Counterproductively (well this is an affiliate site after all) I actually believe that most people don’t need a fetal heartbeat monitor. If you are not sure if you or your partner should buy it, then I suggest you simply stop reading and don’t (sigh...here goes DadProgress revenues...). On the other hand, many people feel more secure if they have one. For you, out there I wrote this guide. I hope it will help you to choose the best fetal Doppler for your needs.
Ways To Listen To The Fetal Heartbeat
First, I liked to point out that there are three ways to listen to the heartbeats of the baby.
The diaphragm is placed on the belly, and the sound waves are directly transmitted to the listener’s ear. The problem is, the sound level is quite low, and bowel sounds will disturb you.
The acoustic fetal stethoscope is called a fetoscope, nowadays it’s rarely used.
The sound waves are electronically amplified. Many fetal heartbeat monitors are in its core electronic stethoscopes designed to do one thing only.
If you’re going to buy a fetal heartbeat monitor, then buy a fetal Doppler. In this guide, I’ll mainly discuss the fetal Doppler as it's best suited for listening of moving objects (source). The general information applies to all three methods though.
TIP: Many so-called fetal Dopplers are actually sound amplifiers (electronic stethoscopes)
An Introduction To Fetal Doppler Scene
No guide should start without a proper introduction. Yes, I’m a medical doctor, but in this guide, I’m not giving health advice. I’m a new father giving my honest opinion to people trying to find the best fetal Doppler.
As I mentioned, I mostly talk about fetal Dopplers as they are the most trustworthy. That said, points in this chapter apply to all fetal heartbeat monitors if used by non-professionals.
You May Want The Best Fetal Doppler If...
Some women have had difficult pregnancies or have had miscarriages.
Some people know in their hearts that they’ll go insane without a fetal Doppler.
A fetal Doppler has a place in a shopping list if you’re anxious and need to have a peace of mind.
That said, you should really understand the downsides, keep reading.
You can probably use a fetal heartbeat monitor for a very short time. Before 12 weeks, it's hard for you to find the heartbeat of the baby. After 20 weeks you usually can start kick counting.
Trust your maternal instincts! If you feel that your baby doesn’t move normally or you think that something’s wrong then visit your OB.
Things You Don't Need A Fetal Doppler For
Doppler Is Great For Bonding
Almost all manufacturers claim that a fetal Doppler helps you to bond with your baby.
Why would anyone try to bond with their baby through a technical device? First of all, bonding is a long process that continues after birth. You can start by merely observing the kicking patterns.
If you are a soon to be father then plan some time every day to simply talk to your partner. Ask about her well-being and baby's kicking habits. Even the best fetal Doppler can’t replace you being there.
Free Music For Your Baby Included
Why? Why would I want to do that? Yes, there have been studies that suggest a baby can remember sounds after the first trimester. So it’s probably an excellent idea to talk to your baby. Fathers can do that too. After the birth, the familiar voice may calm him or her. But I don’t want to discover that after birth my infant is only soothed by the voice of Chris Brown.
Share The Sounds With Loved Ones
“My friend sends me every day heartbeats of her fetus for listening, best fetal Doppler ever!” I read a ton of reviews and not once saw I comment like that. I may have missed it, but I just don’t see this feature as an actual selling point.
What Is A Fetal Doppler & How Does It Work?
I’m sure that after my inspiring introduction you are waiting for a physics lecture. I have to disappoint you, I’m not a physicist and have only the basics to give. Without physicists we'd probably still do it like in this picture.
A home fetal Doppler is at its core a heartbeat monitor!
That’s all this device can do.
A baby Doppler sends out sound waves to a woman’s body. These waves are then reflected and recorded.
In blood vessels, blood is (hopefully) moving. If sound waves reflect from big blood vessels where there's movement, the frequency of the reflected wave changes.
A baby heart monitor is designed to record these changes (also called “pulse”), and you can hear or view them (source).
Is Even The Best Fetal Doppler Safe?
A fetal Doppler is safe, but there are some downsides you should know.
Even the best fetal Doppler doesn’t distinguish between your big vessels and vessels of the fetus. This also applies to other heartbeat monitors.
The sound waves always carry a minuscule amount of energy. This is generally considered harmless to a fetus. The thing is nobody knows how much exposure is too much.
It’s usually advised not to disturb the fetus in the first trimester. Luckily the embryo is then so small that you are unable to find the heartbeat with your home Doppler anyway.
Even after the first trimester you probably should use it as much as needed and as little as possible.
How To Use A Fetal Doppler?
All devices have good instructions with them. Apply something (for example ultrasound gel or Aloe vera) to your belly that reduces friction. Then start searching. The location is dependent on the position of your baby.
In later stages of pregnancy, your baby moves. So don't be alarmed if you can't find baby's heartbeat every time in the same area of your belly.
Your pulse is usually 60-90 x/min and that of the fetus 110-160 x/min. Look for a fast pulse, and that should be your baby.
As I’ve pointed out this simple approach can give you false security, or you may get falsely alarmed. If your pulse is high for some reason, then you’ll mistake it for the pulse of the fetus.
TIP: You can test your pulse from the wrist if you are not sure.
3 Popular Fetal Heartbeat Monitors Reviewed
Belmint Baby Monitor
Weight limit: 12.6oz
It amplifies sounds so it's not a Doppler stethoscope
To Sum Up
There are better ways for bonding with your baby than a baby Doppler and even the best fetal Dopplers have some downsides. That said many people do find fetal Dopplers extremely useful and I hope this little guide helps you make a better decision.