Fetal dopplers for home use are now widely available and many parents-to-be understandably like the idea of being able to check on baby whenever they want to. But how safe are they? Should you buy one?
Let’s backtrack a little and look at what information fetal dopplers can provide, and then take a look at some of the evidence about the use of fetal dopplers at home.
Knowing the Unknown
Some of the most fascinating aspects of pregnancy will likely be unknown especially in the early days.
Questions may run through your mind, wondering whether the baby is developing properly?
Is he or she okay in there? Is “it” a he or she? Is the heart rate regular? Is anything “going wrong”?
These worries and questions are normal, and in our instant-gratification society we’d prefer to know some of these answers sooner than later.
Gone are the days of having to wait until delivery day to get an accurate answer about our baby’s gender (this can be faulty, though, so proceed with caution) and whether everything is okay.
With advancements in technology, and even the onset of ultrasound boutiques that allow us to find out a whole load of information about baby when we choose to, we’re able to answer at least some of our questions sooner rather than later.
They can determine your baby’s gender, hear baby’s heartbeat, and at some boutique’s you can even take home a teddy bear that plays that sound back, all outside the comfort of your doctor’s office.
Are at Home Fetal Dopplers Safe?
Home fetal doppler monitors are small hand held devices that allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat, similarly to the Ultrasound machine utilized at your doctor’s office.
Before you run to the store for one, know that the FDA (Federal Drug Administration in the USA) has advised against their use, noting that such devices are only legally marketed as requiring a prescription.
Therefore, their use should be limited to trained operators. On an over-the-counter basis, there is no proper supervision as to the device’s use, which could potentially present risk to both the baby and the mother.
But if a similar device is used by your doctor, and you can readily purchase the monitor just about anywhere these days, why the hesitation? Especially when you’re longing to hear your baby’s heartbeat?
Some studies on animals have shown damage caused by Fetal Dopplers.
While this evidence cannot necessarily be transferred to human fetuses, it does raise questions about the safety of fetal Doppler scans.
Consider the risks
1. Unprofessional Use
Assuming you’re not a trained ultrasound professional, consider that actual doctors, technicians, and midwives train for at least three years before being able to perform Doppler ultrasounds on pregnant women.
Your lack of knowledge in this area from the get go could cause a domino effect of anxiety and risk if you choose to proceed with its use.
2. Unnecessary Wave Exposure
Even when used professionally throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will only perform an ultrasound when medically necessary.
On average, women will experience three total ultrasounds: one to confirm pregnancy in the first trimester, one to measure proper growth and determine gender if requested, and one final ultrasound to ensure the baby’s environment remains ideal, such as measuring the fluid surrounding it.
Mothers with additional health concerns may experience more, but, again, the decision to move forward with each would be based on medical need alone.
This is because ultrasounds are known to slightly heat body tissue.
When this fact is coupled with unprofessional home use via a home fetal heart doppler, it could result in overexposure and present potential harm to both the fetus and the mother.
3. False Confirmation
Nothing is stronger than a woman’s intuition and a mother’s love.
Since pregnancy beautifully combines both of these powerful elements, you should listen to your body’s and baby’s signs and signals.
If your gut or newfound symptoms tell you that something is wrong, you may be prone to ignore this instinct if you’ve been awarded a false sense of security by utilizing a home monitor and hearing your baby’s heart rate.
The proven damage comes when Moms rely on fetal dopplers to determine the health of their baby rather than counting kicks.
In fact the Kicks Count organisation is for the banning of dopplers for use at home.
There have been a number of cases where Moms felt reduced movement but were reassured after listening to baby’s heartbeat and didn’t get checked out.
Hearing baby’s heartbeat is not a reliable indicator of the health of the baby.
Sadly babies have died because of this.
On the contrary, you could also find yourself panicking if you cannot locate a heartbeat at all.
Home fetal dopplers can also sense all sorts of movements and sounds such as your own heartbeat, which can undoubtedly be confusing and unreliable when you’re not trained.
In addition to those maternal instincts, you can personally tune into your baby’s health and progress by “counting kicks”.
When given the opportunity in your third trimester, time how long it takes you baby to reach 10 kicks. Knowing this generality can help you pick up on when something is possibly wrong.
While not everyone agrees, most obstetric professionals would say it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Fetal Dopplers are only considered safe when used by a trained health care provider.
Save yourself the cost, risk, and panic and rely on your doctor visits and gut instincts for guidance and reassurance.