11/5/08

Monitor Your Baby’s Heart Beat at Home with a Fetal Doppler

. 11/5/08

Once you’ve achieved maternity, there are a range of interesting products that can help you make the most of your fertilized condition. One of our favorites is the BabyBeat, a doppler-type ultrasound device that lets you measure your baby’s heartbeat from as early on as ten weeks into your pregnancy.
You’ve probably heard of the “Doppler effect”, usually illustrated using a train whistle as an example. When a train is approaching, you hear the whistle, and as it comes closer, the tone of the whistle, becoming louder, also becomes significantly higher. As the train passes you, the sound seems to drop down and become lower again.
It isn’t that the train’s whistle actually varies in tone, though; the sound only seems higher as the train gets closer to you, and as it moves away, the tone sounds lower. The actual frequency of the tone is what you hear when the train is right next to you: the effect of speed and distance traveled changes your perception of the tone, which increases or decreases due to the direction in which it is traveling.

Doctors have used Doppler-based ultrasound for decades, not only for pregnant women but for medical and surgical applications. Ultrasound is based on the idea that you can locate things in space by sending out a frequency, which bounces off an object and returns to you at a measurably different frequency. By calculating the speed of sound in the first place and measuring the returning frequency, you can determine where things are inside the body. In the oceans, navy ships use a similar sound-based technology, called sonar, to locate underwater mountains and ridges as well as to track other ships. A ship sends out a tone, which bounces off other objects and returns as another frequency. This tone can be “read” by an expert sonar listener, or it can be fed into a computer and return as a readout. The ultrasound test performed by your OB-Gyn works in much the same way: the sound “bounces off” your baby, generating an image that’s displayed on a computer screen.

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