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What You Must Know About Doptones

Wondering when it is safe to hear the baby’s heartbeat using fetal doppler at home? I have used a doptone during my three pregnancies and thought I could give a detailed analysis of how to use it. Thousands of parents enjoy the convenience of a doptone (another name for fetal doppler) but have limited knowledge on how to use it. This article and other tools such as the pregnancy due date calculator developed by 10BabyGear will assist you to plan accordingly.

There is limited available information on how to safely hear the baby’s heartbeat using a home fetal doppler and this comprehensive article will seek to answer all safety-related concerns. 

picture of a pregnant mother with a fetal doppler/doptone.

What is a Doptone or Fetal Doppler?

A fetal doppler or a doptone is a hand-held baby monitor that enables you to hear the heartbeat of your unborn baby from as early as 10 weeks. A doptone is a non-intrusive device that enables mothers to heart the heartbeat of the unborns from when they are 10 weeks old, although doctors recommend it to be used after 32 weeks. When you visit a hospital during your pregnancy, the doctor would conduct a non-stress heartbeat test measuring the number of beats from the baby’s heart in a 20-minute period. With a home doppler, it just does exactly that. Check the baby’s heart and let you know your little one is doing well.

Although there are other doptone definitions and guidance, doctors generally do not recommend the use of fetal dopplers because of the anxieties it may cause to first-time parents. You may have also read articles warning against an early use of home dopplers. It is also important to note that there is no difference between doptone and fetal dopplers (doptone vs dopplers) and are used interchangeably to mean the same device.

A doptone was invented by Dr. Edward H. Hon in 1958 (link to Doptone Wikipedia article).

It can be deeply moving to hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time and parents usually get the urge to buy a home doptone after hearing the first heartbeat. It’s also worth noting that the baby’s heart beats faster than adults’ hearts. 

picture-of-home-doptone for fetal monitoring

It is important to note that there are other doptone alternatives that you can use including the four shown in the table below:

ProductWhen It WorksCost
Doppler/Fetal Doppler10+ Weeks$60+
Stethoscope16 to 20Weeks$15 to $70
Fetoscope18 to 22 Weeks$30 to $100
Pinard Horn18 to 22 Weeks$25 to $300
AmplifiersDepends$20 to $30

Below is an example of a Stethoscope that can also be used as a home doppler. Click the image to check its price today on Amazon.

Doptone App

A number of doptone apps are also available that allow you to turn your phone into a fetal monitoring device. All you need to do is to download the fetal doppler app on your Android or iOS device and set it up so you can use it to hear your baby’s heartbeat. My Baby’s Beat App has been rated 3.7/5 by over 1,400 users on Appstore. It is a paid app that cost $4.99 and requires iOS 9 or later. The doptone app is available in several languages including English, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese.

Doptone’s Recording of a Baby’s HeartBeats

The sound is similar to a horse galloping. It may be very difficult to hear the heartbeat from your baby earlier on in the pregnancy. If you don’t hear it, try again the following day. It may be because of the baby’s positioning or it needs more time to develop the valves which will give you the clear sound of the heartbeat. 

When can you hear baby heartbeat with doppler?

You can start hearing your baby’s heartbeat from week 8.

Recommended Periods: Doptone Week 8,9,10 to 35.

The doctors do not recommend the use of home doppler before the pregnancy is at least 32 weeks. The main reason doctors recommend against using is that most parents get anxious when they are unable to hear the baby’s heartbeat and it doesn’t really help them to get more satisfaction. In other words, using doptone from as early as 6 weeks to 13 weeks may just cause unnecessary anxiety while your baby is fine. Between 6 weeks to 12 weeks, and generally before the second trimester, your baby’s heartbeat can be difficult to hear at times and if you are an anxious person, you may want to listen to your doctor’s recommendation and only get it after 32 weeks.

How Home Doptone Works

When the doptone is placed in the abdomen, the sound waves are sent from the doptone unit (the circular probe) through the mother’s tissue towards the womb in search of movements emanating from the baby’s heart. When the doptone doppler detects movements, the waves are bounced back and a pattern is created. The sound pattern is amplified by the doptone as it is recorded. Those amplified sound waves are the sound of the baby’s heartbeats. 

doptone-sound-waves

Benefits of using a doptone

When expecting parents first visit their oncologist in the 8th to 10th week of their pregnancy, they get to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. At the hospital, doctors use the ultrasound machine. After that visit, most parents would want to monitor their baby’s heartbeat and below are some of the benefits that come with monitoring the heart baby of your unborn:

  1. Maintains your anxiety levels – If you are expecting your first baby you may stress over the health of the fetus. It is common for most parents. If you had a miscarriage before, it can also be very stressful as you may keep worrying about the health of your baby. Your anxiety is not good for your or your baby and a doptone calms your nerves. 
  2. Detect any potential problems – A doptone could detect any issues such as changes in the heart rate. If you have any doubt about the readings or about the sound of the heartbeat from the baby, you should consult your doctors. A doctor can treat any underlying problems early. 
  3. Bonding – Listening to a baby’s heartbeat is a deeply moving experience and stories are usually shared with family and friends. To the mother-to-be, this is experiences allows them to get more connected to the child. 

Is it safe to use a doptone?

Home fetal dopplers emit sound waves that are 40 times lower than those emitted by hospital ultrasound. Most doptones in the market have been approved by FDA. Before purchasing a doptone, make sure the unit has FDA approval seal. Most doctors advise against using doptones/fetal dopplers every day as the radiation may have some negative impacts on your unborn baby. It is, however, important to note that fetal dopplers are not dangerous if used occasionally during your pregnancy. Below are five key safety tips for using a home doptone/fetal doppler:

  1. Do not use it too early into your pregnancy – Do not use a home doppler before 6 weeks as it may not give you any heartbeat to hear. Some online guidance advice that you can use it as early as 8 weeks but beware that you may not hear the heartbeat at this time. You can, however, use it from as early as the 10th week.
  2. Limit the use of doptone– When you are at least 10 weeks pregnant and can start to use a doptone, limit its use to only once every day. Do not use it for more than 5 minutes! 
  3. Use approved doptones – FDA has a list of approved fetal dopplers. Only buy the approve doptones after doing thorough research on the unit you’re purchasing. 

How to hear the baby heartbeat using dotpone

You’ll need the following items in order to hear the heartbeat of your baby. You can hear the baby’s heartbeat better as the baby grows. The fetal doppler can also pick up the sound of blood flow, placental sounds, arterial sounds, and fetal movements, among others. Please note that around 16th to 35 weeks, the baby’s heart valves start to develop and can start hearing the closing of the valves. 

  1. A doptone or a fetal doppler – There are several options for you
  2. Ultrasound gel –  You can buy gel online or from your local store from as low as $6. You need to plan ahead and make the order/purchase since most fetal dopplers come with one bottle of gel that can only last you for 5 readings. You can also get doppler gel on Amazon such as this Lavender Scented gel.
  3. A flat surface, preferably a bed.
  4. A clean towel.

Steps to using a home doppler

Step 1: Lie on the back on a flat surface, preferably on a comfortable bed. 

Step 2: Apply ultrasound gel on your an abdomen 

Step 3: Place the doptone probe and turn the doptone unit on. 

Step 4: From the pubic bone, gently glide the probe up towards the belly button. 

Step 5: If you hear the heartbeat of about 12o beats per minute

-It is possible not to hear it the first time. If you can find it after 5 minutes, you can try it again the next day. 

Step 6: Clean the device, preferably using ethanol. 

Best Doptones You Can Choose From

1. Sonoline B Baby Activity

Sonoline B fetal doppler is a hand-held device used by expecting parents to listen to baby’s heartbeat. Sononline B was approved by FDA in 2009 as a fetal doppler manufactured by a number of companies.

Sonoline B fetal doppler
Sonaline B (Link to AMazon)

The unit has a sleek, compact design, allowing you to handle with one hand. When you purchase it, it comes with an ultrasound gel and rechargeable batteries to power the Sonaline B. You can also use aloe vera or other tested alternative to gel. Depending on the week numbers, you may hear the baby’s heartbeat differently. 

Below are the features of the Sonaline B Doppler:

  • FDA Approved: Yes
  • Probe frequency: 2MHz,3MHz,4MHz,5MHz, and 8MHz
  • Ideal period: 12 weeks of pregnancy
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Comes with: Ultrasound gel and 3MHz Doppler Probe

Pros

  • Considered more accurate compared to others. 
  • Used by several physicians 
  • Low emission 
  • Relatively cheap 

2. Sonoline C Fetal Doppler

Sonoline C Fetal Doppler is another non-invasive baby monitor that was cleared by FDA in 2009. It has some of the functionalities of Sonoline B but is more advanced as it allows you to listen and visually see the heartbeat via inbuilt speaker and LED screen.

sonaline c

A built-in Digital heart rate curve displays the baby’s heart rate on the screen.  It is very easy to use and is suitable for all expecting mothers from 12 weeks. When you purchase this from  Baby Doppler, it comes with 3MHz Doppler probe, 60 ml Sound Enhancing Gel and Duracell AA Batteries. The color of Sonoline C may vary 

  • FDA Approved: Yes
  • Probe frequency: Option are: 2MHz,3MHz,4MHz,5MHz and 8MHz (only 3MHz probe is suitable for fetal monitoring)
  • Ideal period: 12 weeks of pregnancy
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Comes with: Ultrasound gel and 3MHz Doppler Probe

Pros

  • Considered more accurate compared to others.
  • Free shipping  

Cons: 

  • Not available on Amazon

You can purchase Sonaline C on Babydoppler.com here as it is not available on Amazon.

3. Bellybuds Deluxe Baby-Bump Sound System

Bellybuds currently goes for less than BellyBuds® by WavHello is a sound system with custom speakers that gently adhere to the belly and safely play music, soothing sounds, or even loving voice messages directly to the womb. Adheres to the skin with reusable, medical-grade, SafeBond® adhesives (replacement adhesives available separately)

  • FDA Approved: Yes
  • Probe frequency: Option are: 2MHz,3MHz,4MHz,5MHz and 8MHz (only 3MHz probe is suitable for fetal monitoring)
  • Ideal period: 12 weeks of pregnancy
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Comes with: Ultrasound gel and 3MHz Doppler Probe

Pros

  • Considered more accurate compared to others.
  • Free shipping  

Cons: 

  • Not available on Amazon

4. Bellybuds Deluxe Baby-Bump Sound System

Bellybuds is a sound system with custom speakers that gently adhere to the belly and safely play music, soothing sounds, or even loving voice messages directly to the womb. Adheres to the skin with reusable, medical-grade, adhesives (replacement adhesives available separately).

You can check its price on Amazon here.

5. EdanUSA Sonotrax Vascular w/ 8MHz Probe

Where to Buy – Doptone for Sale on Amazon & Price

Fetal dopplers are sold by specialized retailers and very few are available on general platforms such as Amazon and eBay. The doptone prices vary from as low as $60 to $120 and it really depends on where you buy and the brand you get. While you may get some at babydoppler.com from as low as $49, most available dopplers for sale on Amazon go for as high as $70. Check its price today on Amazon here if you are in North America (US, Canada, and Mexico). You can also get Sweeties Song Fetal Doppler on Amazon here.

More on Doptones Safety

Handheld dopplers utilize the same high-frequency sound waves that ultrasounds use to make a picture on a screen. Ultrasound technology has never been proved safe during pregnancy; neither has it been proved dangerous. For this reason, ACOG (the leading obstetrical organization in the US) recommends only one to two routine ultrasounds during pregnancy unless others are genuinely medically necessary. 

The FDA also advises against keepsake ultrasound imaging, as it isn’t medically necessary. Ultrasound waves can heat tissue; repeated use raises a concern that heating tissues could affect fetal development. The FDA also advises against home doppler use. 

Sign up with FDA newsletter here so you never miss important guidelines on fetal doppler safety issues. 

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