Week 17: The Doppler Debate

By Published On: November 14th, 2013

DopplerFlub, flub, flub.  Hearing the heartbeat calms my nerves for a few seconds, as the nurse lets the Doppler linger a little longer than what I believe is normal on my small but swollen belly. At 17 weeks I’m at a scary stage where the morning sickness has subsided but I can’t really tell if I’ve felt the baby move yet.  I mean I feel flutters, but they could be gas or stomach gurgles for all I know. I’m still nervous about getting my hopes up that it might actually be a baby moving inside me. So hearing flub, flub, flub, provides me with a few minutes of relief from the fear of not knowing.
It’s not always this smooth.  The seconds or minutes in the space between putting the blue goo on my belly and the nurse or doctor being able to decipher between my heartbeat, and finding the babies is still terrifying.  Each time I catch myself holding my breath until the 160 beat per minute flub, flub, flub, musical sound echoes of the silent exam room walls.  My doctor reassures me I can come in and hear the heartbeat at any time and I remember when I took her up on this offer earlier in my pregnancy.

I went in at 12 weeks to hear the baby’s heart beat and was only re-traumatized as the nurse could not find it and fumbled around awkwardly as I started having flashbacks to 9 months ago when this similar situation broke my heart.  The nurse finally had to call a doctor in to do an ultrasound.  Twenty minutes later, I was reassured that baby was fine by seeing the little bean bouncing around on the black and white screen, but the minutes leading up to that moment where torture.

A friend recently asked me at dinner if I would get an at home Doppler during this pregnancy. In the recent days after my loss I would have said YES!!!  I thought my anxiety would be calmed by having a home Doppler—after hearing those awful words in the delivery room that no mother wants to hear, “No heartbeat”—but even after reassuring appointments, and some somewhat terrifying ones, I’m unsure of my answer.  It seems as if I am finding excuses to run to the doctor for an appointment to hear the baby’s heart beat if more than a week has gone by since my last visit. One would think that I would want an at home Doppler, but I fear that it would become more of an obsession.  Also, I think about if I couldn’t find the heartbeat out of operator error like the nurse at my 12-week appointment. If this happened I believe it would just be adding extra anxiety and trauma to my life.

After talking with other expecting moms after a loss, I see that there is a debate about having an at home Doppler.  Some moms who have experienced a loss find it reassuring and say, “Totally worth it! It calmed my nerves.  Whenever I was anxious I used it.”  While others have had unnecessarily unnerving experiences and panic when everything was actually okay, but the Doppler could not pick up the heartbeat for whatever reason.

I’m not so sure I’m ready to take that chance.  For now, I think I will just take my doctor up on the office visits to use the Doppler and hear the baby’s heartbeat in the clinic.  But, my choice isn’t for everyone and who knows, maybe I will change my mind further down the road.  In the meantime, what’s your take on the Doppler debate?