Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time can be a magical experience. It does not matter that you are inside a doctor’s clinic with gel smeared all over your tummy and wearing a gown that exposes more parts than you are comfortable with. There is life inside you, and it will be kicking and crying in your arms within a few months. It is understandable if you want to hear more of it and even share it to all your loved ones at home. With an at-home fetal Doppler, you can do exactly that.
What is a fetal Doppler?
The ultrasound machine in the doctor’s clinic uses ultrasound waves to detect the heartbeat of the baby inside your tummy. This helps your doctor monitor the baby’s health and increase your chance of successful childbirth. The at-home Doppler does the same thing, except that it is small, portable, and affordable, and therefore, suitable for personal use. The at-home Doppler’s portability, however, makes it less accurate than the machines used in your doctor’s clinic. That is why it can detect a baby’s heartbeat later than a doctor’s ultrasound machine can.
How does it work?
The device got its name from an Austrian physicist of the same name who discovered the “Doppler Effect,” which is the difference between the observed frequency of a wave and its actual emitted frequency when the observer is moving relative to the source of the sound. Both the ultrasound machine and at-home fetal Doppler work based on this principle.
They send out sound waves with high frequency that penetrates your skin until it reaches deep into your uterus where the baby is. When the waves encounter movements, such as your baby’s heartbeat, the device translates the waves into sound. Given that the baby’s heartbeat is still very weak at this point, it may generate a faint sound, which is hard to hear. The device also amplifies that sound so you and the doctor will be able to hear it.
Is it safe to use?
Similar to the machines that doctors use, at-home Doppler devices go through strict quality control during manufacturing. Each device is of high quality, safe, and reliable. What is more, most at-home Doppler devices only use an output level of 3 MHz, which is much lower than the powerful probes used in clinics.
The vibrations generated by ultrasound can heat up tissues slightly, but not nearly enough to cause concern. In fact, there is no research or study done that has proven it to be harmful. However, like most devices, it has to be used responsibly.
Hearing the baby’s heartbeat in between doctor visits can be reassuring, especially to parents with previous experience of pregnancy problems. However, this is no substitute for regular prenatal checkups. There is a lot to read into the baby’s heartbeat that only doctors can understand.
It should also not be used to ease any medical concern and delay a trip to the doctor. If you notice anything strange with your baby’s behaviour inside your tummy, discuss this promptly with your medical practitioner. Use it to make pregnancy memorable by bonding with your unborn baby, not as a substitute for proper medical care.