Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Doppler musings



Several of you have suggested that I buy or rent a doppler so I can check on the heartbeat of the baby myself. Not a bad idea. One that I have figured for a while I would do. I thought I would probably rent a doppler, the best I could find. But I hadn't done so yet when a very wonderful, very generous reader asked if she could send me her doppler, along with two beautiful pregnancy journals. I've never met her but we've emailed several times. I consider her an unmet friend.

So I haven't said anything, because even saying something might jinx the pregnancy, but I've had a doppler put aside in my bedside cabinet for a couple of weeks.

At first I just eyed it warily. I've been afraid that not finding the heartbeat would send me into an absolute panic. Because of the prednisone, I'm not overweight, but I'm not as thin as I was when we started pregnancy #7.

I finally gave in after our 10 week ultrasound. Later that day, Will and I tried to find the heartbeat using the doppler. I lasted about ...oh...1 minute....

And then I panicked. Terrified both that we wouldn't find the heartbeat and also that somehow rooting around for it too long might harm the baby.

I put it away.

I tried it again the night before our 11 week ultrasound. This time I did it alone, with no Will.

I think I heard it - a very fast tempo that sounds like what we hear at the doctor's office. But faint. Moving the wand around, I found a heartbeat in the high 150s...I think...but only for a moment. I tried to call for Will, but shouting made me move the wand and I lost it.

I didn't want to subject the baby to more doppler and so put it away, but I was hopeful we would find it again.

I haven't tried it again yet.

I probably won't until we're within 24 hours of an ultrasound because I don't want to have to panic for too long if I can't find it.

I confessed having the doppler to the OB this Monday at my ultrasound. She recommend I don't try using it until 13 weeks, because by then I'll be sure to reliably find the heartbeat. She also said that if there is ever anything I am worried about, I should always come in. And I should not use the doppler to reassure myself. I asked, "Even if I'm worried for no good reason, just because of my history?"

"Even - and especially - then," she said. "I always want to see you."

Hmmm... so she may be seeing me a lot, because I'm a worrier, and we have a bad history. I like this OB, but I hope she knows what she might be in for!

I think she has a good point. That a doppler could in some instances provide false reassurance.

That said, I'm super thankful I have one. I think it will be nice to check in on a weekly basis. Just a little hello between me and the baby if there are weeks where I'm not having an ultrasound...

Anybody know how long/how often it is safe to look for the heartbeat? I've been trying to keep it under a minute...and I'm thinking I'll try to only check it once a week (or maybe two or three times). I don't want to stress or harm the pregnancy in any way...but not sure what the research is on this...

Mo

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27 comments:

It Is What It Is said...

What a lovely gift.

I used mine multiple times/day from 10 weeks until I felt movement (at 20 wks) and then daily (or almost daily) until delivery at 38 weeks. I am not a panicker and made a deal with myself that I would NOT panic over not being able to find the heartbeat (unless there had been some precipitating event that alone would cause concern (like my hard fall on my belly at 30wks)). My RE/OB and Peri all said the same thing, use it as often as I needed to for reassurance.

The sound waves from a Doppler are 40 times lower than they are with an ultrasound transducer and the frequency is also much lower. The Mayo Clinic weighed in that in 30 years of study not one adverse effect on the fetus was ever noted from either the use of ultrasound or Doppler.

Early fetal heartbeat is sometimes detected MUCH lower on the belly than you expect. I had to go way into my pubic hair to get a consistent reading until I was well into my 2nd tri.

Good luck.

Amber said...

Ditto the first comment on the safety of the doppler. My OB has had to look for 3-4 minutes just to find one on me before and then she listens for another minute or so. I've read to limit it to 10 minute sessions several times a week. That's a LONG time. :)

Sunny said...

I used my doppler regularly with all three of my pregnancies. Every single night, probably for less than 30 seconds at a time. I just wanted the sound of that beautiful reassurance before I fell asleep. I can feel the baby moving constantly now, so I don't bother with the doppler anymore... but it's still by my bed, just in case I do want to hear it.

Tina said...

I'm 21 weeks right now and I still have a hard time finding the heartbeat with our doppler. Occasionally I find it right away but sometimes it takes me as long as 15 minutes. So even though it's hard not to, try not to stress out too much if you don't find it right away.

TurtleMama said...

I used my doppler starting about 10 weeks and never had issues with finding the heartbeat. My placenta is posterior so I think that helps - find out where your placenta is located at your next u/s. Also the doppler is good at the end of pregnancy, because it can help determine if the baby is headdown. If the heartbeat is detected the strongest below your belly button then you can assume he/she is headdown. It's a handy device, but I have heard people having trouble finding a heartbeat (even OB's not being able to find the heartbeats).

Anonymous said...

my method with the home doppler was to find the heartbeat, listen and get a good digital reading for 30-60 seconds, and then maybe get another reading in a different spot, just to double check on the first reading.

once a day from the time we began using it (11wks, after our OB found it on his doppler at the office) on thru to delivery at 36wks.

i never lingered, and while the doppler gave me a lot of security, it also brought me right into the stress of the pregnancy, so, it was a mixed thing. really, i just wanted to make sure the baby was there, having a good heart rate, and then went on to hopinng things would keep on being ok, day by day.

i am glad you have one. it is not the end-all-be-all diagnostic tool, it is what it is, just a little check-in.

my peri told me that a mother's perception and observations of the pregnancy and baby are way more important than other diagnostic tools. if you feel something is amiss- go and get it checked out- most of the time it will end up fine- but you know best, and don't ignore or be afraid of your feelings and fears- sometimes it is just what you need to do something in time to help. you are very fortunate to have such a caring and open OB.

Silver said...

I don't know anything about the safety to the foetus of using a doppler, but not too long before I had my successful pregnancy I read this article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8343317.stm
I am a natural worrier and when I worry my heartrate frequently goes above 100bpm (and it did so especially in pregnancy), so I knew that I could easily be reassured by something that wasn't my baby's heartbeat, so I didn't go for one. I went to see my midwife and the hospital day assessment unit quite frequently for a quick listen or a scan when I was worried - knowing my history, not once did anyone make me feel like I was being a nuisance - I'm sure your OB is the same.

E and R said...

My doppler provided a great deal of reassurance. I allowed myself to listen once a day until I felt her moving regularly.

K said...

I have such a hatred for dopplers since my miscarriages that I don't think I could ever get one. I think I would become obsessed with it..therefore bringing even more panic and worry. I will be curious to see how you like it - and if it does bring you relief.

Erin said...

I let myself use my doppler once per day from about 11 weeks until I could feel movement reliably. I would often listen for 30-60 seconds or less. I found it very reassuring. Keeping everything crossed for you!!

Heather said...

Count me in the once-a-day club. At leat until i could feel him move. It saved my sanity and I figured it was better for the baby than me being anxious all the time. Funnily enough he didn't like the doppler and would always move away from it. I didn't listen for too long, maybe 30 seconds or so at a time.

Oh how I miss that sound...

PJ said...

I think I used mine about twice a week, starting at about 9 or 10 weeks. I don't know how long I did it... maybe 10 minutes each time? Seems like I read some things online that lead me to believe that not enough research had been done on the effects of home dopplers being used that made me think that it's better to not use it too much.

I remember it being hard to find the heartbeats at the beginning. I am overweight, so that is probably part of it.

My BIG tip is that the baby is likely way down in your pelvis and that once I figured that out, it helped a lot. I had to put the doppler at the top of my pelvic bone and point down.

I think I tended to use the doppler in the middle (like if I had to wait 3 weeks for an appointment, I'd do it around 1 1/2 wks, and then once right before I went in for an u/s.

Miss Megan said...

Ah the doppler! I loved that thing! I used it every day when I was pregnant with my girls from about 8.5-9 weeks on until delivery at 36 weeks. Once I found the heartbeat I would listen for 30-45 seconds or so.
It was awesome for me for reassurance. There were several occasions when I couldn't find one (or both) girls heartbeats, so I would simply put it away (stressed out!) and try again later in the day. My OB would always see me if I was nervous, worried, or scared, so I knew that was my backup plan if it ever got to that point. It didn't.
I think it's a wonderful tool! And I agree with the other ladies - you have to be really low with the doppler at this point...about the pubic hair level...it will be more in your abdomen the further along you get, but right now that little peanut is very low =).
Carry on momma! It was very reassuring for me...hopefully it will become reassuring for you too!

Anonymous said...

My last pregnancy was considered "high risk" and I had weekly appointments for most of the pregnancy. I didn't have my own doppler, but my OB (at Mayo Clinic) did doppler and US with every appointment. He assured me there was no risk of harm to the baby and it was sure nice to get that weekly assurance that everything was fine! (and now she is a healthy happy 10 month old...)
Do what feels right for you! So happy things are going so well for you!

Emily Erin said...

I would check in every few days-- especially at the beginning. I did find out, however that I have a tipped uterus and so couldn't really hear *her* until about 14 weeks, but didn't feel movement until about week 18, so it was great that every few days, I could have a 'window' in. I'm sure that you'll find what works best for you-- and how wonderful of your OB to be willing to see you at any point. I enjoyed listening with my husband; just a quiet moment where we could both marvel at the fact that we were indeed pregnant! Never spent more than about a minute listening once I found the heartbeat and never looked more than 3 minutes. Glad that you have it and glad that you have a pregnancy journal (or two :-D) to document this wonderful journey in!

Kahla said...

We used ours every night for both pregnancies. In fact, Chase wouldn't go to sleep without hearing Emery's heartbeat (and then his) at bedtime, so it became routine. I'm not sure of research, but both of our babies were just fine! Every day I'm just happier and happier for y'all!!!

Lorraine said...

I used mine almost every day. I absolutely agree that using a doppler shouldn't take the place of an OB visit if you suspect a problem.

But as someone in the second trimester who left one OB appointment with great test results and an all-clear ultrasound, and never had any troubling symptoms or even a feeling that something was wrong... Luckily, I actually won the IVF lottery again, and then I wanted whatever information I could get. Just in case. It made a huge difference just to be able to have immediate feedback.

Lots of good wishes to you and your little one!

St Elsewhere said...

I used a doppler at home in my second pregnancy. I could not locate the heartbeat till 14 weeks+.

I initially used the doppler once a week during the weeks I was not supposed to go in for an ultrasound. I had fixed a day, say, Monday for it...so that I would always be sure when I had used it last.

My frequency of usage increased during the third trimester. And I distinctly remember using it every few hours during the last few days, ever since we came to know of the episodes of tachycardia that the baby was having.

Good Luck!

Rebecca said...

I got one around 23 weeks, and I used it on a daily basis for quite a while. There were some days when I was super nervous and I used it 2 or 3 times a day.

I read stuff that said it could provide false reassurance because you can wind up hearing blood flow from one of your arteries instead of the baby's. However, I usually listened for three different sounds, so I figured even if one of them was me instead of Kiddo, the other two wouldn't be me.

The first sound I listened for was the cord, which sounded like "wow wow wow wow wow". The second sound was blood flow through the placenta, which sounded like wind blowing through trees. And then I listened for the heartbeat, which sounded kind of like a galloping horse's hoofbeats.

In the beginning, I mistook the cord's sounds for the heartbeat, but I Google'd something like "what does a baby's heartbeat sound like on doppler?" and came across some wav files that I listened to, which helped me understand the difference. I think the files may have been on You Tube, so you could search there if you're interested in hearing recordings like that.

I know this is still very much the cautiously optimistic stage with an emphasis on cautious, but I'm really happy for you that everything is continuing to go well. I hope that holds true for the next 29 weeks!

Geohde said...

It's entirely safe.

Dopple at will. Perhaps get your ob to show you if you're afraid of technical difficulties and resultant dbt's. It can be tricky in the first tri but it's possible. My PB was 9/40 w my twins. Singleton, 10/40.

:)

g

InBabyAttachMode said...

When you feel the urge to use your doppler, instead try to sit and meditate and send love and trust to your baby. Try to connect with your baby in that way and trust that it is there and that it is growing. Visualize how your baby lives in your womb.

-I know this sounds like hippie-talk, but remember that stress hormones travel through your bloodstream just like alcohol would. I can only imagine how hard it must be for you to find trust, but please try to look for it!-

gwinne said...

I used a doppler during both pregnancies. LG from maybe 12-20 weeks and Tiny Boy 10-22 (?) weeks. Generally once a day, just for about 30 seconds. I am very small/thin and had very little trouble locating the heartbeat, even with an anterior placenta. Later on, I also got in to my OB for a few heartbeat checks on weeks I didn't have a scheduled appointment.

fiscafamily said...

The doppler never caused me stress-but I also never used it with the thought that I need to get in and get out ASAP-I always went in thinking I needed to take my time and be patient and not get worked up-so I would do it after I was settled into bed for the night. In the beginning (9 weeks) it would take quite some time to find him-and it was VERY VERY faint. I never worried about the actual rate-all I was looking for was his galloping tone-so what I would do was rest the monitor on my shoulder near my ear until I could hear that-and then listen just a couple seconds before turning off.
I also used my doppler daily until I had consistent fetal movements. and on weekends, hubby would set me up on the sofa and use the headphone jack to run and aux cord into our entertainment system speakers sending his little galloping heart rate throughout the house-this thing saved me so much daily freak out-I can't say enough good about it!
I too am a bit more padded than I ever was, I too was on the roids which is why I think he sounded so faint for so long-just relax and be patient-I'm sure you will grow to love it too!

Gil said...

Starting at about 8 weeks, Hubby and I used ours about twice a week, sometimes for up to 20 mins at a time. Later in the pregnancy, we heard thumps, hiccups, turns and all sorts of things. Very cool. Hubby even talked to Petite and she would thump back at the sound of his voice, almost every time. Pretty amazing stuff. I did a little research and talked to my RE. Everything I read and heard told me that using it was completely safe. So personally, I would say use it at will. Once a day. A few times per day. Once a week. Whatever. Whatever it takes to reassure YOU, that is what you should do. And if that means going to see the OB frequently, then so be it. Honestly... do whatever you have to in order to make sure YOU are relaxed. And if that means listening daily for 20 or 30 mins, no harm done. Enjoy it. It all passes far too quickly in my view. Cherish each and every moment.

kdactyl said...

I would have died of a nervous breakdown had it not been for my doppler in both my pregnancies. I only had one miscarriage and one chem pregnancy but it was enought to put the constant fear in me. I could find the h/b by about 10 weeks with my son and 11 with my daughter and pretty much listened several times a day for the rest of the pregnancies. Both babies are fine....and I survived too. I don't think it will hurt the baby at all. But yes...this early...you have to practically impale yourself just above the pubic bone to get it...and then the little bugger will probably wiggle away several times.

kd

Anonymous said...

I had an anterior placenta so I could really hear it until about 25 weeks. By that point, I stopped trying because she was moving so much. I never had much luck using it...it took forever to find and would stress me out. I just gave mine to goodwill finally to get it out of the house!

Anonymous said...

No informed opinion about dopplers, but Mo, I'm curious about the status of using a surrogate and would love an update! Wondering if you're still proceeding on all fronts? NOT as a back-up plan, but as a way to add to your family in addition to the little babe you're already carrying. :)

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