Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to Use a Fetal Doppler at Home successfully as early as 9 weeks

Update: The FDA has recently issued a statement recommending against the use of Doppler Ultrasound Heartbeat Monitors without supervision of a healthcare professional.  Please read the statement (link above) and continue at your own risk.  

I'm not a doctor, and this is not medical advice!

I ultimately found my baby's heartbeat with my home fetal doppler at 9 weeks, 3 days, but I think I could have found it sooner if I'd had more information.  So, I decided to write a post to help others searching for tips and tricks.  I used the Sonoline b Pocket Fetal Doppler, purchased new from a medical supply company off ebay for about $60.  It doesn't matter if you're 8 weeks, 10 weeks, overweight or carry a pre-pregnancy big belly, you will eventually find your little one's heartbeat with the fetal doppler. 

How to Use the Fetal Doppler:
  1. Expose your belly all the way down to the pubic bone.  The uterus is actually still a pelvic organ at this point and is really low.
  2. Put a lot of ultrasound gel on your lower belly.  The doppler will work better with a decent amount of gel under it, and when you're first looking you'll be moving the wand all over the place in your search. Aloe vera gel works just as well, but it has to be the gel and not the lotion.
  3. Put the doppler wand on your belly before turning on the machine. This will cut down on incredibly loud static once you turn it on.  To start, place the wand less than an inch above the hair line.
  4. I use mode 1 to locate the hb. It shows real time beats per minute (bpm). Once you find the heartbeat you can switch to mode 2 for a more accurate heartrate.  Mode 2 averages bpm for the last 8 beats.  The reason I search in mode 1 is it displays bpm faster so if you're in doubt, you'll find out quicker if you're right. 
  5. Turn the volume all the way up.  You may briefly hear the heartbeat before it pops up on the display. The sound is all you have to guide you.
  6. While leaving the head of the wand in place, angle it all around in a circle.  A good youtube video demonstrating this technique can be found here.
  7. If you don't find it, move the head over slightly to the left or right and angle it all around again.
  8. Be patient.  Time yourself, and spend at least 5 minutes each time you look.  I'd get frustrated before 5minutes and be tempted to give up, but you have to put in the practice to get the payoff.  Keep trying!

Extra Tips & Tricks:
  • Keep paper towels within reach.  Nothing like realizing you're covered in gel with your pants half down and no towels in sight. lol.
  • Most baby's aren't exactly in the center. (Old wives tale is that girls are on the left, boys on the right)
  • Everyone says to search on a full bladder, but I found my baby's heartrate so much better with empty bladder.  Try everything! Also try with full stomach or empty stomach.  I have to site this video on youtube for giving me that empty bladder advice. 
  • Try first thing in the morning or right after sleeping when bloat is the least.  If that doesn't work, go ahead and try at the end of the day when it's the worst.  Every body is different.
  • Plus size moms can still find the heartbeat early.  You may have to press in harder and it may take more practice or more searching time, but you can do it!  See a plus size mom demonstrate finding her baby's heartbeat at 13 weeks on youtube here.
  • A heartrate btw 60-100bpm is not the baby. That's you! You have veins and arteries carrying your blood to the baby and all over the place.  You'll pick up your heartrate often.
  • A heartrate around 124 with a lot of whooshing is probably not the baby.  There's an artery that runs all the way down your belly, and when the doppler is on that artery you hear your heartbeat and also a short noise in between the beats.  Not sure if this the sound of a nearby vein carrying the blood back on a brief delay or what, but the doppler picks it up and counts it as a separate beat.  This noise is easy to pick up, and sounds faster than your heartrate, but it's not the baby.  Another great but long youtube video can be found here that includes common sounds mistake for the baby.  It also includes a good explanation of the different modes.
  • The baby's heartrate sounds like a galloping horse, especially this early. It's super fast!  Here's my own baby's heartbeat. Note that the sound briefly fades and returns. The baby's moving around and it's hard to stay on him.

Hope this helps! Good luck! It really is the greatest sound in the world.


  1. Thanks for the info! I'm 9w 3d and I'm getting my Doppler today. Hope I hear the HB!

  2. I'm 10 weeks today and heard the heartbeat clearly. It sounded like a chugging train. A fantastic feeling!

  3. I am getting my Doppler tomorrow so I can't wait

  4. This was a really helpful article. I has caught the whooshing artery, but kept looking and found my baby! Almost 12 weeks along now....

  5. Thank you so much!! I've had my doppler for several weeks now, though I knew I probably wouldn't hear anything for a while. I'm 9w1d and we finally heard the hb after reading your tips! :)

  6. A doppler is just to hear the heartbeat.
    An ultrasound scan is to view inside.
    From my knowledge,doppler use is more dangerous than the ultrasound due to a continuous ultrasound wave transmitted.
    Read More

  7. Thanks for the tips, Margaret! It’s really important to know how to operate a certain medical equipment, so that it would be easy for you to use it when you need to. And in your case, it would be amazing if you can hear your child’s heartbeat even without going to the clinic for a checkup. Cheers!

    Kathy West @ Used Tryker

  8. I got my fetal doopler today!
    And I found my baby heart beat!
    The speed and the sound are just like yours!
    So happy to hear the heart beat!

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