Wearable Technology During Pregnancy: Using a Doppler to Hear the Heartbeat

Would you like to hear the baby's heartbeat at home? Image by Oddharmonic

Would you like to hear the baby’s heartbeat at home? Image by Oddharmonic

Midwives and doctors use technology to hear the baby’s heartbeat all the time, and parents can hear it at home too, with Doppler technology you can wear.

Wearable technology during pregnancy is extremely common, especially these Doppler devices – you can hear your baby’s heartbeat, hiccups and kicks with these devices, but there are also limitations to what the technology can offer – and potential safety considerations.

Doppler Technology for Pregnancy Monitoring

A Doppler uses the same technology as an ultrasound. Sound waves pass through the body and echo back. You place the transducer, the microphone-like part of the device, on your tummy, and focus on the area from which you want to hear sounds. Unlike ultrasound scans at the doctor’s office, there is no visual – just sound.

There are many Dopplers and listening devices available for purchase, including AngelsSounds and the Summer Infant Clarity Digital Prenatal Scanner. Some portable dopplers are actually listening devices. These use microphones and speakers to ‘listen’ through the skin and tissue, rather than medical-grade ultrasound technology.

Limitations of Doppler Technology

Ultrasound technology at home does have it's limitations. Image by redjar

Ultrasound technology at home does have it’s limitations. Image by redjar


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You can use doppler listening devices at home, and even strap them to your bump to hear the heartbeat whenever you want, and allow friends and family members to hear it too.

However, there are limitations to this wearable technology. The first is that you can’t guarantee that you’ll find a heartbeat, which can really upset you.

Midwives and doctors are professionally trained and know the difference between the heartbeat and your own blood flowing. It is very easy to mistake the heartbeat or not find it at all, which can lead to unnecessary panic.

The technology just lets you hear everything inside and has no way to alerting you if the sound is wrong.

The technology doesn’t replace common sense and relying on the movements of your baby. You need to get the transducer in the right place to hear the heartbeat. Some machines do have a blue LED that flashes whenever sound is picked up but that doesn’t mean it is going to be the heartbeat. It will pick up any sound from where you place the Doppler.

Your results will also depend on the quality of the components used in the machine. Some machines are perfect from an early stage but some can only pick up sounds from around week 28.

In addition, some doctors question the safety of do-it-yourself baby monitoring with ultrasound technology. Research the risks, and ask your doctor before making a decision.

Pregnancy Heartbeat: Worth Buying a Doppler?

A foetal doppler can offer reassurance and allow family members to hear the heartbeat. Home devices are portable and easy to use, and the technology used is the same as those used for doctor’s-office ultrasounds. However, they do come with limitations. There is no guarantee of hearing a heartbeat, even when the baby is healthy – your ability to find the baby’s heartbeat will depend on the positioning of the device and the positioning of the baby. In addition, research this year indicates that some doctors are questioning the safety of frequent ultrasounds, so consider this before making your choice.

If you choose to rent or purchase a doppler device for at-home use, always look for a medical-grade doppler. If you’re monitoring because you’re worried about early pregnancy loss, consider renting a doppler online to get you through the first several months. You may need a caregiver’s permission to rent from some outlets, so ask your doctor or midwife before going shopping – he or she may be able to recommend a doppler for you.

Resources

Sangita Bhong, S. D. Lokhande. Wireless Fetal Monitoring. (2013). International Journal of Science and Research.

Emily L. Williams, Manuel F. Casanova. Reassessment of teratogenic risk from antenatal ultrasound. (2013). Translational Neuroscience.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Ultrasound in Pregnancy. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Babycentre.co.uk. Doppler Scans. (2011). Accessed October 14, 2013.

Jumper. AngelSounds JPD-100S. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Mothercare. Summer Infant Clarity Digital Prenatal System. Accessed October 14, 2013.

© Copyright 2013 Alexandria Ingham: Tech, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy
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