Best Fetal Doppler Buying Guide
Finding out that you are conceiving another human being in your womb can be exciting but downright scary, too.
For many parents, nothing beats the thrill of hearing their baby’s heartbeat for the first time during an ultrasound in their first trimester of pregnancy. While some can wait for the most exciting time when the baby makes his or her way into the world knowing that everything is okay during the pregnancy, there are some parents who just feel that this isn’t enough.
Some moms and dads would want to stay close to their unborn child and hear every precious heartbeat as much as possible, to give them assurance and extra peace of mind. Fortunately, parents can now get an at home ultrasound machine for pregnancy to do this.
What is a Doppler?
The moment you suspect that you are pregnant and make your way to the doctor’s office, they will probably take out a small tool that will allow them to listen to baby’s heartbeat. Doing so early on confirms the pregnancy and helps determine if there are any potential health issues.
Previously, this fetal heartbeat monitor is only available through OB/GYN clinics but the improvements of technology have made it possible to do the monitoring right at home. Unlike its more expensive medical-grade counterparts, however, at-home monitors are smaller, more portable, cheaper but also less accurate. While they certainly should not be used to replace regular visits to the doctor, it still gives parents peace of mind that they are able to hear their baby’s heartbeat in the privacy and comforts of their own home.
Doppler vs Ultrasound
A sonogram uses ultrasound in order to render images while a Doppler measures the movement of blood in the arteries.
The Doppler has a higher power than the regular ultrasound so it is not often used during the first trimester of the pregnancy. The obstetrician’s office often uses an ultrasound to check only the sound but not the image, so it uses only a safe power level. You will get to see the baby’s heart beating in an ultrasound so there is usually no need for a sound.
Why Do You Need a Baby Heartbeat Monitor?
Among the many reasons why parents decide to get a heartbeat Doppler that they can use at home is to make them feel bonded and closer to their babies even before they come out to the world. Some mothers with high-risk pregnancies also want to be constantly assured that their baby is doing well inside the womb without having to visit the doctor every day.
It should be noted, though, that not all phases of pregnancy can already use a Doppler. When can you hear baby’s heartbeat? Most doctors would recommend starting monitoring their baby’s heartbeat until they are already around 14 weeks into their pregnancy. However, some Doppler models are said to be ultra sensitive that some moms can even detect a faint heartbeat as early as 8 weeks. On the other hand, some extremely cheap models might not work at all and you will find yourself not hearing anything even during the final trimester of your pregnancy.
To give a quick summary, the pros of having a handheld Doppler would be:
- Provides peace of mind to the parents, especially when the pregnancy is high risk
- You could check the heartbeat anytime without waiting to visit the doctor
- There are no negative side effects to using a portable Doppler
- Using this special tool provides a unique bonding experience with your unborn child
Are There Cons to a Baby Doppler?
The only disadvantage to getting a pocket fetal Doppler is that its technology is less sophisticated and less accurate compared to the ones that the doctors used. They might not even be able to hear the heartbeat at all which causes added anxiety to the parents. It is also possible that parents would rather ignore possible signs of distress because they could hear that the baby is doing okay. It is because of this reason that it is still recommended for pregnant women to never skip their visits to the doctor to ensure that both mom and child stay healthy throughout the pregnancy.
Additionally, it is highly likely that parents would use it for hours on end despite FDA recommendations to using the Doppler in moderation. Despite this, the advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. If you had any way to listen to your baby’s heartbeat in the womb and be assured that they are okay inside, then parents would definitely want to take it. Some pregnancy Doppler models even allow recording the heartbeat which makes more a unique keepsake that parents will treasure for a lifetime.
As an overview, the cons of using a Doppler would include:
- Sometimes inaccurate, especially for very cheap models
- Not hearing the baby’s heartbeat can add anxiety
- Using a monitor might result to parents ignoring possible signs of distress
- Parents might use the monitor too much even though the FDA recommends using it in moderation
Types of Fetal Dopplers
If you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant soon, you will probably consider wanting to hear your baby’s heartbeat without having to wait to visit the doctor. However, before you shell out your money and invest in such piece of technology, you must first know the types of Dopplers that are available in the market:
At Home Doppler
This is often the most recommended tool for parents to use at home. They are usually inexpensive but also less accurate and it is possible that they will never be able to detect a heartbeat. Before you get a pocket Doppler, it may be wise to try it out at the store first to see if it really works for you. Not hearing your baby’s heartbeat might feel like such a waste of time and money – or might even cause everyone to panic after not hearing anything. This type of Doppler is best for those who are on a slightly tight budget.
Medical Grade Doppler
This type of Doppler is usually what you can see in a doctor’s office. As long as it is used properly, it can be quite accurate in detecting the baby’s heartbeat inside the womb. However, it is not recommended for use at home since it is usually large and bulky and is more difficult to use. Additionally, these models are much more expensive than their portable counterparts.
If you have ever seen doctors listen to child or even an adult’s heartbeat, you might have seen them use those special stethoscopes that can detect the heartbeat of babies even when they are inside the womb. While these models are less expensive than the bulky medical grade ones, they are considered as among the most difficult to use.
Fetal Doppler Features to Consider
Regardless of your reason for purchasing a fetal heart rate monitor – whether for yourself, your spouse, for someone in the family or a close friend – there are many things that you need to consider before making your purchase. Among the factors that you should check out before making an investment are the following:
Doppler prices can start anywhere from $10, for basic stethoscopes, up to thousands of dollars, for the medical grade models. Keep in mind though that the cheaper the price, the less accurate it may become. However, when you opt for the more accurate models that are similar to what the doctor uses, it might also mean that it is more difficult to operate. Consider how much your budget is and compare all the features that you can get within your price range in order to make the best possible decision.
You most probably will not opt for a medical grade device or the fetal stethoscope model that your doctor uses but even if you only go for an at-home device, it still comes with different types. For example, if you are the type who are not looking for other bells and whistles in their Doppler and would rather not fuss with technology, a basic stethoscope (one that can be used at home) or a basic monitoring device might be your best choice. If you are looking for something more, there are also battery-operated models that come with multiple settings.
Obviously, warranty is a very important factor when considering your purchases, even if we are not talking about Dopplers. You would want to always make sure that you have protection for your money in case you are left with a defective product. There is nothing worse than being left with a device that does not work after spending a fortune, right? A warranty helps you protect your purchase so you do not have to feel worried about making an investment.
Additional features and accessories
Different at-home heartbeat monitoring devices come with different features so you have to make sure that you consider which ones you would like to have and which ones you can do without before making the purchase. For example, some models might let you hear the heartbeat but do they come with built-in speakers or just ear buds? Some brands might even provide digital downloads of lullaby music that has been personalized with your baby’s name. There are also those that are water-resistant and can record the heartbeat so you can let your child listen to it when they grow older.
Some models are extremely sensitive that you can already use it to listen to your baby’s heartbeat as early as eight weeks old but there are some that are recommended only during the final trimester of your pregnancy. If you want to constantly listen to your baby’s heartbeat while you are doing something else, you might also want to check if it comes with a special belt that you can comfortably fit around your belly.
Don’t forget to check if the kit comes with batteries, gels, bags, LED monitors and displays, ear buds or speakers as well as extra cables for connecting to a computer or other devices for audio output. It is very important that you know exactly what accessories the at-home Doppler has and what it does not have to avoid paying for additional costs.
Renting a Cheap Fetal Doppler
If you are a little short on budget and would rather not invest expensive heartbeat monitoring tools but would need to have those high-end devices at home, you can try checking out fetal Doppler rentals. Rental rates usually fall between $18 and $45 per month, depending on their type, features and additional accessories. Make sure to carefully check each fetal Doppler that you consider renting before shelling out your money.
Where to Buy a Fetal Doppler
However, if you are open to getting a brand new heartbeat monitoring device that have not been previously used by anyone else and also do not mind spending a little bit more, you should definitely consider buying one. Prices differ depending on the features and accessories that each Doppler has. Make sure to check the weight and warranty that comes with the device. Each device also comes with varying recommended fetal age so make sure to check that out as well. You might just be purchasing a portable Doppler that you cannot use until the final trimester of your pregnancy.
Whether you are renting out a Doppler or buying a new one, be sure to make your doctor aware that you have an at-home heartbeat monitoring device. Ask for assistance on how to use it correctly and when to use it. Also ask for tips and advice on how you can properly maintain the device so that it is able to last all throughout your pregnancy and perhaps even until the next one.
If you are still having a hard time choosing which fetal doppler to buy, let us not leave you without a recommendation. Our top pick for the fetal doppler is the Womb Music Heartbeat Baby Monitor By Wusic, but you can also check out our reviews of the top 5 best fetal dopplers here.