The Doptone for Fetal Monitoring

The Doptone is a hand-held, portable ultrasound tool used for fetal monitoring.  It sends high-frequency sound waves into the uterus which are read when they bounce back. One of the main benefits of this device is that it is completely waterproof.  It can be used underwater in the case of a waterbirth or if the mother is labouring in the shower.   This makes it an indispensable tool in these situations.  

For all other types of monitoring, the mother would have to get out of the water every few minutes to be monitored.  It is also ideal for intermittent monitoring in that it can be used on whatever monitoring schedule is deemed appropriate to the situation.

One limitation of this method is that it cannot be used when continuous fetal monitoring is truly medically-indicated. However, the main drawback of this method is that no long term studies have been conducted to determine guidelines for safe use during labor.

The doptone uses high-frequency sound waves that have been shown to cause tissue damage in some animal studies when used for this purpose.  This is also true of home baby monitors that many mothers rent or purchase.  While it may be thrilling to hear the baby's heartbeat whenever you choose during your pregnancy, there is still some question as to what level of exposure is too much.  More research is needed to determine appropriate levels and durations of exposure.  

We do know, however, that babies do not like being exposed to the sound waves.  They will move away from the sound, which is why it can be difficult to pinpoint a heartbeat in the early weeks of pregnancy.  They actively avoid it.  We should respect this behavior, assuming that it occurs for good reason and make responsible decisions on the recreational use of such devices, taking the baby's development into account.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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