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?

is it safe


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Lanasmom Lanasmom

I bought one when i was pregnant with my dd-- i had had a  miscarriage 3 months before getting preg and i wanted the peace of mind--it worked great--i heard her hb at 11wks--i listened to it almost every day with no neg. affects.

Freela Freela

I actually wanted to rent one with my pregnancies due to the fact that I had a missed m/c with my first and dh talked me out of it... he thought it would freak me out as much as it reassured me, plus since I'm Canadian and could not find a Canadian rental place the exchange rate and the cross-border shipping made it more expensive than for the average US customer.  However I belonged a 'pregnancy after loss' online community and more people in that particular group rented them than did not. 

Charl... Charlies_mommy

I own one... And I did use it. When I thought the baby hadn't moved enough or if I got too worried. IT wasn't everyday useage and I do know how to use it properly cause I was taught. I think it gave me peace of mind... Now if I wouldn't have found the heartbeat I would have freaked.

hudso... hudsonsmommy218

I used one with my first pregnancy. I am a generally worried person, and being pregnant just made that worse. We rented from when I was 13 weeks, and it was a great decision! We used it sparingly, usually when the baby hadn't moved for several hours, or when he was incredibly active for long periods of time. I am so glad we rented the monitor, it really gave me peace of mind at a stressful time!

frogg... froggie1008

I had bought one of these and never did hear the heartbeat on it. My doctor told me they cause more worry than anything!

nonmember avatar Laurie

I am 24 weeks pregnant and using a monitor from I really like having it around and knowing I can check my baby's heartbeat if I get worried. My sister-in-law just told me she heard it "could" harm the baby? Is this true? My doctor told me it was fine to use.

happy... happyenjoy

I am 12 weeks pregnant I bought a Meditech Sonotech Doppler gel included,very good!,I am so excited to hear the sound of my baby’s kick and heartbeat clearly by this unit, it is high quality and worth the money. light weight, portable --suitable for use, check this website for reference:  good luck!

nonmember avatar jcho

We tried for a long time to have our third baby and I am now pregnant. I worry every day about things going wrong because my friend lost her baby a DAY before her due date!!! If I don't feel the fetal movement, I whip out the doppler. I have used it multiple times in a single day, though never for more than a few seconds, just long enough to find and hear 5-6 beats in a row (to ascertain it is not my own heartbeat). At this stage (20 wks), it is easy to find the heartbeat. I have not seen my OB for a check-up for almost 2 mos. (besides seeing her at the amnio), and I am so glad to have something to reassure me.

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