What is a Fetal Doppler? And Are They Safe?

Team Peanut8 months ago4 min read

A fetal Doppler promises to get right to the heart of your pregnancy. Literally.

Pregnant woman

A baby Doppler is a handheld baby heart monitor—so getting to the heart of the matter is what it’s supposed to do.

And that probably sounds rather enticing. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat? While they’re still on the inside? Whenever you like? Well, that’s pretty special.

But, while the fetal Doppler is widely available for at-home use (and from your local pharmacy at an affordable price), this kind of technology is best used by trained professionals. Let’s take a look at the details.

Baby Doppler: FAQs

How does a home fetal Doppler work?

A home baby Doppler is supposed to act as something like a sonic detective. Sound waves enter through your skin and go on a hunt for movement. Once they find something significant, they record the pattern and play it back to you.

And, as the story goes, this is how you will hear your baby’s heartbeat.

What’s the earliest you can use a fetal Doppler?

Before we get to answering this question, real talk: when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your baby, separating marketing myth from reality can be hard.

Of course you want to be reassured. Of course you want to form a bond with your baby as early as possible. Of course you want to know (at any time of the day or night) how your baby is doing in there. It’s your motherly instincts kicking in!

The at-home baby Doppler claims to provide this peace of mind, from the time your little one is but an 8-week-old speck in your uterus. But this sort of certainty should be seasoned with a big handful of salt.

(If, on the other hand, you’re wanting your doc to perform a Doppler scan, well that’s different. This professionally conducted ultrasound can be done from about 8 weeks to detect the wellbeing of your baby. More on that later!)

So what are the dangers involved in using a home fetal heart Doppler? Let’s take a look.

Is it safe to use a fetal Doppler at home?

If you’re wondering whether using a fetal Doppler should come with a “Don’t Try This At Home” warning, the answer is that you should definitely proceed with caution. There are certain risk factors to employing a baby Doppler during your pregnancy.

Here’s why it might be best to leave it up to the professionals:

  • A fetal Doppler can cause unnecessary panic. Not being able to detect your baby’s heartbeat can be a serious cause of stress. However, this may just be the result of device usage rather than having anything to do with your baby’s health.
  • A fetal Doppler can give you a false sense of security. Conversely, you may be lulled into thinking that all is well when, in fact, there are reasons to check in with your doc.

In fact, while the FDA has approved these handheld devices for use, they specifically state that they should be used by trained professionals.

If you’re not too keen to jump into DIY heart monitoring, your healthcare provider can help you out:

What is a Doppler scan for pregnancy?

A Doppler scan is performed with the aid of some special gel and a device called a transducer. Your doc can measure blood flow and see whether everything is developing as it should for your little one.

Amazingly, a Doppler scan makes use of sonic technology to provide real-time imaging. By bouncing sound waves off your baby’s blood circulation system, the sonographer will be able to get a visual picture of how the blood is flowing.

Because a Doppler scan is done by people who went to school for this kinda thing, it’s far safer than its at-home counterpart and can give you a good indication of how your baby is getting along.