Is Home Fetal Doppler Use Okay in Pregnancy?

This is a device used to listen to your baby's heart beat in pregnancy.
This is a device used to listen to your baby's heart beat in pregnancy. It is most frequently used from 12 weeks gestation through the end of pregnancy. It is used in many prenatal care settings.. Photo © iStockPhoto

Question: Is home fetal doppler use okay in pregnancy?

A fetal doppler is a hand-held, ultrasound device used by some practitioners to hear your baby's heart beat at prenatal appointments. (Other devices can also be used to hear your baby's heart beat.)

Answer: Fetal dopplers are approved for use as a medical device. Recently, the question of home fetal doppler use has come up. There are many places that rent fetal dopplers for use by individuals.

Women who use a fetal doppler at home 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. Mothers who have experienced previous miscarriage or stillbirth may also be drawn to the perceived reassurance that a fetal doppler could provide.

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.


    Avoid Fetal "Keepsake" Images, Heartbeat Monitors. Food and Drug Administration. March 28, 2008.

    Obstetric Ultrasound. American College of Radiology. March 15, 2010.

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