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:
- Not hearing the baby's heart beat, even though baby is fine, thus causing more worry.
- Misinterpreting the fetal heart rate.
- Hearing baby's heart beat and assuming baby is fine, when other signs, like decreased fetal movement, truly need to be reported. In this case, it's a false sense of security.
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.