DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions regarding this information and opinion on the use of a fetal Doppler in pregnancy.
I want to address this fear-mongering article from Bustle. In the article, This New Pregnancy Trend Among Millennial Women Could Seriously Harm Unborn Babies, the author makes some “serious” claims. First, I want to pick apart the title. “New Pregnancy Trend,” “Millennial Women,” “Seriously Harm Unborn Babies.”
This is not a new pregnancy trend. Unless “in the last 15 years” is considered a new trend. When I was pregnant with my now 14-year old, home monitoring devices were around. Back then, it wasn’t easy to find a fetal Doppler to use at home, but I had a home monitoring device called Bebe Sounds Prenatal Listener. I could listen to my baby’s heart, record it, and also play music to my baby. It came with headphones and an adapter for my mp3 player or Walkman. We have really come a long way in the last 15 years!
I remember thinking it was odd that no gel was needed to hear my baby’s heartbeat but once I was far enough along, I could certainly hear him in there moving and the little thump of his heart. It probably was far into my third trimester before we could hear anything. Fast forward 10 years.
I had experienced one miscarriage before I became pregnant in 2013. I knew how easy it was to rent a home fetal Doppler and I wanted one. I didn’t want to rent one so I bought one on eBay ;the Sonoline B. Guess what, Walmart now sells them and they are cheaper than the one I bought on eBay five years ago.
This is hardly a “new pregnancy trend.”
The next claim in the title is that this is by millennial women. I am NOT a millennial and many pregnant women in my age group (35-45) are not millennial either and they use fetal Dopplers. In fact, many of my millennial friends would never and have not used a fetal Doppler. I dislike the authors use of a generation.
Just plainly say “women.” Does this mean that only millennial women are so ignorant they could not figure out how to use a fetal Doppler?
And finally, the author’s fear-mongering statement, “Seriously Harm Unborn Babies.” Wow! That’s a catchy title and unfortunately, it’s click-bait. In the article, there wasn’t a single bit of information proving that using a fetal Doppler causes “serious” harm. Yes. I purposely removed the word, “Could” from my picking apart because I guess ANYTHING “could” cause harm. This article was meant to scare women from using the fetal Doppler.
This Pop Sugar article calls it a new “fun” trend, so not fear-mongering. It’s also almost a cut and paste of the Bustle article. For me, it certainly wasn’t fun although there may be women who use a fetal Doppler for “fun.”
Do I recommend women use a fetal Doppler in pregnancy? NO
Why? I don’t think every woman needs or should have one.
But to scare women from using one is a disservice. Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count UK, even has a petition to ban the private sale of Dopplers. I love Kicks Count and I utilize their brochures, cards, and documentation in my childbirth classes. It’s important to assess your baby’s fetal movements and this can be a very bonding experience for the parents. I don’t agree with banning a tool, where if a mother is trained properly, she has a tool which can help her immensely.
Let’s talk about training, because in the article This New Pregnancy Trend Among Millennial Women Could Seriously Harm Unborn Babies, the author claims that women are untrained and speculates that no woman can or should be trained. Instead, the article warns women not to use this tool because it can cause stress which is harmful for a baby (due to not finding a heartbeat) and it can cause reassurance when there is actually something wrong (because the mere finding of a heartbeat does not signify health of baby).
If the author is mistakenly referring to ultrasound Doppler or even fetal heart monitoring on a strip, then yes, there is more training that takes place, but not years of training as the article states: “Midwives and doctors train for many years to interpret what they hear through a doppler.” I took a weekend class on reading and assessing fetal heart tones as a labor doula.
If stress is going to be cited as harmful for the mother and baby, raised blood pressure for mother and premature birth (which is a stretch to say the least), what about the mother who has chronic anxiety in her pregnancy because she is a loss mother and is in a constant state of worry over the health of her baby?
If a mother couldn’t find the heartbeat on her home fetal Doppler, she would have acute stress and need to see her OBGYN or midwife for reassurance (this is a good thing). Once the mother receives reassurance that the baby is okay, her stress would diminish. Many pregnancy after a loss mothers are under chronic stress. Chronic stress would more likely lead to raised blood pressure and potentially, prematurity. If a woman had a tool which could potentially reduce that chronic stress, wouldn’t we want that available to her? Now you are saying that doctors should then prescribe a home fetal Doppler. I will agree with you there.
The final concern is that a mother may “think” she hears the heartbeat when it’s actually placental flow, her own heartbeat, or hears the fetal heartbeat but there could still be something wrong and she is reassured when she shouldn’t be. This is the biggest concern for me and I have experienced this first-hand (although my baby was fine).
This is where a little bit of training would be beneficial on the use of home fetal Dopplers. In addition, doctors and midwives who know their patients are using them, should have serious discussion about fetal Doppler use and when to be seen. I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “If you feel like there is something wrong, or your baby has reduced movements, come in.” Let’s not forget that there are plenty of You Tube videos out there to show women how to use a fetal Doppler.
I would have been in the doctors office every day, all day.
It’s really not feasible or realistic for women enduring pregnancy after a loss. And with my insurance, after hours requires a visit to the ER as no urgent care is available for pregnancy so once 5-o’clock hits, it’s ER time or suck it up until morning (which can be fatal for a baby).
How about training women how to use the fetal Doppler. I know I have said this before. Instead of avoiding the conversation because you don’t want the mother to use the fetal Doppler and if you talk about it you will encourage her, have that difficult conversation and help her to know when something isn’t right and she needs to seek care.
It didn’t take much training for me to learn what I was hearing; my baby’s heartbeat (fast or about 130 beats per minute in my last pregnancy and 165 in my second living pregnancy), placenta (more of a whooshy sound with heartbeat), and what was my heartbeat (much slower or around 60 beats per minute). I was always sure I heard the heartbeat but just because I heard it, didn’t mean everything was okay.
We can teach women that just because they hear the heartbeat doesn’t mean everything is okay and that they should also seek care if there is a concern such as reduced fetal movement or their intuition tells them there is something wrong. I surveyed labor and delivery nurses, who work in different parts of the country, on how much training they received on the use of the fetal Doppler. It ranged from “on-the-job” training to “I don’t remember being trained in nursing school,” and “we had training in nursing school and on rotation.” Nurses did have a competency to complete each year while on labor and delivery.
The article implies that women are not trainable, nor should be trained on how to distinguish their baby’s heartbeat from their own or the placenta. I disagree and believe that fetal Doppler’s can be a very effective tool at lowering chronic stress in pregnancy after a loss or in any woman who is experiencing chronic stress in pregnancy related to the unknown of the health of their baby. Women should be directed to visit their care providers with questions on fetal health, with reduced movements (COUNT THOSE KICKS!) and if their intuition tells them something is wrong.
If we can combine the use of a fetal Doppler with the instructions women are already given in pregnancy on when to see their care provider, the use of a fetal Doppler can be helpful for the woman.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions regarding this information and/or concerns about your baby’s health.