During the first few weeks of my pregnancy I was so exhausted from spewing my guts up every 15 minutes that the last thing I had the energy for was to listen to my baby’s heartbeat. In fact, when I had an emergency early scan at seven weeks I was so out of it – due to anti sickness meds, dehydration and exhaustion – that I was completely oblivious to what the sonographer was telling me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care that my baby’s heart was pulsating gently on the screen in front of me, or that I had to use every tired muscle I had in my body to hold my legs open while she shoved a large pole-like thing covered in a condom up my vagina but, because, I was too tired to register that I was in hospital let alone seeing my baby’s tiny organ flicker around inside me.
But when I got to around 10 weeks, I noticed all these people on my pregnancy app (another reason not to use those daft things until the second trimester) had suddenly sprouted baby bumps. I was still being violently sick at that point and I remember looking down at my flat tummy and protruding hips, wondering whether my baby was still growing in there or even whether she was still alive.
I still had over three weeks to wait until I could have my 12-week ultrasound and, as anyone who has been pregnant before can tell you, every week in the first trimester drags like a mother fucker because your belly may not be growing, you can’t feel any movement and it’s all hush hush that you’re expecting.
I was always so against getting a doppler when I first found out I was pregnant because I’m a very obsessive person – I have been diagnosed with OCD and health anxiety – and I knew I’d spend all day with the probe sat on my belly listening to her heart beating away.
Not only that, if you Google fetal doppler, you’ll usually find a tonne of health visitors/doctors and midwives recommending against the use of these little pocket-sized gadgets – and I can understand why – because some people will rush off to the hospital if they can’t find the heartbeat, fearing the worse, only to have an ultrasound and discover that their baby is perfectly fine but just snoozing away at the back.
I’m very fortunate in that my mum is a qualified midwife but when you’re 10 weeks pregnant, throwing up your own saliva and you’ve got no baby bump, even she can’t tell you whether the baby is doing OK in there. After a lot of persuasion, she did eventually tell me just to buy the doppler (to be honest I think she was bored of me talking about it, stressing about it and bombarding her with questions).
I’m not going to lie and tell you that these doppler machines are easy to use. They’re really not and nine times out of 10, I couldn’t find the heartbeat for a good 20 minutes.
I remember one time I’d gone rummaging through my mum’s cupboard (I’d told her to hide it from me to stop me using it every five minutes), smothered my belly in the gel and panicked when all I could hear was the whoosh of the placenta and the occasion ba-boom of my own heartbeat. I rang her up in tears, telling her that my baby must have died and I need a private scan today to check – see I’m mental, really.
It turned out the baby was fine but she was just too small for the machine to pick up as she had gone for a nap at the back of my pelvis and, because mine is tilted, she had loads of places to hide from me.
With that in mind, doppler machines can cause unnecessary worry – especially if you’re a worrier like me – but I can honestly say, in my opinion, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I don’t use my doppler anymore because I can feel my baby move at least once an hour – but I would say that her movements have only become that frequent since about 21 weeks-ish.
The trick is to master the different sounds – sometimes you can hear the placenta, sometimes you get you’ll heartbeat, other times you’ll get yours and the baby’s and, if you’re lucky, you’ll just get the baby’s.
The doppler I use is the Sonoline B Baby Fetal Doppler Angel Sound Heart Monitor (I’ll link it for you), I got it from eBay so it arrived within two days and it cost about £30. You can hook your headphones up to it or you can just play it out loud. The screen will tell you the heartbeat reading so for the placenta it’s usually around 30ish, your heartbeat is between 70-100 and the baby’s is between 120-160. If you listen carefully to the sounds, you’ll be able to distinguish which is which. The placenta sounds like a whoosh of wind, your heartbeat is usually slow, deep and steady and the baby’s is like a galloping horse.
I know there are some mixed reviews out there but I honestly believe having the doppler eased my anxiety because, although I know it doesn’t guarantee the baby is fit and well, it gave me that piece of mind that she was still alive – and listening to her heartbeat put a smile back on my face in between throwing up.
I’m not a medical professional so it’s probably best to speak to your midwife about it – although she’ll probably advise you not to get one haha – if you’re uncertain about whether you want to try one. But, for me, I don’t regret using it because it just carried me through those tough, long, weeks before my scan.
Obviously, if you feel there is anything wrong with your baby then ring your hospital’s triage department or speak to your midwife because a mother’s intuition is usually right…
Loves and hugs to all you pregnant mums x