With Babyloss Awareness Week running until 15th October, leading pregnancy and stillbirth charity Kicks Count has written to Amazon UK, eBay and Facebook marketplace calling on them stop the sale of home doppler devices from their websites. So far, Kicks Count’s #ditchthedoppler campaign to ban the sale of home dopplers has been successful in stopping their sale by leading brands Tesco and Mothercare. Mother and Baby magazine has also stopped advertising them to its readers. Currently home doppler devices are cheap to buy, marketed to pregnant women in many major retail outlets and easily available, despite the fact that they are only safe to use in the hands of a medical professional.
Fetal Dopplers are medical devices, sold commercially, over the counter to parents. They are designed to monitor the baby’s heartbeat in the womb, using ultrasound. Unfortunately, these devices can give a false sense of security to parents. When a mother has a home doppler and is concerned about her baby, she may use the home doppler to reassure herself that she can still hear a heartbeat and delay seeking professional medical advice. Hearing a heartbeat is no substitute to monitoring fetal movement.
CEO of Kicks Count, Elizabeth Hutton said: “We hear stories from many mums who have sadly lost their baby after they delayed seeking medical attention because they had been reassured after hearing their baby’s heartbeat. Reading the comments left on our social media pages by bereaved mothers and midwives is truly heartbreaking and it is something, as a charity, we are campaigning to change.
“Fetal dopplers are complex pieces of medical equipment and should not be available to the general public. We’ve been successful in working with Mothercare and Tesco who have already withdrawn the sale of these devices and as a result of our campaigning. Mother and Baby magazine is also no longer advertising them. Our proposal to have the sale of home dopplers officially restricted will be having its second reading in Parliament later in the year.
“We are calling on these heavyweight organisations to do the right thing. Currently, the UK has the third worst stillbirth rate in the developed world, ranking 33 out of 35 for similar income countries. Jeremy Hunt announced in 2015 a new ambition to reduce the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths in England by 50% by 2030. If this target is to be achieved, we need to be making more changes and withdrawing the sale of home dopplers will be a vital step on that path. “
Why we want to see these devices banned:
The most significant risk of using a home doppler is that mums may be falsely reassured when they hear a heartbeat, when actually their baby could be in distress. This could lead to life threatening delays in seeking medical assistance. The best indicator of fetal wellbeing is always baby’s movements and this is what we should be focusing on. If a baby’s movements change, it can be a sign that they are unwell. Just because they have a heartbeat does not mean anything. Everyone has a heartbeat up until the second before they pass away.
These devices are not intended to be used by pregnant women. They are prescription devices and require training to operate correctly. Even the instructions on these products (although marketed towards mums) state “It is intended to be used by care professionals, including practical nurses, midwives, relative technicians and physician assistants”
Home dopplers are not microphones. They are not amplifying the sound of the baby’s heartbeat. They are sending ultrasound waves into your body that reflect off moving blood vessels and SIMULATE a sound. There are a lot of blood vessels in a pregnant woman’s abdomen, the baby’s heart beating being just one. The placenta also pulses at the same rate as the heart and the mother’s main artery runs across the abdomen and that can also be picked up on a doppler. Midwives and Doctors train for many years to interpret what they hear. An untrained pregnant women does not have the necessary skills to be able interpret what they are hearing. The placenta, and the mother’s heart beat can both easily be mistaken for a fetal heartbeat.
For more information about Kicks Count and their #ditchthedoppler campaign, please visit www.kickscount.org.uk