For as beautiful as pregnancy is, it can also be nerve-wracking. So when I found out I was pregnant with my youngest child, I asked my doctor if it was safe for me to use an at-home doppler. She told me they were safe, but that she advised her patients to leave all the monitoring up to the professionals. They can be hard to use and can make you lose your mind. Did I listen? Of course not. I should have, though, because my at-home doppler actually made my anxiety worse.
I had never even considered using a home doppler during either of my previous pregnancies. I didn't even know they existed, but my husband had used one when his ex-wife was pregnant, and said it had given him a lot of peace of mind. So when a friend offered to lend me hers for the duration of my pregnancy, I took her up on her offer. I imagined sweetly snuggling next to my husband, the two of us listening to our baby's heartbeat and letting our older kids hear their younger brother or sister.
Like so many other things in life, though, reality was nothing like my fantasy. First I tried to find my son's heartbeat way too early and totally freaked out when I couldn't hear anything. It turned out that I had an anterior placenta, which made it hard for even professionals to find his tiny heartbeat. You would think that knowledge would make me put down the doppler wand and back away, but no. Instead I tried to listen to baby all the time. It became somewhat of an obsession of mine, with me trying and failing and then promising myself that I would wait another day to try again. More than once I ended up sobbing, feeling a relentless flood of anxiety and panic when I wasn't successful. I totally should have known better, I absolutely should have listened to my midwife, and I honestly regret it.
So if you're thinking about borrowing or purchasing an at-home doppler, I highly encourage you to speak to a professional and weigh the pros and cons. If nothing else, at least read my story and learn how an at-home doppler can actually make your anxiety worse:
When I Tried Too Early
The manual that came with my home fetal at-home doppler advised users that a heartbeat can be detected as early as 12 weeks. So of course that meant I tried it find a heartbeat at 10 weeks. To be fair, I was really sick throughout my pregnancy and I thought that hearing my baby's heartbeat would make me feel more connected to him.
When I Couldn't Find A Heartbeat On The 1st Try
Of course I didn't find it on the first try. I totally should have had my husband try with me, but I didn't want to worry him so I tried by myself and ended up panicking when I couldn't find it. I promised myself that if I wasn't successful I would put it away and try again another day, but I was lying.
When My Husband Couldn't Find The Heartbeat
Then I asked my husband to try and he couldn't hear anything right away either. I think my own heart rate went up considerably as a result.
When I Heard My Own Heartbeat By Mistake
Then we thought we found it, but it was much too low. Of course, we soon realized that what we were hearing wasn't the baby's heart rate at all: it was mine. Then, we finally heard him and his tiny heart beating rapidly and it was magical. We laughed about it later, but it was so not funny at the time.
When I Couldn't Make Myself Stop
After my partner and I figured it out it was kind of addictive, so I started to listen all of the time. Going through this cycle of listen and panic, listen and panic, listen and panic, until I could find his tiny fluttering heartbeat, was exhausting.
When I Was Super Sick
There's something about throwing up 10 times a day, and having to spend the day in the hospital to receive necessary fluids and medications, that makes you want to know that your baby is OK and that everything you are enduring is worth it. Those times were also high anxiety times for me, though, and my attempts to feel better about my high-risk pregnancy backfired big time.
When I Was In Pre-Term Labor
When I went into pre-term labor at 30 weeks I tried to listen for my son while I waited for the on-call OB-GYN to call me back. Yeah, as you can imagine that was a seriously bad idea. I should have just waited until I got to the hospital to learn more, but I couldn't help myself.
When I Was Totally Freaking Out
Anxiety for me is like a crescendo in music; it starts small, but then grows slowly and subtly and louder until it buzzes about me like a swarm of bees. Please trust me when I say that the last thing an anxious pregnant woman should do is try to operate medical equipment by and on herself. Seriously.
Ironically, trying to do the one thing that I thought would make me feel calm actually made me way more anxious than I had been during my first two pregnancies combined. So, one day, I put the at-home doppler away. It was way less stressful to count my baby's kicks and hiccups, anyway.