Christmas shoppers warned not to buy home doppler machines

Fetal dopplers, which claim to pick up a baby’s heartbeat, are sold in Irish stores


Christmas shoppers are being warned not to buy home doppler machines, which claim to enable pregnant women to check their baby’s heartbeat.

Campaigners say the devices offer false reassurance and should be banned.

The charity Kicks Count – which encourages women to keep a close check on baby movements – said the hand-held devices are not appropriate presents for loved ones this Christmas.

Elizabeth Hutton, chief executive of the UK-registered charity, said that “with Christmas coming, we are urging people not to buy home dopplers for their loved ones as gifts. They are not designed to be used as a fun novelty product, but should be used only by professional medical staff.

“In the wrong hands they can provide false reassurance – the placenta, and the mother’s heartbeat can both easily be mistaken for a foetal heartbeat leading to tragic consequences.”

Fetal dopplers are available to buy in many stores, as well as online, in Ireland – with some promising that you can “hear your baby’s heartbeat at your convenience”.

They retail from around €35 to €100.

Some phone apps also claim to monitor an unborn baby’s heartbeat.

Gemma Brushneen with her husband Elliott and children Izzie (7), Ollie (4), and Mason (2).
Gemma Brushneen with her husband Elliott and children Izzie (7), Ollie (4), and Mason (2).

Blogger Gemma Brushneen lost her baby Sophie at 24 weeks after being falsely reassured by a home doppler device.“At 23+2 (weeks pregnant), I realised I really hadn’t felt much movement at all that day, and as usual got out my home doppler. I picked up a heartbeat straight away, and then went to have a warm bath along with an ice cold can of coke – which was always guaranteed to get her moving.

“The weekend continued, it was crazy busy, and stupidly I didn’t really keep a track of movements – I did continue to use the doppler and although I struggled sometimes, I picked up what I thought was her heartbeat,” says the 31-year-old.

“I was wrong. In hindsight, I had been picking up my own heartbeat. I felt like my bump had gone squishy and managed to convince myself she had settled in my back and that’s why I wasn’t feeling any movements.

“On the Monday morning when everything had slowed down I suddenly panicked realising that I really hadn’t felt any movements – and this time the only sound I could pick up with the doppler was static. I hurriedly arranged to get checked out. I was still trying to convince myself it would all be okay.

Ms Brushneen, who has three other children, added: “In that tiny dark room, with an ultrasound machine that was probably older than me, the two midwives confirmed, after trying with their own dopplers, they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I just remember repeating ‘but we’ve painted her room pink’ and ‘her clothes are all hung up ready’.

“Sophie was born sleeping at just after midnight . . . the day I would’ve been 24 weeks pregnant. She weighed less than 1lb. My message to other mums is that these should not be treated as a bit of fun. Don’t buy these devices and please don’t rely on them to check your baby’s health.”