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Dopplers and Ultrasounds

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Through my first pregnancy I got the doppler every appointment, the 20 week ultrasound, and then 2 more ultrasounds when I was past my due date. I even thought about renting a doppler. There's somethign reassuring about hearing the heartbeat so clearly.

However, I know there are many mamas who totally turn down dopplers and ultrasounds unless absolutely necessary. Even in my husband's ultrasound textbook (he's a vet), it talks about the possible risks and mentions that dopplers are even worse than regular ultrasounds. BUT, if you turn all that down, at what point can they hear a heartbeat? Can someone walk me through what it's like NOT getting these tests? And how one can be reassured that everything is okay despite not getting these tests?
post #2 of 14
Hey there! I think it is awesome you are investigating this...it is something I think more women should be leary of...but it is often pushed and just simply assumed that women will have one or several ultrasounds and use the dopplar at every visit to listen to the heartbeat.

I do not have a ton of information, but as a doula I am currently researching this more extensively for my clients (and for myself now that I am preggo again!). Here is one of the articles I have found that is pretty good...


I will continue looking into this and will let you know what I find. Instinct tells me to be very leary...but I am trying to find the facts to back it up! All I know is that they started using this technology on women without a ton of research to deem it safe.

When I was pregnant with my son I did use the dopplar one time when my midwives couldn't hear the heartbeat with the fetascope...I think it was around 20 weeks and he was turned funny. But other than that they heard it every time (probly from 10 weeks or so). I think before that I just had to trust that he was fine and I was fine and my body would do what it needed to do and if something was wrong that it would make itself clear. This is also what my midwives reassured me of. I never had any cause for concern...if I had...I may have considered doing the dopplar or ultrasound earlier, but I was not interested in exposing the developing fetus to something that was potentially harmful and frankly, not understood or tested enough to prove to me it was completely safe.

We did use dopplar when I was in labor a few times to check on him...my labor was very long and we needed to be sure he was doing fine with it so we could have the peace of mind knowing we didn't need to transfer (homebirth) on his behalf . It was very reassuring...he sailed right through a 3 day posterior labor and was indeed born at home.

With this pregnancy, I am a bit unsure about the date of conception and my cycles are a little inconsistent. I was shocked at how quickly the doc assumed I would get an early ultrasound to determine dates. (I went in to have my hcg and progesterone levels tested). I would rather have the piece of mind that my little babe is developing without exposure to potentially harmful radiation/waves and maybe not know a "due date" down to the day. ("Mid-October" is fine with me.) Anyway, it was striking, and a good reminder of how we need to normalize the process of pregnancy and birth more for ourselves and for all mamas-to-be...and only start poking around if there is something that seems unusual or of concern. Does that make any sense??? I guess the natural pregnancy/childbirth activist comes out a bit when I start getting into all this stuff!!

Anyway, I will keep you posted on my exploration. Let us know what else you find out!

post #3 of 14
Interesting... We assumed the doppler was some sort of microphone, not a high-frequency ultrasound. I'm off to investigate this further....
post #4 of 14
Hmmmmm, l know lthis is not what you were asking but I just have to say, I have never heard of anyone having any problems what so ever because of dopplers or ultra sounds. I have heard there are risks but never met anyone negatively affected. To each her own, but I am just not a super cautious pregnant lady. While I am pregnant my life doesn't stop. I will have a glass of wine if I want one. I will tan if I want to. I diet if I think I need it. I will take tylenol if I want to. I use chemicals on my hair. Just about anything they say you shouldn't do, I will do if I need or want to. I mean I am not going to go get plastered or go inhale 5 pounds of cat litter or something but I just can't believe the human body is so sensative that it is incapable of protecting a growing fetus. I know some people "may" have an adverse reaction to some of these things but it seems the more time passes the more fragile the medical professions claims a pregnant woman is.

I never tell anyone I do these things because though my children and myself are all fine like I said before, the next person may not be. So I don't condone anyone else copying my pregnancy behaviors. But I do own a doppler from my last pregnancy that I used all the time. And as soon as I hit 10 weeks or so I will be using it again.

It was more than a comfort in my last pregnancy because I constantly thought I was going to MC like previous times and I needed that reassurance to stay sane. I think I would have literally lost it if I hadn't been able to hear my babies heartbeat anytime I felt something was off.
post #5 of 14
hi all...
i hear the idea of being laid back about things and letting life proceed without getting too up in arms about worrying...i do think that is important. but i also think that there may be side effects from things such as dopplar/ultrasound that we do not understand. i am not making any grand scientific statement...i think there is still a lot to learn...but i do think about things such as the rise in learning difficulties (autism spectrum disorders, add, etc) for example. who knows?

in general i just very strongly believe we have over-medicalized pregnancy and birth without safe use of technology. many of the things that are imposed on us are just not tested thoroughly. the risks certainly can and do outweigh the benefits!

it is great to discuss this stuff. i wish i had more time!!

i am going to do more research. it will be great to see what we all come up with.

post #6 of 14
tracking down some more info...bear with me...there is a lot here but it is all WORTH READING!!!!!!!!!

This first one is from the FDA...here is a summary....but I encourage EVERYONE to read the full report at


FDA Cautions Against Ultrasound 'Keepsake' Images
By Carol Rados

It's risky business taking pictures of unborn babies when there's no medical need to do so. That's the word from the Food and Drug Administration, which is concerned about companies trying to turn an important medical procedure into a prenatal portrait tool.

Facilities with captivating names such as Fetal Fotos, Peek-a-Boo, Womb with a View, and Baby Insight are popping up in strip malls and shopping centers all over the country. And they're promoting "keepsake videos" that use the latest ultrasound technology to produce high-resolution three-dimensional and four-dimensional (moving) images showing the surface anatomy of babies developing in the womb. The lure of this burgeoning industry is that parents-to-be get to see characteristics like facial features, hair, and even the baby's sex, and often they can count fingers and toes before their baby is born. Some women even have videos made at various stages of their baby's growth. And the videos are often being marketed as a prized addition to collections of childhood memorabilia.

As compelling as these sneak previews may be, the FDA is warning women about the potential hazards of getting keepsake videos. The agency also is warning companies against creating them for entertainment purposes. While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known. In light of all that remains unknown, having a prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons is not a good idea.

A consumer alert published in 2004 from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against taking ultrasound images when there is no medical need for them. The FDA says, "While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known. In light of all that remains unknown, having a prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons is not a good idea."

The FDA goes on to say, "Ultrasonic fetal scanning, from a medical standpoint, generally is considered safe if properly used when information is needed about a pregnancy. Still, ultrasound is a form of energy, and even at low levels, laboratory studies have shown it can produce physical effects in tissue, such as jarring vibrations and a rise in temperature. Although there is no evidence that these physical effects can harm a fetus, the FDA says the fact that these effects exist means that prenatal ultrasounds can't be considered completely innocuous."


Here is something from The Cochrane Review (very respected)...it is the summary of some research regarding the use of doppler ultrasound (yes, doppler is ultrasound)...

Routine Doppler ultrasound in pregnancy does not have health benefits for women or babies, and may do some harm.
Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to detect the movement of blood. It is used in pregnancy to study blood circulation in the baby, uterus and placenta. Using it in high-risk pregnancies where there is concern about baby's condition reduces the risk of the baby dying and the need for interventions around birth, such as caesarean section. However, its value as a screening tool in all pregnancies is limited by complications being rare, and the greater possibility of unnecessary intervention and adverse effects. The review of trials of routine Doppler ultrasound in pregnancy found that it does not improve the health of either the woman or baby, and it may do some harm.
( http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001450.html )


these seem to be well-referenced...



this next one centers around the whole "3D ultrasound" but also speaks to regular ultrasound as well:



Here is a post from another forum, granted the link to her resources is not still active, it is still interesting:

U/S and Doppler are very risky- And most of the risk is yet unknown. The problem is that the cells within the womb heat up- you have to bounce the waves off of something and that causes energy and energy causes heat- The problem is that the womb is a very sensitive environment and any think that changes the balance can be harmful- how do we know if U/S or Doppler cause childhood cancer or not? How do we know if U/S or Doppler's cause birth defects or not? I mean one can even go as far as to say how do we know that either doesn't cause Autism? Or at least play a factor in some of these illnesses that the cause is unknown or at least shaky. Doppler is worse than U/S if you have to put one up against the other- it is higher waves and it is Doppler waves- both U/S and Doppler have been said to sound like a jack hammer to a fetus. That is why a baby gets more active when either is used.

Here is some more info on U/S risk and danger. http://www.npchat.com/6/forum/kb.php?mode=article&k=5

American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM):
The AIUM advocates the responsible use of diagnostic ultrasound. The AIUM strongly discourages the non-medical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes. The use of either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus or determine the fetal gender without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice. Although there are no confirmed biological effects on patients caused by exposures from present diagnostic ultrasound instruments, the possibility exists that such biological effects may be identified in the future. Thus ultrasound should be used in a prudent manner to provide medical benefit to the patient.


I also read this interesting comment someone in another forum here on MDC wrote...
"The dangers of anxiety/depression cycles in pregnancy are well-known, so I chose to use the doppler to alleviate that almost completely." Makes a point that if you are prone to anxiety/depression and hearing the heartbeat makes a huge difference, it is understandable and is probable that this could outweigh the unknown risks of the ultrasound waves. But if you can do without or find other means to reduce anxiety, it would be the safest option.
Does this make sense? Kind of a neat point though.


If you search "doppler" and "ultrasound" here on mothering.com you can certainly come up with some interesting facts and discussions.

I guess my big problem with it is how it is used so routinely without any medical indication. As a Mama, as someone who cares about our pregnancy and birth culture, and as a general member of society...this just down-right concerns me when THE RISKS ARE JUST NOT COMPLETELY KNOWN!!!!! It seems that using these technologies, especially regularly and extra especially if you are doing it at home frequently with an over-the-counter machine...should cause MORE worry and concern than just letting things be and getting really good prenatal care.

Does that make sense??!!

I guess I really do get fired up about this stuff!!!
post #7 of 14
I was going to post many of the same articles, MamaRue!

Here's a couple of (oldish) articles from Mothering itself:

Ultrasound- Definition Of It's Use And Practice
Weighing the Risks: What You Should Know about Ultrasound

And the Canadian government also warns against "keepsake ultrasounds".

A good point, though, that I read was that although the doppler has the highest frequency, it is used for the shortest time and is probably the least risky.

Food for thought.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by MamaRue View Post
hi all...
i hear the idea of being laid back about things and letting life proceed without getting too up in arms about worrying...
I think this is a funny statement because you can use the uptight/laid back argument in either direction. As in
"Ah, I'm so paranoid that something is wrong with my baby, I need lots of ultrasound scans to reassure me!" vs "meh, I'm sure things are fine, I'm not too worried. We really don't need all the scans"

OR you could describe the same differing opinions in reverse

"I'm not too worried about things like ultrasounds or eating blue cheese, I'm laid back and confident that things will be just fine" vs "Eeek, what if the scans cause cancer! Or worse! I'm so nervous, I'd never get an ultrasound!"

Just thought I'd point that out. I hear people using the same argument about many baby-related issues. It isn't an argument of being laid back vs paranoid, it's an argument of making decisions based on what you feel most comfortable with. (not directed at you mamarue, I just quoted you because your statement was relevant)

And thanks for posting all of those articles! We're still deciding on this...
post #9 of 14
yeah...i find that to be an interesting cunundrum myself...

sometimes it is hard for me because i hear folks talk about how nervous they are about the pregancy so they have to do all these things (like tests, ultrasounds, etc) but yet those are the very same things that can cause concern because the effects aren't fully understood.

i struggle with this one a lot as a doula. i think what it comes down to in the end is "informed consent"... learning the pros and cons (regardless of how popular something is) and making a decision for yourself and your family that you feel best about!

the problem is that in the pregnancy/birth stream of things there is a lot of " 'not quite' informed consent". we are told things are safe while the risks are breezed over or abandoned alltogether. (and doppler/ultrasound is a prime example).

so ultimately we just have to be sure we truly are informed before making a decision, and if that isn't possible for whatever reason then we just have to use our instincts or trust in those who we have chosen to care for and guide us.

post #10 of 14
I just realized our kiddos are all going to be the same age! We will both have 4+ year olds when our bambinos are born!

I was stressing about the age difference (we were trying for a 3.5 year spread, but ttc didn't exactly work out as planned!) but now I am thinking this age difference is perfect. I get one more summer just with Noah (swimming, hiking, etc!) before we enter newborn land...and he will be able to help out a bit with the baby and totally get the whole thing!

What are your thoughts!??! (I suppose this would be a new topic but oh well!)

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Oh, yeah, your son was born on my daughter's due date! She was actually born on the 26th.

To be honest, I always used to think I'd want our kids closely spaced, but as time went on, it never felt right. My daughter is a bit high needs so I think having more of a gap will be great for us. My daughter is old enough to understand and she's really excited already! She's been asking every day about when the baby will come out (very loudly in the library, I might add) and really is just talking about it and wanting to name the baby already, it's very sweet. My feelings on wanting #2 may have been pushed back because we moved and life changed a lot last spring (as it will again, we are likely moving this spring, too! eek!) But this cycle was the first one where I felt totally ready and I guess my body was ready too because it only took 1 try about a week before I ovulated (I didn't think it was possible to have conceived, but I was hoping!). So I think being that it it took that long for me to physically feel totally ready, I'm guessing the timing is right. I read that 4 years difference is the average amoung some tribal communities who don't use any birth control, too. In our culture, I actually feel a bit weird with such a "big" gap, but it seems in a more worldly view, it's totally normal. Plus, like you said, she can walk in stores and take herself potty and get dressed and all that which will be much easier when a baby is in the house needing lots of attention. So I guess I'll see for sure when the baby is born, but I'm thinking this will be good. I also liked having a bit of a baby "break" where I'm not having to constantly entertain her and carry her around and I can actually go out and do things on my own sometimes and she's okay with being away from me for a few hours (she was an intense toddler so I never got out).

Cool that'll we'll have 2 around the same age!
post #12 of 14
Thank you for all the great links on this subject. U/S is something that I had heard was questionable, but I never assumed the same about Doppler. I agree with pp about it being something we all need to inform ourselves about and weigh the possible risks before we make the decision for or against.
post #13 of 14
In regards to one of the OP questions, I think you can use a fetoscope, which is just a fetal stethocope, starting around 18-20 weeks or so to hear the heartbeat. I am planning to ask my midwife to use the fetoscope any time she wants to hear the heartbeat during checkups or labor. Until then, I will just be confident that things are alright. If my Mama instincts tell me that something is wrong and I need an U/S, then I'll get one. Also, when the baby starts moving regularly, you can tell that things are alright if you feel the baby moving a certain number of times a day (I can't remember the number, maybe 10?)

I don't plan to have doppler / US because, 1, I am confident that things will be fine, 2, Even if they aren't fine early on there is nothing that can be done about it, 3, Even if it's a slight chance that the ultrasound or doppler could do harm to a small number of babies, I don't want to use them for something that isn't absolutely medically necessary.
post #14 of 14
I got dopplers all the time with my first pregnancy - I never knew then that they used the same principle as ultrasound. I only wanted one ultrasound, but ended up with two extra ones at the end because of DS being breech.

THIS time, I don't want any dopplers. I prefer not to do anything that might bring additional risks, when it doesn't bring any benefit. (Even if they find something wrong before they could use the fetascope, it isn't like there's much they can do about a bad heartbeat before 18-20 weeks. So what good is knowing?) If it were up to me alone, we wouldn't have an ultrasound either, but if I don't talk my husband out of wanting to know gender, we'll have one around 34 weeks. Hopefully any risk will be smaller then, with a more developed baby.
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