audio transmission allowing expecting parents to hear and or record their babies heartbeat. It thus serves to facilitate parental bonding and to comfort mothers in moments of concern, which was exactly what I needed.
How a Fetal Doppler Works?
Despite that I knew doctors used fetal monitoring equipment, I was unsure as to how it was accomplished and how it was possible to mimic the same sort of results using a more simplistic, hand-held device. I learned that Fetal dopplers work on the principle of Doppler effect, discovered in 1842 by a famous Austrian mathematician and physicist Christian Doppler (1803-53). Doppler discovered that when high-frequency sound waves are reflected from a moving object, their frequency change and this can be analyzed.
Each fetal doppler contains a transducer or a probe which sends out short pulses of ultrasound sound waves into the directed area of the body. When these sound waves are reflected from the baby’s beating heart, their frequency change. When this echo is received by the fetal doppler, it converts this signal into the baby’s heartbeat. Normally a speaker or an auxiliary jack of earphones is connected to the doppler through which one can hear the heartbeat.
Are Fetal Dopplers safe to use?
Concerned about the possible side effects of using it on a regular basis on my baby’s health, I felt as if I should take the time to research the fetal doppler device thoroughly. In doing so, I found that many sites claiming that fetal dopplers are not recommended for continued use by governmental, regulatory agencies. To me, that seemed strange. Why would so many devices be for sale in the United States if their use was deemed unsafe? There had to be more information than this. So, I kept scrolling and found a link to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provided information and regulations on fetal doppler use that are backed by reputable, scientific research. Reading through the FDA ‘s documents I found that a division of the agency, referred to as the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, concluded that home fetal transducers are considered safe for routine use. They did mention that before using it, parents should consult their doctor on how to use the device correctly. It is also recommended that you should research fetal doppler products before buying because there are many products on the shelf and not all of them are approved by the FDA. They add the previous statement because although common hand-held dopplers have proven safe for many decades, if a device uses unapproved ultrasound levels, it could pose a problem for the mother and the fetus. I assumed this was the reason for the conflicting information, but it looked as if the negative posts are created by those who are a bit misinformed. As they say- Half knowledge is a dangerous thing!
Pros and Cons of Fetal Doppler Use
Running across a site listing pros and cons submitted by mothers who have experience using hand-held fetal heartbeat monitors, I was intrigued to see what others would consider negative aspects of the device. I looked at a few different lists and found that although all of the sites included pros such as peace of mind, ease of use and comfort of using at home, a unique bonding experience with your baby, they all also listed anxiety and a false sense of security as cons. As I discovered that despite hearing your baby’s heartbeat is very comforting, factors like fetal position and excessive weight gain can interfere with the devices effectiveness. Therefore, causing a mother to panic unnecessarily when they do not hear the precious heartbeat they seek. With that explanation, I could definitely see how not finding a heartbeat could be worrisome and anxiety provoking; but what about the idea that dopplers can create a false sense of security? How could hearing your child’s heartbeat be misleading in regard to wellbeing? According to experienced mothers and physicians, heartbeat, while an indicator of health, is not the only factor that is indicative of such. In order to properly determine the welfare of a growing fetus, one must also pay attention to the increase in size and movement. If a baby is growing properly, it will not only get bigger but will also begin to move more. Typically, the mother of a healthy fetus will feel about 10 movements per hour during wakeful periods. Because of this, relying only on heart rate to assess the overall health of a fetus can be deceptive.
If one decides to use a fetal doppler to monitor their growing child, they should understand that it is best to inform their doctor about any changes they notice, whether or not the child’s heartbeat is in a normal range. Expecting parents are advised not to think fetal doppler monitoring can be used in place of prenatal care, as testing and the supervision of numerous other factors that ensure a healthy birth. After reading this information, I was happy to know that there are no major downfalls to using these devices as long as one understands their limits and keeping up with their regular check-ups.
In the next part, I will talk about how to choose a fetal doppler and how to use it to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.