How early can you hear a heartbeat? To doppler, or not to doppler, that is the question!

So 10 years ago during my first pregnancy my friend (thanks Jo) ‘lent’ me a doppler that picks up a heartbeat from 10 weeks pregnant.  I still have it (oops sorry Jo) and I was going to be good and wait until 10 weeks to even try it.  That was until I ventured onto the internet to find ladies that had managed to hear their baby at 6, 7 and 8 weeks.  The pull was too much.  I had to try.

At 8 weeks and 1 day I retrieved it from a friend whom I had lent it to (sorry Jo) and I am reasonably sure I heard it that night but it was a fleeting listen and a sound that was far away.  I have to say, I wasn’t disheartened and was in fact quite pragmatic about it, I resolved to try it the next day.

8 weeks and 2 days had a similar result and despite promising myself I was prepared for no news for at least another couple of weeks, doubt was creeping in. I searched the internet only to find a video of a lady that found hers in seconds but didn’t seem to be doing anything different to me.  Was the dream over?  Was the baby gone?  Were the few people I had confided in that I was using the doppler right: was I getting ahead of myself?

Yes, yes I was.  But I couldn’t stop it.

Now the idea had formed I had found all sorts of people in forums and giving reviews on dopplers that had found their baby as early as 6 weeks (!!).  My boobs still hurt like hell, there was no more bleeding: I simply had to be patient and keep looking as my little heartbeat was there somewhere waiting to be found.

I had to have a serious word with myself when I realised I had been lying there for almost two hours trying to find something that was likely less than 2 centimetres long whilst also searching for advice and reassurance when I failed.  I needn’t have given myself too much of a hard time though – the gods intervened and the doppler fell apart from old age as I was putting it away.  Most people would take this as a sign to leave the damn idea alone but I, being I, hit Amazon and ordered a shiny new one to arrive the very next day.

The shiny new doppler with its digital heart monitor arrived promptly within 24 hours and the next few days passed without anything concrete to report.  There was definitely something coming up but just as I was about to be sure that it was the fast train like beating of a baby’s heart something would shift inside and I would hear my own heartbeat or my digestion in overdrive.  A scan at 8 weeks 5 days allayed my fears a lot, I could see a heart beating away very clearly and our tiny little being even had the stumps of arms and legs but scans cost a lot of money and as such you can’t have them every day.  I was still desperate to have a nightly reassuring listen to help me on my journey.  Which brings me to the point of this blog: is it right to want to listen in so early?

I of course am going to say yes because of course that is exactly what I was doing but I can be excused on the basis that I have had recurrent miscarriages and of course need extra reassurance.  Or can I?

No because I have done this before and when I did it I had never had the pain and uncertainty of miscarriage (although in fairness to me I was spurred on by disbelief in my pregnancy from infertility that time around)!  With my 9 year old I listened every night to his heartbeat from 10 weeks until he kicked regularly.  I had no reason to suppose there was anything wrong but I still enjoyed the reassurance.

With this one, I needed the reassurance badly but, after the wobble of the first couple of days of overdoing it, I fell into a routine where I listened and if I heard something feint I packed up, assuring myself all was well.  It became a ritual quite quickly and my husband made fun of me but he knew why I wanted to hear that sound and fully understood my need to listen.

At 9 weeks and 1 day I heard a distinctive heartbeat that stayed put for ages, reassuring me that all was well.  I cried.  I recorded it.  I called my son and husband and we all beamed together at the amazingness of it all.  It was beyond magic.

Since then, apart from the odd day where little bean has been hiding I have been able to listen every night to the heart getting stronger and as a result I have slept well, taken it easy where I can and generally started to believe I am pregnant, that this amazing thing is really happening to me at last.  In the absence of scans, kicks and other reassurance at this early stage I have a little noise that helps me get through each scary day.  It has made me stop and enjoy TODAY.  I am still too nervous to put appointments in my diary and I am still not looking passed the next couple of days when it comes to getting my hopes up but that little heartbeat makes me realise this is real: it’s really happening.

I am pregnant.

That’s a huge leap and one that has taken a long time – 3 weeks ago I was convinced it was going nowhere and even mentioning it to anyone was a waste of time, an announcement that I would have to embarrassingly correct when the inevitable happens.  Because you see, when you have had miscarriages your body somehow convinces your mind that you aren’t worthy of a healthy pregnancy.  It’s the strangest thing.  Whenever a new person finds out about the pregnancy either by mistake or because you for a moment are excited and want to tell someone, you soon wish they didn’t know because that’s just another person you will have to tell when it’s over.  Another person to pity you and know of the failure of your womb.

Us potential miscarriers have enough to worry about and it starts every morning when we wipe ourselves after a wee.  We expect blood.  We expect a drama.  The worry goes on all day, niggling away at us, stopping the excitement from growing and with it our belief in the amazing strength of and capacity of our own bodies.

A doppler is a game changer in terms of belief in the miracle that is happening in our bodies.  It’s building my confidence daily and allowing me to ‘log in’ to this pregnancy and believe it.  I’m finding myself looking on the internet at videos portraying the stages I am at.  I’m writing my weeks passed in my diary (can’t do future yet, but soon!) and I’m able to go a week without a scan – in fact, I have now gone almost three, something I never thought possible a month ago.

10 years ago these dopplers cost £100 (thank you Jo).  They now cost £30.  A private scan can cost anything from £90 to £200 and if you have been on the same journey as me you will book a few of these to keep you going.  With a doppler you can go to bed and just listen for a few seconds and as a result I say do it.  It will rest your mind and give you the excitement and happiness that you so deserve and that other lucky mums get to take for granted.  There is of course a flip side: if you can’t find that little heart you know to book a scan to reassure yourself further and worst case, find out sooner rather than later that something is wrong and thus avoid the pain of a missed miscarriage going on longer than it need to.

My big peace of advice: wait until at least 9 weeks.  My midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat at 9 weeks and 3 days on her ancient little doppler so don’t try before then unless you have a scan to fall back on to get you through the worry of no sound!

With the risk of plugging a single company I do want to let you know that I chose and highly rate this doppler:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01FLI4V0K/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It took me ages to find one as no one seems to recommend a brand in the forums so I wanted to save you the trouble!  However if you have had similar success with something else please do comment.

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