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The Truth Behind 5 Common Fetal Heart Monitor Myths

If you haven’t used a fetal doppler yet, you may be turned off after reading one of the many myths about the device.

Fetal dopplers have different purposes for different women. Some moms-to-be find that it helps them control their anxiety, while others simply enjoy sharing the bonding experience of hearing their baby’s heartbeat.

The key to having positive fetal heart monitor experiences is to train yourself to use it properly. In this post, we’ll dispel 5 common myths and teach you what you need to know to use the device property.

What Is A Fetal Doppler/Fetal Heart Monitor

A fetal doppler is a handheld device that’s used to hear a baby’s heartbeat while she’s inside the womb, similar to an ultrasound. Originally, it was only used by medical professionals such as doctors and midwives. Today, it’s sold to the general public without a prescription.

They range in price from $20 to $60+, depending on which model you choose.

If you’ve never heard of fetal dopplers before, you may also find the following posts helpful:

Myth #1: Doppler Are Hard to Use & You Need to Be Trained

Some people believe that fetal dopplers are difficult to use and should be reserved for trained professionals, such as doctors or midwives.

Here’s the reality: The process of using a fetal doppler is pretty simple. Learning how to recognize heartbeats is a skill that you’ll need to research and practice. Figuring out what a heartbeat means and diagnosing a problem should be left to a medical professional.

In terms of using the device, the process isn’t difficult to get the hang of:

  1. Consider using the device on a full-bladder in the morning (when you’re less bloated). This can make it easier to hear a heartbeat.
  2. Lie down and apply a blob of ultrasound gel on your lower abdomen.
  3. Place the doppler probe in the gel and turn the device on.
  4. Start from your pubic bone and glide the probe upwards. Slide the probe with a rocking motion to see if you can detect a heartbeat.
  5. For more detailed instructions and tips, read our post How to Use a Fetal Doppler – The Proper Way.
  6. If you’re more of a visual learner, see our instructional video.

Later on in this post, we’ll cover the tips you need to know to discern which noise is your baby’s heartbeat.

In addition to providing the necessary resources, we have excellent customer service. If you have a question about the proper use of your doppler, you should email us at or call us at 1-800-590-2767.

Myth #2: Fetal Dopplers Devices Aren’t Safe

One of the most common myths about fetal dopplers is that they aren’t safe to use. Some worry about how ultrasound waves will affect the baby and say that repeated use poses risks.

Diagnostic ultrasound has been used since the late 1950’s without any known adverse effects.

Although ultrasound machines and fetal dopplers use similar technologies, dopplers are significantly less powerful, meaning that they pose even less of a risk. The waves emitted by ultrasound machines are many times higher.

Research hasn’t indicated any safety risk with ultrasound technology or fetal dopplers. In fact, the NHS recommends the use of a fetal heart monitor during labor (this would typically be done by your midwife).

Some people argue that fetal heart monitors are less safe because mothers continuously use the device as opposed to just during doctor’s appointments. Regardless of how often the device is used, there have been no known cases of negative side effects.

Don’t get us wrong: There’s several reasons why it may not be a good idea to use a doppler every hour or for extended periods of time. However, there is nothing unsafe about using it for a few minutes a few times a week. As the saying goes, everything in moderation.

To sum it up, fetal heart monitors themselves are safe, but the way a mother uses it is important. Here’s some tips for safely using an at-home doppler:

  • Only use it for a few minutes at a time (under 10 minutes per session)
  • Aim to only use it a few times a week
  • If you don’t hear a heartbeat, try again the next day. Do not continuously use the device hoping to detect a sound.

All of Baby Doppler’s fetal dopplers are FDA and Health Canada registered.

Myth #3: You Can’t Tell Which Sound Is a Baby Heartbeat

Another popular myth is that you can’t tell which sound is your baby’s heartbeat—leading to confusion. However, this is only true if you use the device without doing your research first.

A fetal doppler can also pick up on other sounds, such as your placenta or arteries. Here’s what you need to know about recognizing which sound is a baby heartbeat:

  • A healthy baby’s heart rate is a lot faster than yours, about 120-180 beats per minute (bpm).
  • If it detects 60-80 bpm, it’s probably your own heartbeat.
  • Many people describe the sound of their baby’s rapid heartbeat as similar to the sound of galloping horses.
  • It can be easier to detect a heartbeat after listening to some videos.
  • Hearing 2 heartbeats could mean twins or that you’re hearing the same heartbeat in two places.
  • Consuming caffeine, alcohol or nicotine can appear to raise the baby’s heart rate.

Myth #4: Fetal Heart Monitors Can Cause More Anxiety

Some people say that not finding your baby’s heartbeat—which is normal in many cases—can cause a mother to think something is wrong. As a result, they may go through unnecessary stress and doctor’s visits.

Having knowledge about heartbeat detection can help prevent this problem. Here’s what you should know:

  • You MAY hear a heartbeat starting at 12 weeks. This is when we usually advise people to try a fetal doppler for the first time. It’s possible to hear a heartbeat earlier; however, waiting until 12 weeks is less likely to cause stress in the event the heartbeat cannot yet be detected. If you’re a particularly anxious person, consider waiting even longer so that the chances of hearing a heartbeat are increased. Typically, the further along in your pregnancy, the easier it is to detect.
  • Not hearing a heartbeat MAY NOT be a cause for worry. If you can’t detect a heartbeat, it could simply be because your baby is too small and you need to wait a bit longer. It could also mean that the baby is in a position hard to detect.
  • Sounds masking heartbeat. Sounds such as your own heartbeat or stomach noises may make it impossible to hear your baby.
  • Fading heartbeats are normal. It may just mean that your baby is switching positions.
  • Varying heart rates are normal. It’s normal for your baby’s heart rate to vary within a reasonable range, especially during early pregnancy.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to pick up. You may notice that one day you can hear the heartbeat easily while the next it’s difficult. This can be totally normal and patience is key.
  • Despite these tips, if you think something is wrong, contact your doctor.

Myth #5: Dopplers Can Diagnose Problems

Using a fetal heart monitor, it’s possible that a woman may detect an irregularity. When this happens, she may see her doctor, who can diagnose and treat the issue.

However, fetal dopplers themselves do no treat, prevent or diagnose issues. Before using a fetal doppler, do your research to ensure you have the proper information. Still, you should recognize that only a medical professional will truly know if your baby is okay or not.

Here are some final reminders:

  • If you use the device to reassure you that your baby is okay, you must still attend regular checkups. Even if you can detect a clear heartbeat every time, do not skip an appointment.
  • If you think you detect an irregularity, do not panic. There could be several reasons, but there’s no way to tell unless you’re a medical professional. If you believe something is wrong, call your doctor or midwife, who may advise you to seek care.
  • Dopplers also do not replace your own monitoring. For example, you should still pay attention to your baby’s kicks and movements.
  • Whether you hear a heartbeat or not, if you sense that there’s a problem, seek medical advice.

Have you tried using a fetal doppler yet? If so, comment below and let us know about your experience! If you have any pregnant friends, be sure to share this post with them, too!

P.S. Having trouble deciding which fetal doppler to buy? You can use our comparison chart to quickly learn the differences between each model. Click here when you’re ready to purchase one.

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