At Home Fetal Dopplers: Everything You Need To Know
My once upon a time, at-home, fetal doppler cuties are now 5 years, 4 months & 5 days old.
One of my favorite parts of being pregnant was listening to my baby and then babies with my at home fetal doppler. That and my belly binder after twins were my two best purchases ever made. It gave me so much security to know my little ones were doing well inside of me in between doctor visits being the worry wart that I am. They do have fetal dopplers that are available for rent, but I didn’t find them to be so costly that purchasing one wasn’t a viable option for me. I wanted one of my very own. If you plan on having more than one baby it definitely pays for itself. It was well worth it with just one baby for me, but if you are going to have more DO buy instead of renting for sure.
I just wanted to go over today some of the benefits, facts, possible stressors that these fabulous units can cause, along with some practical advice since I do kind of consider myself a doppler expert now 😉 .
Let me do a little Q&A of some common questions first that I can think of in my own mind.
1) Are dopplers safe to use?
There is zero evidence that dopplers cause any problems for your unborn child. (Keep on reading.) I did tons of research before buying one. I never read, heard nor experienced anything negative or concerning regarding this subject, but I know as women and cautious moms, we worry about EVERYTHING! I spoke to my gynecologist about it who assured me of their safety. I talked to my father who worked for over 30 years for the FDA. I found out through him, and it’s fact, that the FDA has cleared these dopplers for ‘continuous use’. This means that all of the studies they have done has shown that no matter how long you use your device, even if it were used much more than any women in real life would ever use it for, it is of no harm your unborn child. I used mine prudently and suggest you doing the same., but I would not worry AT ALL!
I used my doppler as a comforting tool. I would use it pretty much daily for a minute or two at a time to show family or just to check the heart rate (and later on heart rates plural, which took a bit longer) to make sure all was well with the pregnancy. Of course you will use your doppler for a longer period of time when you first are searching for the heartbeat or heartbeats. I say don’t drive yourself crazy. Try for 10 minutes max and give up for the day. The baby or babies only grow and get easier to hear by the day. With twins I was checking on both babies and thanking God for the product, as I was quite the worry wart. Also, for a mom-to-be of twins (especially a really scared one like I was) it helps you to bond and get to know each baby on a more personal level.
In closing, YES these devices are deemed perfectly safe. You shouldn’t fear them. I just didn’t personally over-use mine. (Meaning no continuous use for hours a day.) I know all moms worry, and you won’t need to do it that long anyhow. Once you got the swing of things you’ll find that heartbeat or heartbeats in no time at all.. you’ll see.
2) Do cheaper baby sound monitors or even stethoscopes work the same way?
Long before I had a doppler, back in 1995 and then again in 1996, I tried the old stethoscope, and I have to say I never once heard either baby at even the end of my pregnancy. Much later on down the line with my 3 other kids I had the same outcome – nothing. I could always easily find the heartbeats with my doppler, so I don’t know why the other never worked for me, even at the end. I knew where to look. I even bought a special one . A fetal stethoscope. They never worked for me personally either. They say in the 3rd trimester most especially you should be able to do it no problem, but I never could pick up a heartbeat with one, and I definitely did try again and again. I heard a lot of gurgling belly sounds but never a baby :cry:.
Those Baby Sound monitors are appealing to moms-to-be because of their low cost, but just like the stethoscope, and I had tried two different models, not even later on in the pregnancy did they ever work for me or the vast majority of my message board friends, which were many. I couldn’t pick up a thing that was baby-related. I hate to say it but in my opinion, unless something mega changed in the last 5 years, they’re all flat out JUNK! It was like throwing your money out the window. Go for the real deal or nothing at all. Those were all disappointing purchases.
3) When will I hear my baby with a fetal doppler? How far along will I be?
(Things that affect when you will hear it. Also, when it’s still early what is the best way to work your doppler for max results?)
This depends on several factors. For me, I was able to pick up my 9 year old daughter at 8 weeks and 3 days along, and I picked the twins up at 8 weeks and 5 days along. I definitely knew which twin was which within a week or so from that date, so very, very early for me. Some dopplers say from 9 weeks on, but it can be a tad earlier or it can be later. Some say 12 weeks on, so do not panic. It’s not always typical to hear the heartbeats as early as I did, but I will tell you a couple of reasons why some do hear them earlier.
If you are slimmer and have less belly fat between you and your unborn baby or twins that helps to detect the heart beat earlier. For some women in a doctor’s office they hear the heartbeat at 9 weeks and some women will not hear it until 14 weeks or so, especially if they are heavier. It does make sense so please do not be afraid. Your doctor would tell you the same thing in the office that I am telling you now. Dopplers are meant to reassure you NOT panic you, but some women expect to hear it earlier, but don’t realize these possible facts prior. You WILL end up hearing it no matter who you are. Practice and patience is key.
The bigger your unborn baby or twins get, and they are growing by the day, the easier the heartbeat is to find and to hear. It will start out faint and then be booming before you know it. The volume control on these devices are a lifesaver when you are early on so you can hear your child or children much better when they are still tiny.
I DO have and prefer the doppler with the digital display of the baby’s heart rate. It’s a great tool to have so you can more easily tell whose heartbeat is whose and that your baby or babies are doing well and going strong. I was never into trying to count heartbeats. It was worth a few extra bucks to me for sure. They are even cheaper now than when I bought mine. An anterior placenta MAY make it a little harder to hear that particular baby, some say that anyhow. However, my baby A had an anterior placenta, and I had no problems locating her. It is just a possibility that I wanted to note 😛 .
Proper, successful use of the fetal doppler always depends on the location of the baby (position matters) and the doppler probe itself. The probe must be in the correct area to hear the heartbeat, especially early on or you can easily miss it. Later on you will hear the fetal heart in a much wider area. For now you’ll have to fish around for it. You have got to go slow, be patient and your skill behind the control is important, but is easily learned. (Once you figure it out you have got it for good. It’s like riding a bicycle.) You can’t assume that you are going to find the heartbeat in 5 seconds to start. It takes a little bit of practice to know exactly what you are doing and exactly what you are listening to, making sure you are hearing your baby or twins and not your own heartbeat. That does trick some women, but there are ways to know. (Keep on reading.)
You need to move slowly, and in the beginning you have got to be right at the pubic area, very low in the abdomen as the uterus is still very, very low at this time. The uterus typically doesn’t start rising up above the pubic bone area until 12 weeks of pregnancy, unless it is twins, but it is still very low to start with if you are trying very early, so if you are higher up you are not hearing the baby.. you are hearing your own heartbeat. Start out in the lower midline of the abdomen. This gives you a good shot as the uterus is located there. You can move a little bit from side to side, but remember how tiny that baby or those twins are early on. Don’t go too far away from that small region.
Move the probe around slowly, tilting it to help locate your baby’s heartbeat. You need to go VERY low early on.
That won’t last for long, trust me!
Tilting the probe downward almost aiming behind your pubic bone (no need to push down hard just tilt the probe) can also help in the early stages of pregnancy when the fetal heart is still very small. You have got to make sure that you are laying down comfortably on a flat surface, like a bed, and be sure to use enough ultrasound conductor gel on your belly to cover the probe and the area you are searching at. Not using enough gel can also make it harder to locate your baby. You don’t need a 1/2 a bottle or anything, but definitely enough to get the job done right. It really is an important component in the doppler to baby connection. It helps ward off static as well as helping you single out the correct sound you are wishing to hear. Most dopplers will come with a tube of gel, but more can be easily purchased at places like Amazon.
4) How do I know if I am hearing my baby or not?
Some women who aren’t yet experienced with a home doppler might mistake their own heartbeat for the heartbeat of their baby. This is a common mistake. You have to make sure you are in the correct region and once you do find it, check to make sure it is higher than your heart rate because an unborn baby’s heart rate is always higher than your own. (120-180 BPM on average. Even 190 BPM at times. I know one of my twins was up there at 191 in early pregnancy.)
The average for an adult person is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you are laying down and relaxed it will be on the lower end of things and will make it even easier to tell the difference between you and baby. You may find it helpful to first go and purposely find your own heartbeat to see how many beats per minute it is before looking for the baby’s beat (or twins). You will soon be able to tell the difference without any confusion. If you are early in your pregnancy and you are hearing something in your mid to upper abdomen it is your own heartbeat. The baby is small and very low until later on, so again, be sure to stay in that region, and you will note the difference between your heartbeat and the baby (or twins).
5) I’m carrying twins. How can I tell if I am hearing one baby or each twin?
One twin will have a higher heart rate than the other, which is the tip off. They say to look for a 10 beat difference to be certain, however, they aren’t always exactly 10 or more beats off. Sometimes they are closer at times. If one baby is resting and one is at play, one heart rate will be markedly slower than the other. If both are at play or rest there still should be SOME difference so you can figure out who is who. It is hardest in the beginning of course when the twins are small and closer together. As the twins grow you will absolutely know the difference just by location. You become a pro at it pretty fast. No worries if you can’t find both heartbeats right off the bat. You’ll be able to very soon, and I know for me it was a HUGE relief being that I was deathly afraid during the pregnancy. It really helped me relax 1,000x’s over. After owning one of these I could never imagine not having one.
6) When should I try my fetal doppler out? I’m scared I won’t hear anything and will get frightened.
Again, not every woman will hear their baby or twins as early as I did. I discussed the reasons behind this above. What you do NOT want to do is panic yourself. These dopplers are meant to bring comfort and peace of mind to a mom NOT fear. Make sure you realize that very early on you may not hear your baby. This does not mean there is anything wrong with your child or twins at all. Statistics show that while some women will hear their baby or twins at the 8-11 week mark do not count on it. By the 12 week mark close to 95% of women will hear their unborn baby or babies and then nearly 100% by 14 weeks. Practice and patience again is super important. Not stressing out is also important. If you are passed the 14 week mark and you’re very afraid you may call or visit your doctor for reassurance, however, 99.9% of the time everything will be a-ok. Please don’t freak out!
7) What should I look for in a doppler before I buy one?
(Which will help me hear my baby or twins earlier, etc.)
Making sure you buy a quality device is important for your results as well. Your doppler need not break the bank, but if you are looking for early detection you want to look for one important thing as some dopplers are more sensitive than others. Both will work very well, but a fetal doppler that has a 2 mghz probe is best when you can find them. These tend to pick up the fetal heart rate a tad earlier than a 3 mghz fetal doppler. The 2 has a more defined beam which penetrates deeper. (3-5 cm compared to 1-2 cm), although I do believe mine was a 3. I will have to check that though for you. Mine is very sensitive.
Also again, I DO advise you to pick up the kind of doppler with a digital heart rate display. It helps you figure out your heart rate from your unborn baby’s heart rate, it definitely does give you peace of mind to be able to see something visually along with hearing that beautiful sound, and it most certainly helps you figure out whether or not you are hearing both of your babies in the case of twins or only one baby. It’s an perk I couldn’t have gone without, and it doesn’t make it much more pricey, especially nowadays, so why not have it?
8 ) Can I use lotions instead of ultrasound gel on my doppler probe?
In a word – no! Am I guilty of doing this when I ran out of gel a couple of times? Yes! There are 3 reasons to not do this. 1 is that no lotion will work as well as the made for your doppler ultrasound gel will. It cuts out the static and helps you hear your baby or twins with far more ease and clarity. Lotions also do not glide as well, and so you won’t move around as freely as you should or could. Another reason is that you buy a piece of equipment that isn’t $10, so you don’t want to risk having to replace it by doing something preventable (and admittedly stupid) like I did. Although my unit still works fine there is a potential for damage to the probe, so why risk it?
You can buy the gel cheap online, and my husband even got some in a regular store for me once to. It’s not a huge purchase at all and it lasts a long time.. why bother taking the chance or frustrating yourself since you will not hear your baby very well IF at all?
I have never personally seen a true fetal doppler in any regular store. (Only those good for nothing Angel Sound thingies. PLEASE DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!) Maybe there are speciality stores that carry them, but I am not aware of them if there are. I am personally an online shopper. I got mine off of Amazon some years ago and then used it in my next pregnancy, 4.5 years later, with the girls. I LOVED it, and it lasts and lasts. It still works like a charm, though my belly is now empty 😥 . I was always pleased with Amazon’s products, service and the ability to return things easily if need be. The prices are always mega competitive, and it is a highly reliable site. They do sell fetal dopplers on eBay, but most sellers don’t offer returns and you aren’t 100% sure of what you are getting. I feel more secure on Amazon. I want a brand new, quality item.
I used one very much like this. It cost more back then though. Double this price. WOWSER!
10) Should I rent or buy my doppler?
That choice is up to you, but after looking into it personally I did not wish to rent the small machine. It may be a bit cheaper, but I knew I wanted to have another baby so for what I paid for mine it would have cost me more to rent. Plus, I could resell mine right now and get more than 1/2 of my money back, maybe even more. It is up to you. You can look into it, but for me I like to own something. God forbid something happened and it got damaged in some way or broken (my luck had I rented 😉 ), at least I wouldn’t owe a ton of money to some company who over-price their dopplers.
I wouldn’t buy a doppler from those doppler renting places either. They are very over-priced compared to Amazon. IF you do decide to rent make sure the company complies with all proper safety standards and is FDA approved. Be sure read the fine print and the understand the return policy before you decide to go that route. These devices are miraculous for the mother-to-be!
Watch to hear the incredible sounds of hiccups (and heartbeats) from inside of the womb via my at home doppler.