Understanding what’s happening with your developing fetus can feel like a mystery, even after a routine appointment. Many parents turn to in-home monitoring to maintain awareness around the growth and development of their babies but remain unaware of the risks associated with these tools. Here we explore whether fetal heart rate dopplers are safe for in-home use and how to navigate the outcome.
What Is the Purpose of a Fetal Doppler?
A fetal doppler is a safe and ethical means of fetal heart rate measuring and monitoring. These are compact, handheld devices designed to transmit sound waves through the pregnant person’s abdomen and detect motion, which translates to a heartbeat-like sound on the receiving end.
Many midwives and OBs will use these handheld devices to monitor a fetus’s heart rhythms during an antenatal appointment, typically from 12 weeks gestation and beyond. Trained and well-educated medical professionals understand the risks associated with these devices and will perform these exams with the proper care and oversight to ensure accuracy.
Considerations Before In-Home Use
It’s common for pregnant people and their families to purchase a fetal heart rate doppler to use in-home, but there are many key considerations to account for before doing so. While there isn’t any evidence suggesting avoiding these devices for in-home use, there also isn’t any evidence or advice in favor of their use. The issue with using these devices in-home is the lack of education and training regarding their use, outcomes, and antenatal fetal markers.
Another key consideration for pregnant people and their families is the false sense of security they may receive during an in-home exam. A testing outcome may suggest your baby’s heart is developing correctly and all is well, but this could be false, and your growing fetus may need immediate care.
Risks Associated With In-Home Dopplers
As mentioned above, a risk associated with in-home doppler use is the false sense of security a family may receive. Other risks include unnecessary overexposure to the sound waves from the doppler. When a family has immediate access to a fetal doppler, they will likely overuse the technology and expose their fetus more times than appropriate.
Because a family member may lack the adequate training and education necessary to understand outcomes, a false sense of panic can ensue when a heartbeat is undetectable or irregular. These outcomes can result from a lack of proper device training and may lead to inaccurate results. When pregnant women panic about their fetuses, they may experience added stress and anxiety, which can create more issues.
What Can I Use Instead of a Doppler?
So, what can someone do instead of using a handheld fetal doppler? There are a variety of options available for safe in-home use. For example, the Pinard horn is a handheld device with zero-electronic transmittance.
These tools require training for best outcomes, but a patient’s overseeing midwife may be able to help educate the family surrounding best practices. Additionally, an expecting family can call on the overseeing midwife to perform an exam if there are concerns about fetal growth and development.