At-Home Fetal Heartbeat Monitors: Heartfelt or Harmful?


At-Home Fetal Heartbeat MonitorParents crave peace of mind. It’s stressful to think something could happen to your unborn baby, so doing everything to monitor their baby’s heartbeat at home seems prudent. Unfortunately, though, at-home fetal doppler monitors carry risks and probably aren’t worth it.

This growing trend is concerning to doctors and prenatal healthcare professionals. While the FDA officially discourages at-home use of fetal doppler monitors, commonly known as baby heartbeat monitors, that isn’t stopping market demand. One report by Transparency Market Research says that even more parents are expected to want at-home fetal heart monitors in spite of the FDA’s concerns. So, this worrying trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Is it Worth the Risks?

Right now, you might be wondering what the big deal is. What’s wrong with buying a DIY doppler kit? Listening-in and sharing the excitement with others is great, in the right context.

Read on to discover why the FDA and medical experts aren’t sold on at-home listening:

  • Parents’ Lack of Training: When a mom-to-be goes to her prenatal appointment, she’s in the care of experienced, licensed healthcare professionals. They know how to interpret the results of testing and how to listen for potential problems. As it turns out, many people misuse at-home devices and hear the mom’s heartbeat or something else. Or, they don’t hear anything and become unnecessary worried.
  • Excessive Exposure to Ultrasound: Getting ultrasounds from a professional is great. Your healthcare team knows how often to do them and can help prevent you or your baby from overexposure. Some at-home users may be exposing their child to too much ultrasound too often.
  • Unnecessary Fears/Unfounded Reassurance: Hearing something with an at-home device doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is healthy or experiencing problems. Some parents may become too stressed (unnecessarily so). Others may find reassurance when they hear what they interpret to be a heartbeat—and then choose to delay medical care.

In all, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Listening Safely
Pregnant Woman With Doctor

If you’re still eager to hear your unborn baby’s heart, there’s a relatively safe way to do it. While prenatal visits aren’t the same as listening whenever you feel like it, they are an important part of promoting fetal health. These ultrasounds are safer and both guided and interpreted by trained healthcare professionals.

So, we recommend you skip the at-home monitor and do these things instead:

  • Count and Record Movements: Pay attention when you feel your baby move and try to keep track of what’s happening. If you notice any changes that worry you, then you may want to ask your healthcare professional for advice. Having good records can help you gain peace of mind and notice when something changes.
  • Attend Prenatal Care Appointments: Tracking your baby’s growth and development can help put your mind at ease and keep your healthcare provider informed of your progress throughout pregnancy.
  • Follow Your Instincts: If something fundamentally feels wrong to you about your pregnancy, it could be a sign to visit your doctor. A mom’s intuition should never lose out to an at-home monitor. One of the downsides of these devices is that they make it easy to delay care. If it doesn’t feel right and you’re concerned about your pregnancy, don’t wait—see a healthcare professional ASAP.

If you have any pregnancy questions or if you’re concerned about your health, Glacial Ridge Health System’s Maternity Health Care Team can help. Contact us at 320.634.5157 to request an appointment or get more information.

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