Home Fetal Doppler Devices May Provide False Reassurance

Case study demonstrates potential pitfalls of relying on such devices

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women should not rely on home fetal Doppler devices as an accurate measure of fetal health, according to a Comment published online Aug. 18 in BMJ.

Thomas R. Aust, a specialist registrar at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, U.K., and colleagues described the case of a 27-year-old woman who presented to their labor ward at 32 weeks gestation with complaints of reduced fetal movement. Although she had noticed reduced movement two days earlier, she had used a Doppler device to monitor the fetal heartbeat and the results assured her that the pregnancy was normal.

However, a fetal cardiotocograph revealed abnormalities that required the administration of steroids to enhance fetal lung maturity and a cesarean section. Although the baby girl was small for gestational age and had poor Apgar scores, and the placenta was calcified and pale, she was making steady neurodevelopmental progress after enduring hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and an intraventricular hemorrhage, the researchers report.

"Although self monitoring provided false reassurance and a delay in seeking help in this case, it is difficult to say if this altered the outcome," the authors conclude. "We now have posters in our antenatal areas to recommend that patients do not use these devices."

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