Sonotech® Ultrasonic Fetal Doppler’s are renowned for their ease of use and simple interface. Using a Fetal Doppler for the first time however can sometimes take a bit of getting used to, especially in the early months. A very easy way to find the heartbeat is to take your Doppler with you to your next prenatal appointment. Your OB or midwife can help you locate your baby’s heartbeat and provide you with helpful Doppler tips as well.
Generally, a fetal heart sounds quite different from peripheral vascular blood flow sounds. Fetal sounds are typically much lower in frequency and much higher in rate. For early term, fetal detection, start the probe at the pubic bone and slowly move along the midline -rocking the probe slowly from side to side until a heart beat is heard. For mid to late term, fetal detection the best chance of finding the heart sounds are to start on the fundus and move toward the belly button and from one side of the abdomen to the other, slowly rocking the probe until the heart beat is heard. The fetal heart reminds many people of a galloping horse and can vary in tone from a distant swishing sound to a hard clopping sound depending on the position of the baby and probe.
All pregnancies are different and depend on many factors, not finding the heartbeat is not a sign that something is wrong with your baby, sometimes it takes a few tries to get the hang of using a Fetal Doppler, especially in the first trimester.
Please follow the tips below to ensure your success.
- In the early months a full bladder may help to lift the uterus out of the pelvic area. The further along you are (after 12 weeks) the less important it is.
- Lying down on your back seems to be the easiest and most comfortable way to find the baby’s heartbeat.
- Generally its common practice to start from the belly button (more than 20 weeks along) and move down towards the pubic bone, then move side to side. The earlier along in pregnancy the lower in the abdomen you will hear the heartbeat. Early in the pregnancy (8-12 weeks) you will likely hear the heartbeat just above your pubic bone and may 4 benefit from angling the Doppler down towards your tail bone.
- Place the doppler probe in the area where the gel is located. Using one hand, hold the probe and with the other turn the doppler on. Make sure the probe is tilted downward on your belly. Angle the probe at different degrees ather than dragging it around. If you drag the probe you will cause static as well as scan over the heartbeat. Move the Doppler wand SLOWLY, very SLOWLY. Often people miss the heartbeat because they are moving around the abdomen too fast. Make sure you have the volume on the Doppler turned up loud enough to hear but not so loud that you will have a lot of distortion.
- The probe should be relocated closely (1 cm) in each occasion. However, you should take chance on pointing the probe to different directions (area) when the probe is station in the same site on your tummy. Do not hurry! The more you reposition the probe, the less likely you will find the signal.
- You will probably hear your own heartbeat a number of times before you pick up your baby’s. We have found that the baby’s heartbeat is often just behind your own heartbeat. Locate your own heartbeat and then just move the Doppler ever so slowly, it’s likely you will hear a fainter and faster heartbeat near to where you found your own, that’s the baby’s heartbeat!
- Listen for the sound of a heartbeat. Many people suggest that a baby’s first heartbeat sounds like the hooves of fast running horses. This is the sound you should be listening for. The heartbeat will be about twice the rate of your heartbeat. It isn’t unusual to pick up your own heartbeat; yours will be much slower than the baby’s.
- Do not panic if you do not pick up the heartbeat immediately, some days you will find it and other days the baby may be in hiding. First check that the Doppler is working, the battery is not flat & that the headphones are plugged in. Try finding your own heartbeat with the Doppler.
- Try not to use the device too frequently or for long periods of time. A few times a week, 2 minutes at a time is sufficient. Make sure the Doppler is in contact with your skin at all times and there is still ample gel.
- If your Fetal Doppler has an LCD heart-rate readout, do not try to read the display until you can hear your baby’s heartbeat. Your heart beats at about 60-80 beats per minute; the fetus has a heart-rate between 120-180.
- Not hearing the heartbeat before 12-14 weeks is not a sign that anything is wrong with your baby or your pregnancy. Hearing the heartbeat as early as 10 weeks isn’t always possible and how early a fetal heartbeat can be heard will depend largely on a number of factors.
- Using a Doppler the first few times can be tricky because a fetus’ heart is tiny and it’s easy to pass right over it. Relax, move slowly, and don’t be alarmed if it takes some time to hear your baby’s heart beating. If you’re having trouble using your Doppler, bring it with you to your next doctor’s appointment so your doctor can show you how to use it under their supervision.
Fetal Doppler’s should not be used in any way for diagnostic or medical purposes by anyone other than a medical professional and should not be used as a substitute for regular prenatal care by a medical practitioner. Any concerns about your pregnancy should be addressed to your care provider.