Listening to Baby's Heart at Home May Be Misleading

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Expectant mothers may enjoy listening to their unborn babies' heartbeats, but they shouldn't rely on home fetal heart monitors to provide an accurate picture of fetal health ...

The devices may provide false reassurance in some situations ...

... Chakladar reported a case in which a ... woman who was 38 weeks pregnant went to the emergency department because she couldn't hear her baby's heartbeat with her home fetal heart monitor.

A few days earlier, ... she had noticed that the baby was moving far less than usual ... she reassured herself that everything was OK by listening to the monitor. A couple of days later, when she listened again, she couldn't detect anything ...

... an ultrasound ... found no fetal heart activity. They gave the diagnosis -- intrauterine death ... the stillbirth "may have been unavoidable," but listening to the fetal heart monitor "certainly delayed presentation to the hospital."

"Without training," ... sounds heard on the monitor "could easily be misinterpreted." Likely, the mother had simply heard her own pulse or placental flow instead.

... the risks of having a mother delay seeking medical attention ... tend to be overlooked ... Medical professionals provide context that an untrained mother can't ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448