Pregnant woman in white brassiere

The wrapping is still on the table in the background — you don’t care. You’ll clean up once you’ve heard the pitter-patter of your baby’s heartbeat on your brand new fetal doppler.

During the first few months of pregnancy, feeling movement is unlikely. Although this is completely normal, some mothers-to-be look for ways to connect early on.

Enter the home Fetal Doppler.

These handy gadgets aid in building a bond with a quick listen to your baby’s heartbeat.

Let’s look at how to use over-the-counter fetal dopplers. 

Using a Fetal Doppler 101

Professionals in the medical field have been using fetal dopplers for years. Commercial baby heart monitors, on the other hand, have only been around for a short while.

Before you can become a heart monitoring expert, you’ll need a few things:

  • Batteries: Make sure you have the correct type of batteries for your home fetal doppler. Our standard Doppler uses 2x 1.5V AA LR6 alkaline batteries.
  • Ultrasound gel: It might just be a mixture of water and propylene glycol, but it’s vital to the process. By eliminating the air between the device and the womb, it seals the bond. The lubricant also reduces static output and is an excellent conductor for sound.
  • A comfortable spot to recline: Experts recommend laying flat when using the home fetal doppler. Make sure you’re comfortable, as finding the heartbeat doesn’t always happen immediately.
  • A speaker or headphones: This is only necessary if the device doesn’t come with a custom set.
  • Instruction manual: Yes, we know. Reading the manual seems so tedious when you’ve got a nifty how-to guide — but it’s necessary. Manufacturers put essential information regarding the use and maintenance in there.

The home fetal Doppler comes in many shapes and sizes.
Premium Doppler

Step-by-Step

  1. Do a patch test at least 24 hours before using your Doppler for the first time.


    Apply some of the gel on an area that’s not easily spotted such as behind your ear and leave it for 24 hours. If you don’t have any adverse reactions to the Doppler gel, continue with the following steps.

  2. Lay down on your back. This is where that comfortable spot comes in handy. 
  3. Switch on your Doppler device.
  4. Connect and adjust your listening method — the headphones or speakers — and set the volume. 
  5. Lift your shirt and lower your pants enough to expose your tummy. 
  6. Apply a generous amount of Doppler gel to the area. 
  7. Place the device on your lower abdomen and gradually move upward. 
  8. Change your angle and position continuously until you’ve located your baby. 
  9. Once you’ve heard your baby’s heartbeat, clean your stomach and the device. Wipe the gel off with a dry cloth before it dries.  

The Finer Detail

Unless you’ve purchased a medical grade fetal doppler — yours won’t be as sensitive as the one at the doctor’s office.

Focusing on the finer detail will help to locate the heartbeat of your baby.

  • Applying the gel - Don’t be shy, as we mentioned earlier — it conducts sound. Use a liberal amount on the entire area where you plan to use the Doppler. Don’t smear it on like cream. Instead, squeeze and spread it with the monitor.
  • Placing the Doppler - Much like you’d see your doctor do, always start at the lower abdomen and make your way up.
  • Moving the Doppler - Finding the heartbeat isn’t as much about knowing where the baby is as it is about finding the right angle and placement. Movements should be gentle, or you risk missing the baby.

Practice makes perfect: Apply some gel to your chest and practice finding your own heartbeat. Not only will this help to get a feel for things, but you’ll know what you should expect to hear. 

What Should You Be Listening For? 

As you’ll learn soon enough, the human body makes many weird and wonderful sounds. You can expect to hear your pulse, static, the flow of your blood and even the grumble in your tummy.

If you’ve been practising on your own heartbeat, you’ll know what to listen for.

The heart rate of an average adult is around 80BPM. A fetus’ will be much faster — usually between 120–160BPM, depending on how far along you are.  

When Can You Use a Fetal Doppler? 

These handheld devices make use of the Doppler effect. It’s the change in the frequency of waves produced by a moving source.

The movement caused by your baby’s heartbeat creates waves, which these nifty Dopplers translate to sound.

Your healthcare professional will use an ultrasound device to detect a heartbeat in the first few weeks of your pregnancy. Doctors use ultrasound scans because it’s safe and effective.

Evidence shows that using an at-home heartbeat Doppler is most effective during the second trimester, 13–28 weeks.

Some parents report finding their baby’s heartbeat on home fetal Dopplers from as early as nine weeks. 

Some parents report hearing a heartbeat very early in the pregnancy
Caay | Customer Review

Are Home Fetal Dopplers safe? 

When it comes to your baby’s health, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

To date, the risks of prolonged exposure to ultrasound are unknown. As there are no solid answers regarding safety, keep exposure to a minimum.

If you have any concerns surrounding your pregnancy, always contact your doctor first. Your health care provider trained for many years to use these various devices. 

Long Story Short

You’ll be operating your home baby Doppler like a pro in no time.

A heartbeat monitor should never replace your doctor's visits. You can hear your baby’s heartbeat between appointments and nurture the bond between you and your little one.

You should buy an FDA approved and Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) listed Doppler. These have gone through extensive testing for quality control.

BabyHeart offers a variety of medical-grade Dopplers that can set your heart at ease. 

Mini Doppler

Mini Doppler

Standard Doppler

Standard Doppler

Premium Doppler

Premium Doppler
Battery V 9V 2x 1.5V AA LR6 alkaline batteries 9.6 V Rechargeable
FDA Approved Yes Yes Yes
LCD Display No Yes Yes
ARTG Listed Yes Yes Yes
Built-in speaker No Yes Yes
When can a heartbeat be detected? 14 - 16 weeks 14 - 16 weeks 12 weeks
Price $59.95 + free gel $119 + free gel $199 + free gel



Featured Image: Pexels by Pavel Danilyuk

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