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Home fetal heart rate monitor warning

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to the British Medical journal (BMJ), women should be warned against using fetal heart rate monitors at home to listen to their unborn baby’s heart beat. Dr Thomas Aust and colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral describe a poor outcome experienced by one mother-to-be who assured herself her infant’s heart rate was normal – but it was not.

The woman used a fetal heart rate monitor at home after she noticed less movement from her baby. What she heard convinced her that her baby was fine, but when she arrived at the hospital, it was discovered her undelivered baby was in distress. The baby was delivered by C-section, and is making progress after eight weeks in the special care unit.

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Fetal heart rate monitors for home use, also called dopplers, it turns out can be rented or purchased on the internet for expectant mothers. Fetal heart rate monitors for home use are marketed as “simple”, “compact”, and “affordable” for mother’s- in waiting- to experience the joy of hearing their baby’s heartbeat throughout pregnancy.

The authors warn that blood flow through the aorta, located in the abdomen, or placenta can be construed as a fetal heart beat, and in untrained hands, a fetal heart rate monitor used at home could be misleading, and even disastrous.

In the instance described, above, the infant’s infrequent movement was noted two days before the woman’s baby was delivered. Any change in your baby’s movement should be reported to your obstetrician. Fetal heart rate monitors used at home may not provide the clarity needed to discern whether you are listening to your baby’s heart beat, or your own, despite marketing claims.

BMJ-British Medical Journal