Why Can't I Find My Baby's Heartbeat with a Doppler?

Reviewed on 3/18/2021

There are a number of reasons a fetal heartbeat may not be detected using a fetal Doppler, and it isn't always a bad sign. These reasons may include checking before 12 weeks in the pregnancy, the baby is not big enough yet, the baby or mother is in the wrong position, the mother's bladder is empty, incorrectly using the Doppler, or using too much gel.
There are a number of reasons a fetal heartbeat may not be detected using a fetal Doppler, and it isn’t always a bad sign. These reasons may include checking before 12 weeks in the pregnancy, the baby is not big enough yet, the baby or mother is in the wrong position, the mother's bladder is empty, incorrectly using the Doppler, or using too much gel.

There are a number of reasons a fetal heartbeat may not be detected using a fetal Doppler, and it isn’t always a bad sign. These reasons may include:

  • You’re checking before 12 weeks in the pregnancy
    • It’s not recommended to check prior to 12 weeks because often the fetal heartbeat will not be able to be detected
    • This can cause stress and anxiety for expectant parents
  • The baby is not big enough yet
  • Even if parents wait until 12 weeks, the baby may not be big enough at this stage and the heartbeat can be difficult to detect
  • The baby may be in a position that makes it difficult to detect a heartbeat
  • The mother may not be in the correct position 
    • The mother should be lying back in a reclined position that props up the uterus
  • The mother’s bladder is empty (the heartbeat is sometimes easier to detect when women have a full bladder)
  • Incorrect use of the Doppler 
  • Too much gel 

If there is no heartbeat detected, and you are also noticing an absence of activity in the baby or symptoms of a miscarriage, see your doctor immediately. 

What Is a Fetal Doppler?

A fetal Doppler is a type of fetal heartbeat monitor that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to check a baby’s heartbeat while in utero.

What’s the Difference Between a Fetal Doppler and an Ultrasound from a Doctor?

The over-the-counter handheld fetal Doppler units are for sale to expectant parents to use at home, while a medical professional uses a more sophisticated machine that is more accurate. 

There are several types of professional ultrasound used to produce images of the fetus (sonogram): 

  • Transvaginal 
    • Probe transducers are used inside the vagina 
    • Often used during the early stages of pregnancy
  • Standard ultrasound 
    • Traditional exam 
    • Uses a transducer over the abdomen to generate 2-D images of the developing fetus
  • Advanced ultrasound 
    • Similar to a standard ultrasound, but the exam is specially targeted to a suspected problem and uses more sophisticated equipment
  • Doppler ultrasound
    • Used to measure slight changes in the frequency of ultrasound waves as they bounce off moving objects
  • 3-D ultrasound 
    • Uses specially designed probes and software to generate 3-D images of the developing fetus
  • 4-D or dynamic 3-D ultrasound 
    • Uses specially designed scanners to look at the face and movements of the baby prior to delivery
  • Fetal echocardiography 
    • Used to assess the baby’s heart anatomy and function
    • Can help evaluate suspected congenital heart defects

QUESTION

The first sign of pregnancy is most often: See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 3/18/2021
References
https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/avoid-fetal-keepsake-images-heartbeat-monitors

https://www.babydoppler.com/blog/cant-find-heartbeat-with-fetal-doppler-8-things-to-do/

https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/ultrasound-720/