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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.

‘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.

Share your comments below.

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  • Better to listen to your midwife’s advice.

    Reply

  • maybe the hospitals could help teach parents to use these properly instead of having them banned. This can be reassuring for mothers and they should be encouraged to use them correctly

    Reply

  • I would find it very dangerous if the doppler was used in place of the ultrasound machine. But if it was just something extra?

    Reply

  • I suppose I can see their point, though Im not sure it will prevent stillbirth.

    Reply

  • Very sad for the mother in this article.

    Reply

  • Not something I was ever keen on – every sympathy for the poor mum in this article too.

    Reply

  • What a sad thing to happen. I didn’t have a doppler but I did look into getting one

    Reply

  • It’s the question whether this mum used her home doppler or not the outcome would be different. As a mum who went through several (silent) miscarriages I can say that’s very difficult to determine what the moment was that it went wrong and if you uberhaupt could have done something to prevent it from going wrong.
    Sometimes it just goes wrong and no doppler and no midwife or emergency unit can avoid that.

    Reply

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