Thinking about purchasing a fetal doppler?
Hearing your baby while she’s still inside the womb is an amazing bonding experience. Before purchasing a device though, you might have a few questions.
In this Q&A, we’ll answer all your most pressing fetal doppler questions.
What Is a Fetal Doppler?
A fetal doppler is a handheld device that uses ultrasound waves to transmit a fetal heartbeat, playing it through speakers. It also displays the fetal heart rate on screen.
Fetal dopplers are routinely used in doctor’s offices during prenatal appointments to check the baby’s heart development.
They can be used for home use for non-medical purposes, such as bonding.
The fetal doppler consists of a battery-operated LCD screen device and a connecting probe.
What Is a Fetal Doppler Used For?
There’s two main purposes of a fetal doppler: Medical and home use.
In a doctor’s office, your doctor can use a medical fetal doppler to:
- Detect fetal heart rate
- Check for heartbeat abnormalities
- Diagnose heart or developmental problems
Home fetal dopplers do not have medical use. However, there’s a variety of other reasons expecting parents love the device.
- Mother-baby bonding. Connecting with your baby before birth can help you better attach once you give birth. The more attached you feel to your baby, the less likely you are to experience postpartum depression.
- Family bonding. While the pregnant person’s body is changing and they can feel the baby moving, nothing changes yet for the rest of the family. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat can make the pregnancy seem more “real” to your partner and children. It gives them a rare opportunity to experience the baby before the big day.
- Many parents love recording their baby’s heartbeat so they can keep it forever. You can use the BabyDoppler app to easily record the heartbeat once you’ve found it.
- Another layer of reassurance. Monitoring for movement and pregnancy symptoms are the most important signs of fetal health. However, hearing your baby’s heartbeat can provide another checkmark.
How to Do a Fetal Doppler At-Home Session?
You might be wondering what using a fetal doppler looks like. Here’s a quick step-by-step:
- Recline back on a chair, sofa, or using pillows
- Add a glob of ultrasound gel to your lower abdomen
- Stick the probe in the gel and turn the device on
- Slowly rock the probe at an angle, starting low and working your way up
- Stop when you hear the fetal heartbeat
- Listen to the heartbeat through the device’s speakers and observe the fetal heart rate on screen
For detailed instructions, read How to Use a Fetal Doppler – The Proper Way.
How Does a Fetal Doppler Work… Scientifically?
A fetal doppler works similar to an ultrasound.
It uses the Doppler effect to amplify sounds in your belly. The probe sends out sound waves, which bounce off your fetus and are echoed back to the device.
Although they use the same technology, ultrasound machines typically employ much higher frequencies.
When Can You Start Using a Fetal Doppler?
Most people recommend using a fetal doppler starting around 12 weeks. Although many people start detecting their baby at this point, you might need to wait a few weeks longer until your baby is bigger.
Some people start hearing their baby as early as 9 weeks. However, since your baby is very small, she can’t be reliably detected, so it shouldn’t be expected.
Another factor that controls whether you can hear your baby is her position. Even if you’re past week 12 and your baby is big enough, she might be difficult to detect in certain positions.
Please note that fetal dopplers used in your doctor’s office may detect your baby earlier. If you’ve heard the heartbeat with your doctor but not at home, don’t panic! You might just need to wait until your baby grows and can be detected on a home device.
Is a Fetal Doppler Safe for Your Baby?
Fetal dopplers are safe for your baby. There is no evidence that their use causes harm.
Although fetal dopplers for home use are new, they use the same technology as ultrasounds—which have been widely used since the 1970s.
Consider that an ultrasound machine uses different frequencies than a fetal doppler. Diagnostic ultrasound usually uses frequencies between 2 and 20 MHz. This is compared to a fetal doppler, which only uses frequencies between 2 and 3 MHz.
Although fetal dopplers are safe, it’s unsafe to interpret results unless you’re a healthcare provider. Ignoring loss of pregnancy symptoms because you believe you’ve detected a heartbeat is unsafe. Always talk to your doctor about any concerns and never self-diagnose using a fetal doppler.
What Precautions Should I Take?
Although fetal dopplers are safe to use, there’s three main precautions to keep in mind.
- Never overlook other problems. Let’s say you’ve noticed a lack of movement combined with a loss of pregnancy symptoms. If you think your fetal doppler has detected a heartbeat, you should STILL go to the hospital. Never overlook the loss of fetal movement or pregnancy symptoms. Although a fetal doppler can act as another checkmark, it should never be the only one.
- Never self-diagnose. Unless you’re a medical professional, you’re not trained to interpret the results of a fetal doppler, so you should avoid self-diagnosing. Instead, always seek medical advice and tests from qualified professionals.
- Overuse/obsessive use can cause anxiety. Using your fetal doppler too frequently can cause anxiety rather than reduce it. If you’re expecting to hear a heartbeat and don’t, it can cause panic—even if nothing is wrong. If this keeps happening, put the device away until you’re calmer and can reliably detect a heartbeat (usually when your baby grows).
What If I Can’t Hear a Heartbeat?
If you can’t hear a heartbeat, try to stay calm. In most cases, not hearing a heartbeat doesn’t mean anything bad about your baby’s health. Below are a few non-health-related reasons why you’re not detecting a heartbeat.
- Baby too small. A baby who’s too small may be difficult or impossible to detect. You might hear her sometimes and not others. Wait until your baby grows to be reliably detected.
- Baby in different position. Even if you’ve detected the heartbeat before, your baby might have moved into a position where she’s more difficult to hear.
- Usage errors. Despite your best efforts to operate a fetal doppler, unless you’re a trained medical professional, there could be usage errors that prevent you from hearing your baby.
If you suspect something is wrong with your baby, call your doctor or visit the hospital ASAP.
Whether or not you detect a heartbeat, if you experience a lack of fetal movement or loss of pregnancy symptoms, always seek immediate medical attention.
Will Fetal Doppler Work Without Gel?
Your fetal doppler may not work without gel. Ultrasound gel helps smoothly transmit sound from your belly through the speakers. Without it, there may be too much feedback to hear anything of value.
If you’ve run out of gel, you can stock up in our shop. There’s also alternatives you can use in a quick pinch, although they won’t work as well for transmitting sound. Read: Doppler Without Gel? 8 Ultrasound Gel Alternatives At Home.
How Can I Discern The Heartbeat from Other Noises?
While using a fetal doppler is easy, discerning the heartbeat is a little trickier.
A fetal doppler doesn’t just pick up your baby’s heartbeat. It also amplifies:
- Your own heartbeat
- Baby movement
- Arterial sounds
- Sound of placenta
With all of these noises, how do you know which is your baby’s heartbeat? There’s a few ways to tell:
- Compare heart rate ranges
- “Whooshing” is usually placenta
- Listen to videos and learn the noise of a fetal heartbeat (it’s often described as similar to the sound of galloping horses)
For more important tips, read Heartbeat or Another Noise? 8 Tips to Discern Fetal Doppler Noises.
Can a Fetal Doppler Diagnose Health Issues?
A home fetal doppler cannot be used to diagnose health issues. Only trained medical professionals can interpret the noise and fetal heart rate.
Resist the urge to self-diagnose. If you have any concerns, contact your doctor or visit the emergency room. You can also use the BabyDoppler app to record your baby’s heartbeat and send it to your doctor to clarify any concerns.
What Are Some Fun Things to Do with My Fetal Doppler?
Fetal dopplers are a fun bonding tool for the whole family. However, you can get creative and use your device in a variety of ways. For example:
- Use a fetal doppler to announce your pregnancy
- Use it in your maternity photos
- Make a keepsake video
- Play a “guess the heartbeat” baby shower game
For more ideas, read 14 Fun Things to Do with a Fetal Heartbeat Monitor.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Fetal Doppler?
With fetal dopplers growing in popularity over the past years, there’s no shortage of brands to choose from. The problem is that not every fetal doppler is created equal. For example, cheap knock-off brands sold on Amazon may be unusable, creating too much feedback and displaying an inaccurate heart rate.
When looking for a fetal doppler device, consider:
- Brand name. Make sure the brand is well-known. While BabyDoppler is an industry-trusted brand, unknown brands tend to sell cheap knock-offs.
- Checking a company’s reviews lets you know how reliable their product is and whether previous customers have had a good experience.
- Regulatory approval. Make sure the device you choose is approved by the FDA and Health Canada, such as BabyDoppler’s devices.
Where to Buy a Fetal Doppler?
You can buy affordable and reliable fetal dopplers on BabyDoppler.com.
As the leading industry-trusted brand for home fetal dopplers, you can feel confident you’re getting a high-quality device. Our quick 2-day shipping means you can hear your baby’s heartbeat soon after ordering.
All BabyDoppler devices can be used right after arrival since they come with everything you need, including:
- Free ultrasound gel sample
- Product support via phone or email
Get your fetal doppler for $59.95 today!
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