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Health & Pregnancy

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WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD

Who Gets the Test?

Most women first hear their baby's heartbeat during a routine checkup that uses the fetal Doppler early in their pregnancy. Many ultrasound machines also allow the heartbeat to be heard even before it can be heard with a handheld Doppler. Most women now get an ultrasound prior to 12 weeks.

What the Test Does

The fetal Doppler uses sound waves to pick up your baby's heartbeat.

How the Test Is Done

You'll lie down and a technician will hold a small probe against your belly. It's safe and painless.

Some companies sell Dopplers for use at home. The FDA suggests that you avoid them. Although Dopplers are generally safe, using them too much -- without medical supervision -- could pose risks to your baby.

What to Know About Test Results

Hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time can be deeply moving. Keep in mind that a baby's heartbeat is much faster than an adult's.

If you're in your first trimester and you can't hear your baby's heartbeat, don't worry. Dopplers can't reliably detect a baby's heartbeat until 10 to 12 weeks. Your doctor may try again on your next visit. An ultrasound may give you clearer results.

How Often the Test Is Done During Your Pregnancy

Your doctor may use the Doppler often to listen to your baby's heartbeat during routine checkups, starting at about 8 to 10 weeks. Handheld Dopplers will not work quite this early.

Other Names for This Test

Doppler fetal monitor, Doptone, ultrasonic Doppler, fetal Doppler

Tests Similar to This One


Reviewed on June 12, 2014

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