Concerns raised after dopplers are being used by an increasing number of expectant mothers.
Vicki McNelly was days from giving birth to her first baby — a much-wanted daughter she had already named Evie — when she crept downstairs at 3am one morning, unable to sleep, she told Daily Mail.
‘I had felt Evie moving only hours earlier,’ says Vicki, 29, who lives with husband Stephen, 30, an engineer, near Reading. ‘But that morning, as I stroked my bump, I knew instinctively that something wasn’t right.’
Vicki reached for her home doppler, a handheld device similar to the ultrasound machines midwives use, which can detect a baby’s heartbeat.
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‘I’d borrowed mine from a friend and used it a few times for the novelty of hearing our baby’s heartbeat,’ says Vicki. ‘But now, I wanted reassurance that she was alive.
‘I could hear something — although it sounded different to the sounds I’d heard before. But I convinced myself there was a heartbeat.’
Tragically, everything was far from fine. At 10am, Vicki was still concerned and went to hospital for a check-up.’
‘When the midwife said: “I’m sorry, I can’t hear a heartbeat”, the world fell from underneath me,’ she says.
‘Another midwife performed a second scan and, on the screen, I could clearly see that the chambers of Evie’s heart were still, so black and empty.’
Now, a campaign is under way urging a ban on the sale of home dopplers. ‘The Government has set a target to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths by half by 2030,’ says Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of the charity Kicks Count, which has launched a petition. ‘The banning of home dopplers will be a vital step towards that.’
‘An untrained pregnant woman does not have the necessary skills to understand what she’s hearing. The placenta and mother’s heartbeat can both easily be mistaken for a foetal heartbeat — and women can be falsely reassured.’
Midwife Hannah Harvey, founder of askthemidwife.co.uk, says: ‘Around half the mothers I see have dopplers at home — and it’s on the increase.
‘But a trained midwife looks for all kinds of things from a doppler reading, such as acceleration and deceleration of the heartbeat, which can be a sign the baby is in distress and could result in a stillbirth. A mother might hear her baby’s heart beating at 90 beats per minute (bpm) and assume everything is all right — but a midwife would know a healthy range should be between 110 and 160 bpm.
‘Some are paying hundreds for their dopplers, and they can lull you into a false sense of security.
‘Instead, we advise women to get used to their baby’s movements and recognise what’s normal. If there is any change, they should call their midwife.’
Some women admit becoming ‘addicted’ to using dopplers, and the Royal College of Midwives is concerned the devices can cause unnecessary stress in mothers.
If you are concerned during your pregnancy PLEASE make an appointment with your midwife or OB as soon as possible or visit emergency.
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