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You may have heard - or read - about the 'Doppler' heart monitors that are currently very popular among expectant parents. Dopplers are small handheld devices that use ultrasound technology to monitor your unborn baby's heartbeat, ostensibly giving you an easy way to hear your child's heartbeat in the comfort of your own home.

It's easy to imagine why these devices have become so popular. They are relatively cheap to purchase, and when they work, they enable you to hear the heartbeat (a very moving experience for many parents-in-waiting) without having to visit a hospital or a private ultrasound clinic.

But there's one problem with Dopplers that we've come across time and again: they sometimes fail to find a heartbeat. Unborn babies tend to move around and change position a lot (especially prior to 30 weeks gestation), and this means that it is often very difficult to find the right spot. And even if you do find the right spot, there's still no guarantee that you'll hear anything - our highly-trained sonographers occasionally struggle to pick up an audible heartbeat, and that's with a visual representation of the baby on-screen.

When a Doppler fails to deliver an audible heartbeat, it can understandably be a source of panic for the mother. In the majority of cases, the foetus turns out to be absolutely fine, but getting stressed and rushing to the hospital is neither healthy nor a particularly enjoyable experience when you're pregnant!

This isn't to say that Doppler monitors should necessarily be avoided. They have provided many heartwarming moments for expectant parents, and in some cases, they can be a great source of reassurance. However, they can also have the opposite effect, breeding panic when in reality the unborn baby is perfectly healthy. Please bear this in mind before using a Doppler, and remember that these handheld home devices are no substitute for a full ultrasound scan carried out by a registered health professional.

We have seen a few scan providers who do offer home visits, but these really are best avoided, for the following reasons:
  • Portable scanning equipment is generally inferior to the state-of-the-art machinery found in the best ultrasound clinics

  • Plugging equipment into an unprotected power source may result in electric shock to the mother / baby

  • As explained here, regulated scan providers in England are not allowed to perform home scans as regulation only extends to a clinic environment
As much as we'd like to offer our clients the full First Encounters experience in the comfort of their own homes, there are simply too many obstacles - we wouldn't be able to deliver the professional, high-quality service that's available in our clinics.

Click here to see details of our ultrasound clinics in Cardiff and Bristol, or visit our Scan Packages page to browse the baby scan packages we offer.