Fetal Dopplers: Better to Rent or Buy?

{I’m sure this post will be boring to most, and if you are “most” I know I you know what to do (skip it!). I’m writing this because I was really hoping to come across something similar myself a month ago and was disappointed when no such comparison existed. I hope this post will be helpful to those who are trying to decide if renting or buying a fetal doppler is the better move for them.}

I didn’t buy a doppler until late in my first pregnancy. I don’t remember why. I think I was warned that not finding the heartbeat would send me into such a state that the mere possibility of that happening wasn’t worth the piece of mind it might afford me if I could find the heartbeat consistently. Or maybe I didn’t even really know they were out there until I could already feel the baby kick. In any case, I bought a cheapie later in my pregnancy and used it only a handful of times, when I hadn’t felt the baby kick in ages and the old stand by of a cup of juice plus laying on my side wasn’t jump starting her into action.

Of course, during my first pregnancy I managed to scam my way into the OB’s office about once ever 1-2 weeks for the first trimester. I needed to be reassured constantly that everything was okay.

This time, I got a doppler at 9 weeks, after I read that it was possible to find the heartbeat between 8 and 12 weeks. I was hoping that with the help of a Doppler I could stay out of my OB’s office for the long stretches they seemed comfortable with but that sent me into a panicked frenzy. (You mean don’t want to see again me until next month?! As in four weeks from now?! SERIOUSLY?!).

I tried to do a lot of research on which Doppler to get, on whether it made more sense to buy the Sonoline B (3mhz) that everyone seemed to recommend or to rent something better (I assumed rentals were better). Unfortunately no one had experience with BOTH purchased and rented Dopplers so most people’s recommendations included a simple statement like, “I bought my Sonoline and I LOVED it!” Or “I rented from –insert popular doppler rental site here– and it was great!” I appreciated these reviews and they helped me to bite the bullet and get a Doppler at all, but they didn’t help me to know which route I should take. Was it worth spending the $30-$50 a month for a rental? If they were that much better I would have no qualms shelling out the money. Piece of mind is worth a lot to me right now.

First I ended up buying the Sonoline B with the 3mhz probe. That seemed to get nothing but positive reviews from both my blog readers, and random reviewers alike. Sadly Sonolines are no longer sold on my trusty Amazon.com but I was able to find a site (link removed) that sold them for the going eBay rate (around $60), plus they threw in a free tuve of gel and offered free shipping (I’m a big sucker for free shipping).

When the doppler arrived I was super excited. Then I opened it up and realized it looked exactly like the cheapie doppler I already had. Queue being significantly less excited. I found and pulled out my old doppler (which I assumed would not be sensitive enough to detect a heartbeat this early) and sure enough, they looked exactly the same, except for the probes (my old one was less sensitive at 2mhz). To be fair, the name of my old Doppler was Sonitrax (or that was the name printed on the instructions), so I wasn’t completely idiotic in buying the Sonoline B, but it seemed clear they were actually the same doppler, despite the name change. Boo.

Still, I was excited to try my new doppler out and at $60 I wasn’t too upset that I’d repurchased what I already had. The first time I tried it was I surprised how immediately I heard the heartbeat. Then I realized that insanely loud WHOOSH, WHOOSH, WHOOSH was my own heartbeat pulsing throughout my body. It took a while to find the baby’s actual heartbeat, but once I did it was very distinguishable. It’s so much shorter and faster than my own heartbeat, there really is no comparison.

During my research I’d read that it was best to only use the Doppler a couple of times a week as doctors are still unsure if constant exposure can adversely affect the fetus. I found waiting every three to four days manageable and I was usually able to find the heartbeat quickly enough to avoid freaking out.

{There was one instance when I couldn’t find the heartbeat for a long while and frustration and a dulled panic eventually caused me to break down. Luckily the crying break was all I needed to start fresh and I quickly found the heartbeat afterward. Regalito was way up by my belly button that day. (I didn’t even realize my uterus was that high yet so I hadn’t been checking there.) He was probably up so high in an attempt to flee from the cursed doppler.}

At some point during all this, I decided I wanted to try out a rented Doppler, to see what a product that cost almost as much a month as what I had paid to purchase mine forever, could do. So I started researching all the rental sites, trying to find the absolute BEST rental doppler, the cadillac of fetal heart monitors, if you will.

I ended up getting the Huntleigh FD1 Fetal Doppler with Heartrate display and 2mhz probe from Stork Radio. This baby costs $49 a month–it is literally the most expensive rental available–and it is advertised as being the most commonly used by medical professionals. It even works on obese women!

So I paid the $49 dollars, consented to all the rental agreements and waited with bated breath for my doppler. And I waited. And I waited. It ended up taking over a week for it to arrive via ground shipping (the only free shipping available) which made me realize how awesome it was that my purchased Doppler arrived in 3-4 days. What was even more upsetting was the realization that I had paid for that week as part of my rental. By the time it got to my house, I had less than three weeks to enjoy it before I had to send it back, otherwise I’d be paying for the next month.

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So far I’ve used both dopplers a handful of times, and honestly, the rental is no better than the one I purchased. While I prefer the look of the rental doppler (it’s also heavier and more compact, which makes it feel more “professional” for some reason), it doesn’t find the heartbeat any faster or more easily than the Sonoline B. Maybe it’s the difference in probe sensitivities–I wish there was a 3mhz option on the Huntleigh but there wasn’t. The only thing the rental does better is measure the bpm (beats per minute). The Sonoline B is kind of useless at registering accurate bpm; it always tracks mine at 120bpm (too high) and the baby’s at 130 (too low). The Huntleigh usually shows the baby’s heartbeat at 160-170bpm which is where you want it to be.

After 3 weeks of use (and I will admit to using it 3x a week for the past two weeks), I can find the heartbeat pretty quickly. I know right where Regalito likes to hang out and it literally takes me mere seconds to find his little heartbeat thumping away. I absolutely believe having a Fetal Doppler has reduced my anxiety level and given me immeasurable reassurance that my baby is okay. I haven’t felt the need to make an appointment once since 8 weeks.

I also believe that the Sonoline B is the much better deal, costing only $60 total instead of $50/month and finding the heartbeat as effectively (if not more so) than the more expensive rental. In fact, the only reason I could see for opting for the rental is that it registers bpm more accurately; if you want to check that the baby’s heart rate is on track, the rental would be the way to go. If you just want to know that your baby’s heart is still beating–and save some significant cash over the course of your pregnancy–definitely get the Sonoline B with the 3mhz probe.

10 responses

  1. Awesome post!! 🙂 very informative and detailed. I thought about the doppler thing, but with trips I think it would’ve done more harm than good for me. Lol I hope others find this useful when contemplating buying or renting……

  2. This is a great post! I’ve wondered if renting a hospital grade doppler would be better but I have a pretty easy time of finding the HB already. My Sonoline B has been a live-saver on more than one occasion.

  3. Very interesting! I’ve never used a Doppler- I think I would be way too tempted to overuse it! So glad little Regalito’s heart is beating away so beautifully!

  4. You may just want to verify that the Sonoline is not a Chinese made Doppler. Since you are using medical equipment on a very small, delicate fetus, you want to be very careful. I have read that Chinese made Dopplers are not regulated like US companies have to be. No doppler is approved by the FDA – they do not approve medical devices but US companies are regulated and Chinese ones are not. With so many problems with their toys, formula, etc I wouldn’t trust a Doppler from them either.

  5. Great Post! I was in a quandary on which way to go…to buy or rent a Doppler. I love that you tried them both and that really helped me in deciding what to do. I’m sure it will help others who are in the same position. Thanks again for your wonderful post!

  6. Thank you so much for your time into this post. Exactly what I needed to hear since I have the same dilemma going on at 11 weeks.

  7. I had bought the sonoline B you recommended from that website and they have stolen my money and cancelled my order. I am disgusted to know you would trick someone, a pregnant mother, into losing her money.

    • I am so sorry you had a bad experience with that site. I am in no way affiliated with that site and am removing the link to prevent other people from clicking through and getting ripped off. I only linked to it because it’s where I got my Sonoline B and I had no problems with them (over 4 years ago). Again, I apologize.

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