Why is fetal Doppler not sold on Amazon?

Pregnancy is the most beautiful and exciting period of woman’s life. This is also one very emotional phase a woman goes through in her life time. Hearing a baby’s heartbeat for the first time is an exciting milestone for new parents-to-be. Maybe the best known device to listen to a baby is a fetal Doppler. Expecting parents want to use it at home, so they want to order one on Amazon. Surprisingly, the fetal Doppler can’t be found on Amazon. Even if you click a link to an Amazon fetal Doppler product page in Google search result, it turns out either the fetal Doppler is out of inventory or simply missing on Amazon. Why? Amazon does not allow to sell fetal Dopplers! More accurately, Amazon does not sell fetal Dopplers to general consumers.

#1 It is not safe to use fetal Doppler at home

Actually fetal Doppler was sold on Amazon in the past, until the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in 2014, in which the safety concern of using fetal Doppler at home is discussed. According to FDA,

Similar concerns surround the Over The Counter sale and use of Doppler ultrasound heartbeat monitors. These devices, which are used for listening to the heartbeat of a fetus, are legally marketed as “prescription devices,” and should only be used by, or under the supervision of, a health care professional.

FDA – Avoid Fetal “Keepsake” Images, Heartbeat Monitors 12/16/2014

To understand what the safety concern is, we need to know a bit on how a fetal Doppler works. Fetal Doppler transmits ultrasound to a baby’s heart and detect the heart beat/movement based on Doppler effect. That a car engine or siren sounds higher in pitch when it is approaching than when it is receding is caused by Doppler effect. Based on ultrasound and Doppler effect, a fetal Doppler can produce a heartbeat sound simulation. Ultrasounds are widely used in medical devices such as ultrasound imaging. During routine pregnancy check, these ultrasound medical devices are used by medical professionals. Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues. The effect of this kind of heating is unknown. For this reason, ultrasound is used when there is the medical need and operated by a well trained medical professional. So fetal Doppler is a prescribed medical device and can’t be sold over the counter. It is not strange that Amazon and other big online stores can’t sell it directly to consumers. “When the product is purchased over the counter and used without consultation with a health care professional taking care of the pregnant woman, there is no oversight of how the device is used. Also, there is little or no medical benefit expected from the exposure,” Vaezy says. “Furthermore, the number of sessions or the length of a session in scanning a fetus is uncontrolled, and that increases the potential for harm to the fetus and eventually the mother.”

#2 Other options to listen to your lovely baby

Most of other methods to listen to the fetal heartbeat are passive. The fetal heartbeat generates sounds and the sounds can be conducted to the surface of the belly though it can be very very weak. An expecting dad may put his ear on the expecting mom’s belly to hear the heartbeat sounds at the late pregnancy stage. A fetoscope basically freed the distance. The sounds are conducted from the belly surface to the ears through the tube of the fetoscope. A Stemoscope picks the sounds similarly, however, the smartphone App can de-noise and amplify the sounds to make the heartbeat sounds more audible, after the sound signals are sent from the Stemoscope to the smartphone wirelessly. In the App, the sounds are visualized and can be easily recorded, saved and shared.

#3 Fetal Doppler vs Stemoscope

Obviously Fetal Doppler uses ultra sound while Stemoscope not.

#4 Fetal monitoring?

For fetal monitoring, you need to listen to your doctors.

Disclaimer and Clarification: this post is not intended to provide any medical advice.

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