Physicians have used Doppler fetal monitors since the early 1960s as an integral part of prenatal wellness exams. It uses ultrasound technology, or high frequency sound waves, to detect a fetus’s heartbeat, calculate the number of beats per minute, and amplify the subtle pulsations to make the rhythm audible. The audio output of the device also permits others in the room to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The advent of the home fetal Doppler has created a way for parents-to-be to gain reassurance that the baby is doing well. It can also be a powerful bonding tool.
The home fetal Doppler is not meant to replace prenatal care, but, with the use of the device, expectant parents do not have to wait until a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Many times, it is detectable as early as ten weeks into the pregnancy, but sometimes, not until the thirteenth week. Several people purchase an affordable home fetal Doppler as a way to allow others to share the joy of hearing the precious sounds of life from the womb.
Easy to use, compact, and non-invasive this battery-powered device is typically lightweight and can be used virtually anywhere. Some pocket-sized varieties of home fetal Doppler machine weigh less than 1 lb. (.45 kg), while other types can be as heavy as 7 lbs (3.17 kg). Most of them come equipped with a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen that shows a reading of the number of times a baby’s heart beats per minute. The fetal sounds can also be heard through a speaker or earphones.
Most home fetal Doppler monitors are used with ultrasonic gel to help detect sounds in the womb, although not all models require it. A probe, or wand, is usually placed on the woman’s belly after applying the gel, which makes it easier for the microphone to pick up sound that transmits to the speakers. There are several manufacturers that incorporate recording capabilities into the unit, so parents have a unique audio keepsake of the pregnancy after the baby is born.
There are many different varieties of home fetal Doppler units available on the market. Depending on the sensitivity of the device, the brand, and other factors, prices can vary greatly. Professional-grade units, which are generally more expensive, are often available to rent for a monthly fee. Otherwise, home units can be purchased online, or in many stores that cater to expectant mothers.