The short answer is YES.
I started feeling my baby girl's movements around 21 weeks, but till then, I was often concerned if she was alive. In the past I have had two missed abortions, which is a type of miscarriage that doesn't immediately cause bleeding, and where the body doesn't realize the passing of the femus for weeks. So whenever my morning sickness symptoms faded away, I worried perhaps my baby had passed inside of the womb.
So, my husband purchased a handheld fetal monitor at Amazon ($60 with a free return offer) when I was 15 weeks pregnant. Customer reviews were mixed, but it was FDA approved, so we got one for peace of mind. AND, we were pleasantly surprised!
Following the directions, I applied a lubricant ("Pre-Seeds" that we used to use when trying to conceive) on my belly, and lightly pushed the monitor against my lower abdomen. After searching for the baby's heartbeats for 5-7 minutes, the monitor caught rapid heartbeats at 150 bpm! Wow! They sounded as clear as the ones I heard at my OB's office.
I confirmed the safety of home handheld monitors with my OB and two nurse practitioners. They are SAFE. Here are their suggestions:
- Home fetal monitors are not as sensitive as the one used by OBs. So, even if you cannot detect the heartbeat, do not freak out. The majority of the time, it's just a matter of the baby not positioned right, or you not angling the device right.
- Count the heartbeats. If they are between 120-160 beats per minutes, they are the baby's. If they are slower than that, they are the mom's. If you hear sound like water running through a pipe, it's the sound of the mom's blood flow.
- Always follow the usage directions. The particular device I purchased recommends limiting use to 10 minutes at a time.
- You cannot judge the health of the baby based on the heartbeat like OBs can, so be sure that you do not miss prenatal visits with your OB.
For the first few times, it took 5-7 minutes for me to find the heartbeat, but the further along I was in pregnancy, the easier it became for me to detect the heartbeat. The sound also became louder and clearer as I progressed in my pregnancy. Although the baby positioned differently every time I used the monitor, there definitely was a favorite position, and this made it easier for me to angle the device appropriately.
Now I can confirm the well-being of my baby based on her movements, but when she doesn't move very much, I still check her heartbeat to ease my worries. If you tend to become anxious between prenatal visits, I highly recommend owning one of these devices.