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Hearing Baby's Heartbeat

Ways to listen to your baby before birth.

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Fetoscope - Hearing Baby's Heart Beat in Pregnancy

Fetoscope

Photo © iStockPhoto

One of the most frequent questions I get is how to hear your baby in between the visits to see your midwife or doctor. There are some quick and simple solutions that are safe for baby and mom. Here are the most common questions and answers about listening to baby prenatally:

What can I use to hear the baby?

The easiest and less expensive route is the stethoscope or fetoscope. The stethoscope is more widely available, but the fetoscope is especially made for listening to babies, making it a bit better at hearing the heart beat.

The stethoscope can be purchased at most drugs stores, any medical supply store and many of the uniform stores that cater to medical personnel. The stethoscope can vary greatly with how well you can hear based solely on the quality of the product. There are also different types of stethoscopes, for example a pediatric stethoscope versus a cardiac stethoscope. Name brands such as Littman versus other less expensive brands may also effect the quality of the product.

The fetoscope is designed to be used on a pregnant mom, so it's designed with hearing baby in mind. The lower end fetoscopes tend to work just as well as the more expensive brands. The main difference between the fetoscope and stethoscope is that most fetoscopes use the forehead to conduct sound to help you hear the baby, often giving better results to the user.

There are several brands of amplifiers on the market. The BeBe Sounds Prenatal Listener (TM) is the one I most frequently see advertised. Reviews of this product on the forums have not been that spectacular, although their site does offer other testimonials. Many women complain that they have trouble hearing the baby, even when really close to their due date. One mom suggested that you take the amplifier with your to visit your doctor or midwife and ask them to show you how to use it. This can be said of all of the listening devices! The features on these products will vary, some include headsets or dual listening sets, or even tape recorders to tape baby with.

Anything that would effect how well we hear baby?

There are many factors that can effect how well you can hear the baby. And they can vary from time to time. They include, but are not limited too:

  • Position of the baby
  • Amount of amniotic fluid
  • Location of the placenta
  • Mom's weight
Why listen?

For some families it will provide reassurance between visits to your practitioner. For others it's merely a way of bonding with the baby. Children and dads love this and often look forward to it. And it's easy enough for even a small child to do.

Is it safe?

Yes. None of these products are considered harmful to the baby or mom. You also do not need a prescription or order from your practitioner to order one.

The one problem that I can foresee with the use of these products is that if you don't know what you're listening for you may worry needlessly. Again, take your product with you to a prenatal visit and get a quick lesson on using one!

Products You Can Use

Product Ease of Use When it Works Cost
Stethoscope average 18-22 weeks $10-80
Fetoscope average 18-22 weeks $25-90
Amplifiers complicated depends on product $20-30
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