Several companies offer fetal Dopplers for home use. These devices are similar to those used in the doctor’s office during your regular prenatal visits. There are pros and cons to monitoring your baby’s heartbeat at home.
For some women, hearing the fetal heartbeat is reassuring. It was for me. Since I have had three miscarriages, I get very nervous in the first trimester. I got a fetal Doppler and listened in when I found myself getting nervous about the baby or feeling crampy. Without the Doppler, I would have been a nervous wreck and would have driven the doctor crazy with phone calls. Having the unit allowed me to get through that difficult first trimester with my sanity intact.
For other women, having a home Doppler may cause stress. It can take a few minutes to find the heartbeat. If you know you will freak out if you don’t find the baby right away, the Doppler may not be for you. Most women with a normal pregnancy history don’t need the reassurance that I needed.
There are two different types of Doppler. The standard model has the handheld device which allows you to hear the baby and a wand to rub across your belly. The more advanced model has a digital readout of the baby’s heart rate. This is the model I have and I love that feature. Most companies include gel to use with the unit and sell additional gel. Since I borrowed my sister in law’s unit, I didn’t have the gel. Lotion or mineral oil serves the same purpose.
I didn’t use the Doppler at home until after the doctor had found the heartbeat. This way, I would know where to start looking for it. I knew that if I tried to use it before I had heard the heartbeat with the doctor, I would become hysterical if I couldn’t find it. So, I waited until after my appointment to try it out. It did take a few minutes, even looking in the same vicinity to locate the baby.
The unit came with a CD that contains various fetal sounds. These include the heart rate in the first trimester, the heart rate in the third trimester, the sounds of the placenta and the sounds of fetal movement. In addition, the CD contains sounds of maternal blood flow to help you discern your own body sounds from the baby’s. This CD was very helpful for me.
When you rent from a company, you will need to provide a letter from your doctor giving his permission for you to use a Doppler at home. This is a government regulation and is required for every company. Talk to your doctor about your particular situation and whether he thinks it would be beneficial for you to have the unit.
Now that the baby is moving every day, I don’t really use the Doppler anymore. I don’t need to hear the baby, because I can feel him. I’m holding on to it for labor day, though. Since I plan to labor at home for as long as humanly possible, I think I will use it then. My labors tend to be very long and if either I or my husband gets nervous, I can check in on him periodically before heading to the hospital.