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Whether your pregnancy is considered high risk or low risk, you may well have occasion to look in on your baby via Doppler, a handheld ultrasound device. In higher risk pregnancies, your doctor will use a Doppler early on, and perhaps as early as the second trimester. In lower risk pregnancies, a Doppler may be used as your fetal monitor at the end of the third trimester, during labor. Dopplers, like any ultrasound exam, look in on your baby to make sure that your baby is healthy and thriving. Blood is your baby's source of air and nutrients, and the Doppler measures the supply and speed of blood flowing in the umbilical artery, aorta, middle cerebral arteries, and uterine arcuate arteries.

A color Doppler provides a more detailed map of blood flow, using color to provide the extra information doctors need to identify a congenital heart abnormality, or a clot or obstruction in your circulation. A power Doppler is another, even more refined testing method that examines slow blood flow in smaller vessels. Together, these testing options allow you and your doctor access to information that could be of benefit to your baby. It's more likely, though, that you, your doctor, and your baby will not need the information a Doppler provides until your contractions are well underway.

During each uterine contraction, the blood flow that makes its way to your baby through the placenta decreases, and your baby may have a hard time tolerating the cut-off of these supplies they're dependent on. Fetal monitors allow you and your doctor to keep an eye on your contractions while also watching your baby's heart beat and reactions to contractions.

There are three kinds of fetal monitoring:

  • Intermittent monitoring
  • External continuous electronic monitoring
  • Internal continuous electronic monitoring

Intermittent monitoring is most common, and is done with a stethoscope or a Doppler. The Doppler transmits the sounds of your baby's heart rate either through a speaker or into ear pieces, and it's a popular option for low risk pregnancies and for mothers who choose not to have an epidural and do not need to have labor induced. It's non-invasive, easy to use, and portable. It allows laboring moms to wander the halls, take a shower, and stay mobile for as long as possible. Dopplers can help you and your baby make it through pregnancy and labor with fewer anxieties.


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