Are Home Dopplers Safe?

Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is not only exciting, it’s incredibly reassuring; so it’s no wonder that more and more mums-to-be are investing in home hand-held dopplers.

Stethoscope on pregnant belly

But if it’s peace of mind you’re looking for during your pregnancy, these home devices may not necessarily be the best option.

According to midwives from the pregnancy charity Tommy’s, identifying your baby’s heartbeat is not as easy as it seems, and using dopplers in the absence of proper medical expertise could lead to inaccurate readings and unnecessary anxiety.

Kate Pinney, Midwifery Manager for Tommy’s Information Service, says:

“When using a hand-held doppler, it is possible for there to be some confusion with the mother’s own heartbeat and the pulsing of the placenta, which can sound like the baby’s heartbeat. This means that, when you listen in, you can hear a reassuring ‘heartbeat’ but it may not be your baby’s heartbeat at all.”

Kate also points out that trying to monitor your baby’s heartbeat from home can cause undue stress:

“It is very difficult,” Kate says, “to listen to the baby’s heartbeat before about 14 to 16 weeks, so, if you are unable to hear anything, this may cause lots of unnecessary panic and anxiety.

“Keeping an eye on your baby’s movements [once you can feel them – usually sometime between 16 and 24 weeks] is the best way for parents to monitor their baby’s wellbeing.”
Instead, Kate advises pregnant women to count the kicks, keeping track of their baby’s movements and contacting their maternity unit if there’s any deviation from the usual pattern.