Is Home Fetal Doppler Use Okay in Pregnancy?

Midwife using a doppler fetal monitor to check a baby's heartbeat en utero
Oleksiy Maksymenko / Getty Images

A fetal doppler is a hand-held, ultrasound device used by some medical practitioners to hear your baby's heartbeat at prenatal appointments. Other devices, such as ultrasound, can also be used to hear your baby's heartbeat. Fetal dopplers are approved for use as a medical device. Recently, the question of home fetal doppler use has come up, as there are now many places that rent fetal dopplers for use by individuals.

However, the use of a fetal doppler is not recommended for non-medical purposes. Learn more about the potential appeal and risks of using a fetal doppler at home.

Reasons for Using a Fetal Doppler at Home

Some pregnant people may wonder if it Is home fetal doppler use okay in pregnancy. Pregnant people who use a fetal doppler at home often say that they wish to monitor their baby's well-being and to reassure themselves that the baby is alive.

This can be particularly desirable in the early weeks before the baby's kicks can be felt. Parents who have experienced previous miscarriage or stillbirth may also be drawn to the perceived reassurance that a fetal doppler could provide. However, the use of these devices is not recommended for personal use.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against their use by laypeople. "Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important," says Shahram Vaezy, Ph.D., an FDA spokesperson and biomedical engineer.

Risks

While there is not believed to be any harm with occasional use by a medical professional, home fetal doppler use does not fall into this category. Many families use the doppler for much longer periods than they may experience with their practitioner and for more frequent uses — think once a day versus once a month at a prenatal visit.

There are three common risks to home fetal doppler use:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opposes home fetal doppler use, even when prescribed by an online physician.

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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Avoid fetal "keepsake" images, heartbeat monitors.

  2. Aust T, Ankers D, Famoriyo A. Caution with home fetal Doppler devicesBmj. 2009;339(aug18 2). doi:10.1136/bmj.b3220

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