Monday, November 17, 2008


I got my fetoscope out last night but wasn't able to find the baby's heartbeat. That was probably due to Zari jumping around and making noise the whole time, though! This afternoon I got her occupied with looking out the window while I poked around, listening. Sure enough, right above my pubic bone I got a very distinct fetal heart beat, chugging away. I was surprised by how loud it was once I found it. I am 16 (completed) weeks pregnant--or 14 weeks if you count from probable date of conception, not last menstrual period--so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hear it this early.

There's something transformative for me when I hear the baby's heart beating; it makes the pregnancy and the baby seem more real. I haven't felt any definite movement yet, and I'm just barely starting to poke out (nothing that anyone on the street would even notice). So to have that undeniable evidence that a baby is really inside of me is always really cool.

midwife listening with a fetoscope
if you want to listen to your baby's heart, press the forehead rest against your palm
Speaking of fetoscopes, I bought mine new on Ebay for $13. They're hard to find on Ebay right now, but Cascade carries them starting at $16. Make sure you buy the one with 22" tubing, not 7", otherwise it won't be long enough for you to listen to your own baby. I think it's a great thing for every pregnant woman to have and know how to use. It's fun of course, but on top of that if you have any questions about the baby's well-being you don't have to wait for a prenatal appointment to listen to heart tones.


  1. I bought a fetoscope during my second pregnancy. I think I got mine from I agree that every pregnant woman should own one. I find it especially helpful for easing pregnant-mom worries, i.e. "I haven't felt the baby move all day! Is he OK?" I have had friends whose baby was stillborn, and that fear is always in the back of my mind. It was always nice to hear a strong heart beat.
    I'm impressed you caught the heartbeat at 16 weeks. I don't remember having much success until about 20.

  2. It was always a slightly surreal moment when I'd think, really think, about the fact that I had a BABY growing inside me. Surreal, and so, so cool!

  3. I had wanted to get one when I was pregnant with my son but had difficulty finding one for sale in Canada at a reasonable price. He ended up coming before I had a chance to enjoy hearing the sound of his heart beat inside me. At least I captured video of his kicking and pushing on my belly.

  4. Ah, hearing your babies heartbeat for the first time is THE BEST. I'm so happy for you!

  5. i think my hearing isn't that great. when i'd listen at my midwive's office i could never hear it. she described it as a like "tickticktickticktick" of a clock rather than the heart tones you're used to with a doppler.

    still. i could never hear it.
    but she'd always use the doppler so we could have that "connecting" moment.
    i also loved to hear my placenta rushing around.

    there was this one very defining moment of "two in one" for me with my son roan. She found my heartrate immediately with the doppler, and then just behind it you could hear my sons little heart pounding away. it was a beautiful duet of two bodies.
    i cried such large tears listening to that.

  6. I'm 16 weeks along too!

    Do you think it's better to get the fetoscope, or just a regular stethoscope, for self listening? I was under the impression that the fetoscope helps when a person rests their head on it to feel vibrations. So I was wondering if it would be better (more all-purpose for the family, too) if I just got a stethoscope? Or is the fetoscope going to be better, even for me, to listen to the baby with?

  7. Trish,
    I've never used a stethoscope to listen to heart tones so I can't say. I always just hold the forehead rest against the palm of my hand and have had no problems hearing it (neither has my husband). One advantage of a fetoscope is that, because of the forehead rest, you can push down quite deep into the abdomen to track down those sometimes elusive heart beats. I think that would be harder than a stethoscope.

  8. I find it especially helpful for easing pregnant-mom worries, i.e. "I haven't felt the baby move all day! Is he OK?"


    I have misgivings about the fetoscope (and indeed home use dopplers) being used by women to confirm fetal well-being.

    To borrow a scenario given by a colleague: a woman close to term is concerned about reduced fetal movements. She comes in for a CTG, and as soon as she hears the tickety-tock of a "strong heart beat" is reassured, in fact, that heart rate had reduced variability and unprovoked decelerations, a CS was performed, and the baby had a heart defect. Had she been listening in with a fetoscope or doppler at home, she would have listened for a moment, and then been reassured simply because there was a heartbeat. But that reassurance may be false. The existence of a heartbeat doesn't necessarily mean that all is well in the presence of reduced fetal movements - you need to be able to analyse what you are hearing. I don't see that it is reasonable to expect women to become their own mini-midwives and gain expertise in listening for variability, and being able to accurately count the rate. A "strong" heart beat is not the point - it could easily be maternal pulse that is being picked up. It is easy to pick up maternal pulse by mistake and, if maternal pulse is high, to confuse it for fetal rate.

    In other words, a woman who has not felt their baby move all day could delay further investigation due to the false reassurance of hearing what they think is a "strong heart beat".

    At the other end of the extreme, there are instances in which women have discovered a fetal demise in a social situation where they have invited others to share in listening in with their baby.

    Personally, I think the use of all diagnostic instruments need to be very carefully thought about, along the lines of: What is the reason for listening in? Do you understand what you are listening for? Do you have the skills to get the information from what you hear? What are you going to do with the information once you get it? What will you do if you get unexpected information?

  9. My sister is almost halfway through her pregnancy and she hasn't done this yet! Should I buy her a fetoscope? Maybe I should just surprise her, walk in the room with scrubs, and find it myself :)


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