Are you constantly counting your baby’s movements to make sure it’s alright? Are you spending a lot of time and energy worrying about how your baby is doing?
What excited mom-to-be hasn’t done these very things? When I was pregnant, my baby’s well-being was all I could think about, no matter which trimester I was in.
But all that added stress isn’t good for moms or their babies. That’s why you should put science to work for you and look for the best fetal doppler.
What Is a Fetal Doppler?
In a Nutshell:
When I was pregnant, I had a few days when I didn’t seem to feel my baby move as much. I found that troubling and I thought about it often. I did all the things my doctor told me to do to help stimulate the baby into moving. I drank juice and I would point a flashlight at my stomach hoping the light would trigger some movement.
Usually those things worked and I would feel so much relief. A mom’s worst fear is something happening to her baby, and if you’re a bit of a worrier like me, your imagination can go into overdrive. You start to imagine all the worst-case scenarios that could happen.
Although I liked to picture myself as some kind of momma warrior doing all the right and healthy things for my baby, I think many days I was actually more of a momma worrier. The only thing that would really take away my welling panic was going to the doctor’s office and hearing my baby’s heartbeat on the equipment there.
But going to your doctor’s office every time you need to hear your baby’s heartbeat isn’t practical and it would quickly make you the doctor’s least favorite and most difficult patient.
How Do I Use a Fetal Doppler?
A fetal doppler is medical equipment, so using it can feel a little intimidating in the beginning, especially if this is your first child and you haven’t had many doctor’s appointments so far.
But using a fetal doppler is remarkably simple, and you don’t need a medical degree to do it.
You’ll need to bare your belly and sit or lie down. All you’ll need to get started is your fetal doppler and some ultrasound gel.
- Put the ultrasound gel on your belly — that will help cut down on the static you hear, which will make it easier to pick up on your baby’s heartbeat. Take the doppler, switch it on and start by gliding it on your lower belly. You’ll want to go in upward motions toward your navel until you hear the sound you’ve been waiting for.
- The main thing you’ll want to know to avoid panic is that dopplers have a harder time picking up that heartbeat in early pregnancy. While in some cases, if the stars align perfectly, you can detect the heartbeat from home when you’re about two months into your pregnancy, experts recommend waiting until 12 weeks (source) to even try. That’s because it’s easier to hear the heartbeat as your baby grows and gets bigger.
- Waiting until that three-month mark may help you avoid unnecessary stress. Imagine how frantic you’ll be if you get lucky and hear the heartbeat at 8 weeks and then can’t find it again the week after that. You would immediately jump to the worst-case scenario so it’s best to wait until 12 weeks when you’ll start to hear a consistent heartbeat because your baby is large enough.
- When you find what you think is your baby’s heartbeat, look at your doppler’s screen. If it shows a heartbeat under 100 a minute, it’s probably yours. Your baby’s heart rate will be much faster than that. It should be somewhere between 120 to 180 beats per minute
- When you’re done listening to the heartbeat, simply wipe the gel off your belly, turn off your machine and feel the relief flooding your body that your baby is doing well. If you have any concerns about what you’ve heard or have not heard, contact your doctor.
Are Fetal Dopplers Safe?
The last thing you want to do is cause any avoidable health issues for your baby, especially if those issues are caused by your own paranoia and worry.
While fetal dopplers have increased in popularity with parents-to-be, like many things in life, there are no guarantees about their safety. But the Food and Drug Administration has approved their use for medical purposes — they use sound waves just like ultrasounds do to provide information about your baby’s health.
And despite lots of tests, no bad side effects have been linked to ultrasounds used during pregnancy (source).
Unlike ultrasounds, which can take much longer to perform and therefore give you more exposure to the sound waves, fetal dopplers just take a few minutes to perform. You can hear your baby’s heartbeat and quickly stop any exposure.
What Should I Look For in a Fetal Doppler?
It can be tricky buying a fetal doppler. You’re likely not a doctor, so it can be confusing knowing which one to go for. You have to know what features you need.
Here are the top things to consider when you’re searching for the right fetal doppler:
- How soon you want to hear the heartbeat: As we covered earlier, you’ll want to wait until 12 weeks to use your fetal doppler. You can find dopplers that work that early, but some may not work as well until weeks after that.
- If it has a screen to give you additional information: You’ll probably want a doppler with a screen that shows you the heart rate. That will give you the most complete information about your baby’s heart health.
- If it comes with gel: You’ll need to know if a doppler comes with gel. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to purchase it separately because you’ll need it to cut down on static.
The Best Fetal Dopplers of 2018
Now that you know the purpose of a fetal doppler, how to use it, safety precautions to keep in mind and exactly what to look for —
Old reviews: Here are 5 fetal monitors we previously reviewed, which can be bought directly from their websites.
1. BabyWhisper Heartbeat Monitor
This fetal doppler is a great option for moms who won’t be able to rest easy until they hear their baby’s heartbeat. While BabyWhisper recommends use only after 16 weeks for best results, many moms have heard their baby’s heartbeat as early as 12 weeks. That extra peace of mind can be enough to decrease your stress levels and that’s better for both of you.
It has a screen that shows the heart rate on it too, which will give you even more reassurance that things are on track with your pregnancy. Even when you can’t see or hold your baby yet, it will give one more indication that things are going well.
You can control the volume too, which is nice in case your parents or grandparents are harder of hearing but still want to listen to that heartbeat.
- You can hear your baby’s heartbeat as soon as 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- It has a screen.
- The doppler has a volume control.
- This isn’t as easy to operate as some other dopplers, but there are instructions included.
2. Up and Raise Fetal Heartbeat Monitor
With this doppler, you can record your baby’s heartbeat and download it onto your computer or cell phone. From there, you can send it to family and friends for them to hear. Everyone won’t fit into your doctor’s small examination room for them to hear it that way, but with this doppler, no one gets left out in the cold.
The FDA has approved this doppler, and it has an LCD screen so you can determine if your baby’s heartbeat is within normal range.
You can listen to your baby’s sounds on the speaker so both you and your partner can hear it at the same time. Or, if you’re the only one in the room, you can listen to it through earphones.
This doppler is simple to operate — anyone should be able to do it if they take it slowly enough.
- The screen has a light so you can even use it at night in bed if you start to worry then.
- It’s easy to learn how to use it.
- It runs on batteries so it is portable.
- This one works best for after week 16 of your pregnancy.
- If you have a baby with a faster heartbeat, you’ll hear a warning beep that you can’t shut off, which may be a disappointment for moms who want to hear their baby’s heartbeat instead of an alarming beep.
3. Sonoline B Heartbeat Baby Monitor
This doppler can be used at 12 weeks into your pregnancy, but it may take until week 16 for some women to pick up a heartbeat. It really depends upon how big their baby is and the location of the baby.
You’ll get a tube of gel with this doppler, so you’ll have everything you need to start tracking that heartbeat. If you’re on the go a lot, you’ll like that this is lightweight and fits easily in many bags or purses.
It has a built-in speaker that will let more than one person hear the heartbeat at the same time.
It comes with a display screen that showcases the heart rate, which will provide extra reassurance that everything is okay. This doppler also includes a volume control so you’ll be able to loudly hear the heartbeat.
- This doppler is more affordable than some other brands.
- It comes with a screen.
- You don’t need to wear headphones with this one.
- Some parents said the heart rate displayed on the screen wasn’t correct compared to what they heard and counted.
- The directions don’t include detailed info about where to place the wand.
4. HTSMILE Heartbeat Monitor
If you need reassurance early in your pregnancy because you’ve had miscarriages in the past or you’re just extra worried for whatever reason, this doppler can help you hear a heartbeat a couple weeks before many others can.
This monitor comes with an improved amplification module which lets you hear things earlier in your pregnancy and should help if you are overweight.
This doppler can pick up your baby’s heartbeat at 14 weeks instead of the 16 weeks many other units advertise. Two weeks earlier may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re obsessively worrying about the health of your baby, it can seem like a lifetime.
This set comes with two headphones so both you and your partner can listen at the same time. That means one of you won’t be pressuring the other to let them take a turn.
- Two people will be able to listen at once.
- It’s more affordable than some other units.
- It can pick up the heartbeat at 14 weeks.
- It doesn’t have a speaker — you have to use headphones.
- The monitor doesn’t have a screen to show the heartrate.
5. Foruchoice LED Baby Sound Amplifier
This doppler has an LCD screen that will help you make sense of what you’re hearing. It has a built-in speaker so you’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat without the assistance of earbuds. To help you hear the heartbeat a little better, this doppler also comes with a volume control.
One of the best parts about this doppler monitor is that it’s small enough and portable enough that you can listen to your baby’s heartbeat wherever you are. You don’t have to be at home to do it. You can throw the monitor in your purse and listen over your lunch break or you can toss it in your suitcase and listen while you’re on vacation or a work trip.
- The screen lights up for nighttime usage.
- It’s portable.
- It will also record your baby’s heartbeat so you can play it repeatedly.
- The earliest this claims to work is week 16, which may be disappointing for women who are hoping to hear the heartbeat earlier.
- It’s not as easy to understand how to use as some of the other dopplers are.
My Favorite Is …
The BabyWhisper is one of the best dopplers because it can pick up sounds as early as 12 weeks instead of making you wait until 14 or 16 weeks.
It also has a screen to showcase the heart rate and a volume control to ensure you can hear the heartbeat over the static of the machine.
While you’re fighting your anxiety about your pregnancy, try to focus on relaxing, even if it seems hard to do. The best thing you can do for your baby is to learn ways to deal with anxiety and stress.
And once your baby arrives, you’ll need those stress-relieving tactics frequently because parenting is filled with worry. But all the love makes up for the gray hairs you might earn.