Once upon a time, pregnant women went nine months without ever having the opportunity to see their baby or hear his or her heartbeat. Fast forward a few years, and ultrasound technology was beginning to be used in hospitals and OB/GYN offices to monitor fetal health.
Today, modern technology has become so advanced that pregnant women can safely use handheld tools such as a home baby Doppler, sometimes called a fetal heart monitor, to listen to their baby’s heartbeat in the comfort of their own homes.
Sound Wave Technology
Ultrasound is a high-frequency, low-power sound wave that is above the range of human hearing. Although humans cannot hear ultrasound, mammals such as bats, rats and dolphins use ultrasound every day to assist them with communication and navigation.
A Doppler ultrasound device employs the same ultrasound waves found in nature to send safe sound waves into your body through a handheld wand called a transducer.
Using a special gel to help the sound waves pass through your body, the transducer is moved along you skin. As the transducer is moved around, the sound waves pass through your body tissues and bounce off solid objects, including blood cells.
The movement of blood in your baby’s heart reflects the sound waves back into the transducer, which then captures and amplifies the sound waves through a microphone and speaker system. The movement of blood through your baby’s heart causes a change in the pitch of the reflected sound waves. The change in pitch is called the Doppler Effect.
Basic Doppler Ultrasound vs. Advanced Ultrasound
Basic fetal heart monitors such as those used at OB/GYN offices and at home are portable handheld units that use continuous wave Doppler technology that has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
The basic devices include a transducer, microphone and speaker through which you can hear sounds associated with blood flow, such as your baby’s heartbeat.
Basic fetal heart monitors such as the 1790 Fetal Heart Monitor use safe levels of ultrasound, are not intended for prolonged use and pose “no known risks” to the health of an unborn baby, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, more advanced 2D and 3D ultrasound technology can be used to create images of your baby, and 4D technology can be used to create “keepsake” fetal videos.
Because these advanced devices often involve prolonged exposure to high levels of ultrasound for entertainment purposes, the FDA and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine have issued separate statements warning against their use. For more information on the safety of fetal heart monitors, please check out our related post, “Are Home Baby Doppler Devices Safe.”
The 1790 Fetal Heart Monitor uses the exact same FDA-approved technology that has been used by OB/GYN doctors for decades with no documented negative effects. And, our device is manufactured at a FDA-registered facility by a reputable, FDA-registered company.
By harnessing tried and tested technology, fetal heart monitors make it affordable for expectant moms, dads, siblings, grandparents and other loved ones to share in the joy of hearing a baby’s first heartbeats—safely, simply and easily.