Doppler - Tips

  • Use a generous amount of gel, ensuring there are no air bubbles in the gel. If you run out of gel, any water-based lubricant can be used.
  • A comfortably full bladder can help with making your baby's heartbeat easier to find.
  • You will probably find the heartbeat easier if you are lying flat.
  • The baby is normally positioned a lot lower than you might think.
  • Start by placing the probe at or just above the pubic hair line, then tilt the unit slowly.
  • Think of the probe as a torch. Imagine you are trying to illuminate the heart. By tilting the probe you are shining its beam into different areas. Take it slow and be patient. You can easily pass over the heartbeat if you move or tilt the probe too quickly.
  • Try not to slide the probe across the skin, just tilt it at different angles and if you do want to try a new location lift the probe off and reapply it a the new spot. This will prevent a built up of background static.
  • The fetal heartbeat is easily distinguished by its much faster beat (around 140-180 bpm) which is about twice as fast as the mother's heartbeat.
  • Try listening to your own heartbeat with the Doppler. You can record this to comfort your baby after it is born.  It will also help you to distinguish your much slower pulse from the galloping rate of your baby.
  • Sometimes you will hear a 'far off dog barking' type sound at around 150 bpm. This is more likely to be the umbilical cord which is higher pitched but whose pulse is very similar to your baby's heartbeat.
  • The placenta can be heard as a swishing "wind through the trees" or occasionally a swooshing "water on the beach" sound.
  • If you cannot locate the heartbeat, try having a drink, snack or going for a walk as this may encourage your baby to change positions. 
  • It is important to note that the Doppler, when used at home by non-medical persons, is not intended to assist or replace recommended antenatal care. Please refer to your medical practitioner if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pregnancy.

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