Pregnancy Diary | The Tell-tale Heartbeat Doppler
I had quite a few comments on yesterday’s post about our decision to buy a heartbeat doppler to use at home, so I figured I owed you guys a quick update, to let you know how we got on with it!
*SPOILER ALERT: YES, WE HEARD THE HEARTBEAT. Just wanted to get that out of the way, for those of you who read more than enough about this yesterday, and just want to cut straight to the chase, and then get on with your day. Cabin crew released!
For those of you still grimly hanging on at this point (HI MUM!), before I tell you aaaallll about finding the heartbeat, I just wanted to write a few (hundred) words on our thought process here. I know some of you were a bit concerned that this would turn out to be a terrible, terrible mistake on our part, and honestly, I was too. I’ve been very firmly anti-doppler for the duration of this pregnancy so far, and I was absolutely adamant that I would NOT be getting one, nun-uh.
So, yeah, here it is!
Which just goes to show you how strong MY willpower is, huh?
This is the Ana Wiz fetal heartbeat doppler… and that’s pretty much all I can tell you about it, because I had absolutely nothing to do with either its purchase or operation, having left all of this to Terry. (Er, if you just stumbled across this post on Google, you might want to read this one first for context. If you can’t be bothered with that, well, in short, I have very bad health anxiety, which means that my reactions to any kind of medical test or information aren’t exactly what you’d call “normal”…)
Just to reassure those of you who’ve sent me links to articles warning against the use of heartbeat dopplers, I just want to say here that this wasn’t something we took lightly, or bought without doing any research. As I said in my previous post, Terry spent literally hours reading about these units (Yes, including the Kicks Counter article which multiple people have sent me…), and watching videos of people using them, as well as poring through reviews to find the one he thought would work best. Now, Terry may be a web designer by profession, but he has a very analytical kind of mind (His degree is actually in Physics…), and, more importantly, he also knows me and my anxiety very, very well, so when he told me he’d done the research, and he thought it might help me, I was willing to trust him on that.
The other point I wanted to make here is that we didn’t buy a heartbeat doppler with the intention of using it to replace professional medical advice. Quite the opposite, in fact: I really, really wanted to have the midwife listen to the heartbeat for us, so it was only when I was told that couldn’t happen until I was 18 weeks (I’m currently 15 weeks) that I started to even entertain the idea of buying a fetal doppler. I will obviously still be attending all of my scheduled scans and midwife appointments, so it’s not like if we hadn’t bought our own heartbeat doppler, we’d have seen a professional instead, and gotten actual medical advice – it’s more that, if we hadn’t bought this unit, I’d just have been left to stew in my anxiety for the next three weeks: and three weeks is a very long time when you’re already super-anxious, but no help is available. I don’t really want to labour this point (Boom Boom!), but I found it a bit exhausting having to repeatedly defend myself yesterday, so I just wanted to clarify why we did this, and point out that we DID do our research first – promise!
So! As I was saying, the heartbeat doppler arrived on Wednesday, and then sat in the kitchen for a few hours, while I waited for Terry to come home and try it out. Has anyone read The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe? This was the Tell-Tale Heartbeat Doppler: I felt like I could hear it from every part of the house, pounding away, as if to say, “Aaaaaamber! I’m about to destroy your sanity! LOLLOLLOL!”
By the time Terry came home, I already hated the thing, obviously. Now, we’d decided we wouldn’t try to use it until the next morning, but Terry wanted to just quickly test it out, by listening to our own heartbeats on it, to make sure it was working. “From what I’ve seen in the videos I watched,” he told me, “There’s an artery running down your body which some people mistake for the baby’s heartbeat. So, I’ll just have a listen to that, to make sure the monitor’s working: I promise I won’t try to listen for the baby!”
Well, I knew at that point that he was totally going to listen for the baby. “You’re totally going to listen for the baby, aren’t you?” I asked him. But he swore he wasn’t, and even although I was 100% sure he was lying, I allowed myself to be led to the couch, where I lay down and allowed Terry to pour the ultrasound gel onto my stomach. I was honestly terrified at this point – in fact, when he placed the doppler on my stomach, I flinched so hard his hand went flying off me – but, luckily for me, it only took him a few minutes to find the baby’s heartbeat, at which point he turned up the volume (I know this will sound silly, but I really couldn’t stand the thought of hearing my own heart, artery, or any part of my body: it just freaks me out, so he’d been listening to my heart etc through headphones at first) to let me hear it, too.
It. Was. Amazing.
Like, absolutely amazing. Terry was actually quite surprised by my reaction to it, because I’ve had numerous ultrasounds now, and have actually SEEN the baby in those, but the fact is, my last ultrasound was over three weeks ago now, and since then a lot of my pregnancy symptoms have stopped. Honestly, despite the size of the bump, I’ve been finding it virtually impossible to believe that that little baby we saw tumbling around at the 12 week scan was really still in there, so hearing the evidence to the contrary was SUCH a relief to me that I basically spent the rest of the day walking around going, “OMG, Terry, there’s an ACTUAL BABY in there! Can you BELIEVE it?!”
Once he’d found the heartbeat (Which was much lower down than I’d expected, thus confirming my belief that the people who touch my belly are JUST touching my belly, and not a baby…), Terry spent a good bit of time moving the unit around and making sure that what we were hearing really was IT. The baby itself also moved around quite a bit, so we had to search for it again a few more times, but we always managed to find it, and we also managed to hear the placenta (a whooshing noise, which is quite different from the heartbeat), plus that artery, and my own heartbeat, which was much slower than the baby’s. The heartbeat doppler we bought does have a function which allows you to measure the heartrate, but we just ignored that: we were doing this purely for reassurance that there WAS a heartbeat, and we’re obviously not doctors or midwives, so we’d have no idea how to interpret that information anyway. When you have health anxiety, even a little bit of information can be dangerous, and I didn’t want something else to obsess over, so I figured we’d leave that to the experts, in a few weeks time!
So, should you buy a fetal heartbeat monitor?
Honestly, I’m still torn.
I’m very aware, for instance, that we could just have gotten lucky in being able to find it – and to find it so quickly. I know that if you have an anterior placenta, for instance, it can be hard to hear it even at a later stage, and I also know that, if that had been the case for me, I’d have totally freaked, and would have had to arrange an ultrasound scan – privately, if necessary. So, if you suffer from health anxiety, I still think a heartbeat doppler could be a pretty dangerous tool to have at your disposal: I’d much rather have had a professional examination by a midwife or doctor, and, as I said, it was only the fact that I wasn’t able to have that which made me feel like this was my only option.
With that said, I can’t deny that, for me, the heartbeat doppler did help to ease my mind a little, and allowed me to start going about my day again, and to even feel a little bit excited – which I haven’t allowed myself until now, because I was so convinced that something must have gone wrong. So far, I’ve managed to resist the impulse to use it again, and I’m going to try my best to restrict myself to only using it once a week or so (IF I can…), so that I don’t become obsessed with it: that’s a very real possibility for someone with health anxiety/OCD, but I’m hoping the fact that using it is still pretty traumatic for me – albeit much less traumatic than an ultrasound would’ve been – will keep the OCD in check.
So, there are still a lot of pros and cons to weigh up, obviously, and it’s always going to be a very personal decision, but ultimately I’m glad we got it, and did help set my mind at rest… until just a few hours later, when a vague acquaintance insisted on telling me aaaaalll about the three stillborn babies her daughter had had. GOD. From this, I learnt two things:
01. People are going to keep on telling me scary stories, no matter how many times I ask them not to. I’m still really surprised by this, because I’d assumed that common sense/basic social etiquette would dictate that people NOT say these things to pregnant women, but I’m fast discovering that I’m pretty much alone in that assumption, which … well, at least I know now, huh?
02. There is no end to the worry. As soon as I cross one bridge, I find another one right there waiting for me, so I’ve basically accepted now that I will worry until the end of the pregnancy, and then I’ll worry about the baby itself. At least I’ve had a lot of practice in that area, though…
So, overall, I’m glad we got it, but I still have a lot of reservations about it (I felt so relieved when we used it, but, to be honest, some of the comments I got yesterday – and am still getting today – have deflated me a little…), and would never recommend that someone just rush out and buy one without looking into it very, very carefully. And, off course, these monitors should never, ever be an alternative to professional medical advice: I will not be using it later in my pregnancy, when I reach a stage where I can feel movement, but right now, in this stage where I’ve yet to feel anything (Which I’m still a bit worried about, actually: most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to have been able to feel something by now, and even although I know a lot of people don’t until later, I still feel like I’m in the minority…), but the midwife won’t see me for another few weeks, I’m hoping it’ll help keep the anxiety dialled down just a notch!