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What is a fetal doppler

A fetal doppler is a medical device that is used by parents and midwives to listen to a baby's heartbeat during pregnancy. Read below for more details...
What is a Fetal Doppler and how are they used
What is a Fetal Doppler?
A fetal doppler (often just called a 'doppler') is used during pregnancy to listen to the fetal heartbeat. Fetal Dopplers are mainly used by midwives, doctors and other healthcare professionals during ante-natal check-ups in order to listen the the fetal heartbeat and detect any irregularities.

Fetal dopplers are increasingly being bought or hired by mums-to-be, parents, grandparents and other family members for use at home, rather than in a clinical/hospital environment. The main reasons for dopplers being used at home are for enjoyment, to involve siblings and other family members and to help reduce early pregnancy anxiety - you can read here for more information on the benefits of using fetal dopplers.

Dopplers are recommended for use from 12 weeks of pregnancy and whilst we know that they have been used successfully much earlier than this (for example, detecting twins from 6 weeks), it is more advisable to wait until around 12 weeks before using one, simply to avoid disappointment if not being able to locate the heartbeat.

What is a Fetal Doppler?
Dopplers, also known as baby heart monitors, use ultrasound to detect the baby's heartbeat. Ultrasound is completely safe and has been used for decades in the hospital environment. Dopplers are usually portable hand-held devices (ours are) which are powered by batteries which means the ultrasound waves produced are extremely low power.

A doppler has two parts - the main unit containing the batteries, speaker, power button etc, and the doppler probe. The doppler probe is placed on the pregnant woman's abdomen (at about the line of the bikini level), with a squirt of ultrasound gel. Ultrasound gel is used to help produce a clearer sound by removing air gaps between the doppler probe and the pregnancy bump.

As the doppler probe is moved across the abdomen, it sends low powered ultrasound waves - just like a submarine uses sonar to detect the bottom of the sea bed. When the ultrasound waves come across an object such as the baby's heartbeat, the ultrasound waves bounce back towards the probe. The frequency of the signal changes as it comes across a moving object and so it is possible to determine when the heartbeat is located. The probe then receives the signals that are bouncing back and sends these on to the main doppler unit which translates and amplifies the sound, making it loud enough for you to hear from the in-built speaker.

Whilst sound dopplers are used to listen to the sound of a baby's heartbeat, LCD Dopplers also display the Fetal Heart Rate (FHR - the number of times the heart beats per minute) on an LCD screen on the main unit of the doppler.

If buying or hiring a doppler from us at DopplerHire.co.uk, we supply a useful tips sheet for using the doppler - similar tips can be found in this article on where to find the fetal heartbeat.