At-Home Doppler Fetal Heart Monitor: Is it Safe?

are fetal heart monitors dopplers safe

Photo from BellyBeats

Being pregnant can be nerve wracking—especially if you've ever suffered a miscarriage, like I did. My husband and I went to my OB/Gyn for a prenatal visit and her silence during the exam was excruciating. I knew something was wrong. She could not find the heartbeat. My husband and I had listened to it just a few weeks before and it didn't occur to us that anything could go wrong. It was a long, sad day that turned into a long, sad summer.


When I found out I was pregnant a year later, I was not bursting with joy. I was scared. My husband and I were quiet and cautious. We knew what could happen. I couldn't go through that again. I did not want to show up at the doctor's office at any point in the pregnancy just to have her tell me there was no heartbeat. The time between visits was torturous. So we rented a BellyBeats Fetal Doppler Baby Heart Monitor. It was cheap and I thought it would give me peace of mind.

What is an at-home doppler fetal heart monitor? It's typically a small, handheld device that monitors and displays the number of heart beats your baby has every minute.

How does it work? It bounces sound waves off your baby’s heart. The motion that your baby’s heart makes when it's beating changes the shape of these sound waves. The doppler picks up these changed sound waves and amplifies them, in the form of your baby’s heartbeat.

Are dopplers safe to use? There hasn't been any extensive research done, but the general consensus is that fetal dopplers are probably safe to use in moderation.

Things to consider before using one: Dopplers are medical devices that are intended for use by medical professionals. Consumers don't always have the proper training to use them and interpret the information. In some cases, this might mean you wouldn't seek medical care when you need it.

It could also mean you could get unnecessarily stressed out if you can't locate the heartbeat, when it could simply be that you're using the monitor incorrectly or that it's too early to hear the heartbeat (sometimes you can't hear a heartbeat with the device until at least 12 weeks). The idea behind using the doppler is to make you more relaxed not more anxious.

If you do decide to buy or rent a fetal heart monitor: Do talk it over with your heath-care professional. Do read all the instructions before using it. Don't listen to your baby's heartbeat for extended periods, day after day. Note that some manufacturers require that you get your doctor's permission before you can rent or buy one.

As it turned out, I never used the monitor I rented. I didn't understand how to work it and I didn't want to make myself worry unnecessarily. But at the same time it was comforting to have around.

Are you planning on or have you ever used an at-home fetal heart monitor? How did it work out for you?

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