Fetal Heart Detector / Doppler Use

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How do I use my fetal doppler?
The best way to begin an exam is to be lying down exposing the abdomen, although it may be possible to find the heart rate in a sitting or standing position. Apply a generous amount of ultrasound gel to the fetal Doppler probe. Early in pregnancy the best technique is to begin with the transducer (probe) on the midline of the abdomen (above the pubic line) aiming downward behind the pubic bone. The probe should then be angled slowly in search for the fetal heart rate. Be patient, early in pregnancy the size of the fetal heart is so small and the sound so faint it can be very easy to pass over and miss the sounds. A full bladder can make it easier to find the heartbeat. Try to keep from dragging the probe around as it will only increase static and make it more difficult to find the heartbeat.

When can I start using a fetal doppler?
In some woman the fetal heart can be detected as early as 8-12 weeks. The fetal heartbeat should be audible 95% of the time in 12-week pregnancies, and nearly 100% of the time after 14 weeks. Earlier in pregnancy, between 8-12 weeks, your success in finding the heart rate can have to do with the quality of your device. Fetal dopplers that employ a 2 mghz probe tend to pick up the fetal heart rate earlier than 3 mghz fetal dopplers as they have a more defined beam which penetrates deeper (3-5cm compared to 1-2cm). An important note is to remember that everyone is different, so not finding your baby's heartbeat early isn't a reason for concern. If you have concerns about your pregnancy you should contact your healthcare provider. Like the numbers above reflect nearly 100% of woman are able to hear the fetal heartbeat from the 14th week.

How often can I use my fetal doppler?
There is no scientific research available to suggest that ultrasound is unsafe. In 2002, the British Medical Ultrasound Society issued a statement confirming that there has never been any evidence of harm resulting from the use of ultrasound in pregnancy. However, the technology behind ultrasound scanning is complicated, and it's important to remember that this research was based on the work of health professionals who have training and guidance for its use. While there is no evidence as yet that dopplers are harmful in any way, there is also no research available to show the effects of a mother using a Doppler to listen to her baby two or three times a day throughout pregnancy. As a general rule an exam with a fetal doppler should never last longer than 10 minutes. If you don't find the heartbeat in this period of time, take a break. If you’re concerned contact your health care provider. If not, try again in a few days.

How do I know I'm hearing my baby's heartbeat and not mine?
The easiest and most conclusive way to decipher your heartbeat from your baby's is by the heart rate or BPM (beats per minute). Your baby's heart rate will be between 120 & 180 BPM. This is considered the normal range of a fetal heart rate. Conversely, your heart rate will be much less 60-100 BPM. Early in pregnancy its normal for the fetal heart rate to vary within a reasonable range. As your pregnancy progresses and your baby grows the heart rate will become more static. Also be aware that like adults your baby's heart rate will vary depending on activity level. If you have further questions or concerns about your baby's heart rate contact your health care provider.

Why do I need ultrasound gel?
Ultrasound gel is imperative when doing and exam with a fetal doppler. Ultrasound gel is specially formulated to act as a coupling agent and reduce static that is often caused when using a fetal doppler. To get optimal use and sound out of a fetal doppler monitor use plenty of gel. Do not use coloured gels or lotions. Any oil based substance used with a fetal doppler will cause excess static and can damage the doppler probe. Since the probe is one of the most integral parts of the doppler system they can run upwards of $300 to replace. Use only ultrasound gel.

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