Note: Use of fetal Doppler has been shown in numerous studies to be safe for both fetus and mother. However, it is important for anyone wanting to use fetal Doppler to consult with their obstetrician before use.
Like many women, I was thrilled to become pregnant with my first child in January. However, having had previous pregnancies end in miscarriage, my early pregnancy was fraught with stress and anxiety about the health of my child. Upon the suggestions of several friends, I decided to rent a Doppler machine online, which would enable me to hear the heartbeat of the fetus from about 11 weeks on. The Doppler works similarly to ultrasound in that it uses sound waves to convey fetal heart tones and other gestational sounds to the unit. Most women can expect to begin to hear heart tones around eight to eleven weeks, though factors such as anterior placenta (where the placenta is positioned in front of the uterus instead of on the back wall) can interfere with or muffle sounds.
After looking at several websites, I decided to order from BabyBeat, which is one of the more popular fetal Doppler sites. Right away, I was very pleased with the ease of ordering and choices for units. BabyBeat has several different Dopplers to choose from- some which record heart tones, some which calculate the fetal heart rate automatically, and some basic models which merely allow you to listen to sounds in the womb. Price varies depending on what options are selected, and I chose the most uncomplicated, basic unit at $22 per month.
Several days later, I received the BabyBeat Doppler unit. The item had shipped the day I had placed the order, and was packed with obvious care. Along with the package came a helpful CD which contained examples of sounds one might hear when listening to the Doppler, as well as a box which could be used to return the unit.
BabyBeat also provides written instructions on how to find the heartbeat with the unit as it can be difficult the first few times, particularly in early pregnancy. Upon experimentation, I found that the guidelines were quite right: one should begin at the very top of the pubic area in the middle and slowly scan back and forth. It’s important to use ample ultrasound gel (also included with the rental) because any static between the skin and machine will cause feedback. It’s very easy for the beginning user to confuse the maternal heart rate with the fetal one, since there are many places to find the maternal heart rate and blood flow. The important thing to consider is that the fetal heart rate will be about twice the rate of the mother’s- around 120-180 beats per minute.
I’ve had the BabyBeat Doppler in my home for about three months now, and used it nearly every evening to listen to my baby. The huge amount of relief I feel upon hearing the heartbeat is well worth the cost of the unit, and I feel that I’ve been better able to bond with the baby hearing him or her move around the womb and listening to the heartbeat. I strongly recommend BabyBeat to any pregnant woman and have been exceptionally pleased with my experience.