A fetal doppler is a handheld ultrasound device that pregnant women and doctors use to pick up the sound waves of the fetal heartbeat. Obstetricians use fetal dopplers during appointments and checkups during pregnancy to ensure that the baby’s heart rate is where it should be and that baby is not in distress.
This article will offer the best tips for finding fetal heartbeat with doppler, as well as help pregnant women who wish to purchase or rent their own fetal doppler for home use to find the baby’s heartbeat more easily. While babies often lie differently in the womb, there are certain tendencies of baby positioning in the uterus that can often be relied upon for positioning of the fetal doppler.
Why do women purchase fetal heartbeat monitors?
There are many reasons why a pregnant mother might want to get her own fetal doppler for home purposes. While many of these reasons have to do with bonding and peace of mind, the following are some of the specific reasons that women may have for choosing to listen to baby’s heartbeat outside of the clinical setting of a doctor’s office.
Early bonding with baby
Hearing their little one’s heartbeat on a baby doppler can establish maternal bonding in early pregnancy for some women. Perhaps you’ve suffered from postpartum depression with a previous child and want to develop a bond with your new baby as soon as possible. Maybe this is your first child, and you want to be as close to your baby as early as possible.
Whatever your reasoning for wanting that bond while baby is still in utero, then using a fetal doppler to hear baby’s heartbeat is a wonderful way to achieve or begin that bond.
To introduce children to the baby
For many children, especially younger ones who may not fully understand pregnancy, the use of fetal dopplers can be a great learning experience for them.
Many toddlers and older children have a poor concept of time. They may ask over and over again when baby is coming. They may not fully understand what it means that baby is in mommy’s tummy.
Allowing your other children to hear your baby’s heartbeat with the use of a fetal doppler can help them to understand where the baby is. They can also talk to the baby, start to see the baby as a real thing rather than an idea, and begin to bond early.
This is also a great way to bond with your older children over the baby, without the worry of jealousy after baby gets here.
To involve your partner
Even though you may get to hear your baby’s heartbeat at each of your checkups with your doctor, your partner may not always have the opportunity to be present for this experience. Getting your own fetal doppler and teaching your partner to use it to find the fetal heartbeat is a great way to involve your partner in the pregnancy.
Following a miscarriage
Many women who have suffered a miscarriage in a previous pregnancy feel more secure owning their own fetal doppler so that they can find the baby’s heartbeat whenever they want to.
Ten to fifteen percent of pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage. Miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy before twenty weeks gestation. This is often a devastating blow to both parents and the family. It can make excitement and hope difficult for the mother to attain during a subsequent pregnancy. Many of these women struggle with constant worry and stress over the fear of losing another baby. Some even feel guilty for being excited about a new baby after losing a previous fetus.
Having access to a fetal doppler at home so that the expecting mother can listen to baby’s heartbeat for peace of mind resulting in less stress and often results in less risk to the mother and fetus.
When can you hear baby’s heartbeat on doppler?
Fetal dopplers are FDA approved. Therefore, studies have been done to prove their safety and their effectiveness. According to the recommendations of both the FDA and many doctors, you should not try to find the baby’s heartbeat using a fetal doppler until twelve weeks gestation.
This is right at the end of the first trimester. This period is suggested because, at this point, the baby is big enough to be seen fairly clearly on an ultrasound, and the heartbeat is more likely detectable at this stage.
What if I can’t find the heartbeat at 12 weeks?
If you cannot locate a heartbeat at twelve weeks gestation, then there could be a few reasons for it. The following are a few of the reasons you may not be able to find the heartbeat on at-home fetal dopplers.
The Doppler probe is not positioned at the correct angle
The monitor is a finicky device, and it can pick up all sorts of sounds. Your own heartbeat may be overpowering the sound of your baby’s, you may not have the angle correct, and you may not even be trying to find your baby’s heartbeat in the correct place on your abdomen.
It takes a lot of practice before you get the spot just right. Patience will be your friend in finding baby’s heartbeat easier over time.
Sometimes the placenta is in front of the baby and can act as a barrier to finding and calculating fetal heart rate. Gently angling the probe in different areas of the uterus may help with finding the heartbeat.
As with all mechanical devices, things can go wrong. Don’t let this cause undue anxiety. First, inspect your device. You may just need to replace the probe. A replacement probe can be ordered for your doppler, which can help amplify the sound or find the sound at all.
If you don’t hear a whooshing noise when you move the probe around, the mother’s heartbeat, or other sounds at all, you are dealing with a faulty device.
Incorrect due date
Sometimes, the math is simply off, and you’re not as far along as you thought you were. Although most women have a 28-day cycle, this is not true for every woman. Dates of conception can be off, and at home, dopplers can fail to pick up the precious heartbeat if you aren’t far enough along.
If, at any time, the failure to find the heartbeat on your at-home doppler concerns you, contact your doctor immediately. While there is likely a harmless reason for this error in finding what you’re looking for, you can never be too careful. You know your body best. If something feels off, say something.
Tips for finding fetal heartbeat with doppler
Trying to find your baby’s heartbeat can be stressful and aggravating if you don’t have much practice. The further along you are, the more baby tends to flip and roll and move around, as well. So if baby was in one spot yesterday, but you can’t find the telltale sound of a galloping horse that tells you it’s that tiny heartbeat, there’s a good chance that your little one simply moved.
The following are some tips for finding the heartbeat.
1. Test the fetal doppler
Before you start looking for the fetus’s heartbeat, check the device. The batteries need to be in good working order, the probe needs to be working, and all parts should be clean.
You can test the integrity of your fetal doppler by finding your own heartbeat first. If you can locate it easily, you can go ahead and get started searching for your little one’s heartbeat.
It can also be helpful to use the headphone port and a set of good headphones.
2. Be generous with ultrasound gel
Ultrasound gel is a must for picking up soundwaves with fetal dopplers. Most fetal dopplers come with a small tube of ultrasound gel, but if your device does not include it, beware that it can be rather costly.
If it is not within your budget, an excellent substitute for ultrasound gel is aloe vera. You may notice some popping noises in either of the fluids, as the gentle rocking motion of the probe can create air bubbles that the doppler can pick up. Any popping sounds that you hear are most likely air bubbles.
Use plenty of gel. Put it both on your lower belly and the probe.
3. A full bladder helps
Being fully hydrated and having a full bladder will help you to find what you’re looking for much more easily. Babies are also more active in the morning. So if you can wait to use the bathroom for the first time of the day until you have used your ultrasound device, that may be best.
The amplification for mothers with an empty bladder is often significantly weaker than that of a mom with a full bladder.
4. Choose a comfortable position
The heartbeat of your little one will be more easily detectable if you are relaxed in either lying down or sitting in a reclined position. Reclined in an ideal position because it elongates your lower abdomen, and you will be able to find the heart more easily.
If you cannot reach the sweet spot where the probe needs to go in this position, ask your partner, family member, or even the new sibling to help you out. Kids generally like to be involved in doling out a generous amount of gel on their mother’s belly and then helping to find the fetal heart rate.
5. Stay low
Start right at your pubic bone, a few inches below your belly button, and move in slow, circular movements. The pelvic cavity is where most early gestation babies are. As the uterus expands and the fetus grows, the location will change to a higher area. Initially, however, expecting parents can start the search way down in the lower belly for the best results.
6. Two heartbeats
There is a good chance that you will hear other noises once you start the search for baby. Your doctor can give you a demonstration of what your baby’s heartbeat sounds like, and you can even double check-in office if you ask.
A fetus has a heartbeat that some describe as a horse trotting or even running. Others describe it as the sound of a train running on tracks. It sounds much faster than your own heartbeat. Knowing the difference is critical.
Gifting a doppler
These devices can make an excellent gift for parents expecting a child. They can keep track of their baby’s heart’s beats per minute (bpm) and, on some devices, even record the heart for short periods of time.
Fetal dopplers run anywhere from $40 and up, with mid-range prices somewhere around the $60 price point. You can also rent them from doctor’s offices, companies, and hospitals.
Using a fetal doppler
There are many tips and tricks for finding your baby’s heartbeat with a fetal doppler. However, the best tip is to be patient, include your loved ones, and make the most of it. Get help and guidance from your doctor if you can’t find it on your own, and enjoy the bond you can now have with your baby you haven’t even met yet.