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12,000 sign petition vs 'home dopplers' charity says 'the pregnancy monitoring devices may give false sense of security'

Vicki says she relied too heavily on her home baby monitoring device Photo:

Staff and volunteers from a Surrey-based charity which supports pregnant women and families who have experienced stillbirth have delivered a petition to Downing Street today.

The group from the 'Kicks Count' charity is calling for a ban on over the counter sales of 'home dopplers' - which are also known as fetal listening devices. The machines are used to check for the developing baby’s heartbeat.

The charity says that the dopplers, when used at home, can give pregnant women a false sense of security and could lead to stillbirths. The petition has almost reached 12,000 signatures.

Among the supporters of the ban is Vicki McNelly, from Reading, who says she lost a baby because she relied too heavily on a home doppler for reassurance.

The charity's CEO Elizabeth Hutton says that interpreting data from devices such as a doppler should be done by medical professionals:

"Midwives and Doctors train for many years to interpret what they hear through a Doppler. It is a medical device, not an object to be used for entertainment. An untrained pregnant women does not have the necessary skills to understand what she is hearing. The placenta, and the mother's heart beat can both easily be mistaken for a fetal heartbeat and women can be falsely reassured.

"Our advice has always been that women should seek professional medical advice if they notice a change in their baby's movements. The presence of a heartbeat does not mean the baby is well, only that it is still alive. If the baby is in distress, this is when medical attention should be sought. Waiting until they can no longer find a heartbeat means it is sadly too late to save that baby.

"Medical professionals do not advocate the use of home dopplers and yet they are freely available to buy in the UK. There are 6,500 stillbirths or neonatal deaths in the UK every year - that is 15 every single day - and the Government has set a target to reduce that figure by half by 2030. We should be taking every opportunity to save as many of these lives as we can. The banning of home dopplers will be a vital and effective step in reaching that target."

– Elizabeth Hutton, CEO, Kicks Count

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) issued its own statement about its concerns over the use of home dopplers in June, reiterating that expectant mothers should contact their midwife if they are worried about any changes to their baby's pattern of movements.

Kicks Count team at No. 10 joined by Vicki and their ambassador - the television presenter Emma Crosby - while delivering 12,000 signature petition Credit: *

“The RCM has concerns about the use of personal Doppler machines. We have two key concerns: firstly, the machines can lead to unnecessary stress for women when they are unable to find a heartbeat using the personal Doppler and secondly, that women may be falsely reassured by hearing what they think is their baby’s heartbeat when it is actually their own.

“The sound that is heard is not the real heart sound but the machine detecting heart movement, therefore picking up a maternal pulse or blood pumping through placenta could give false reassurance. Such reassurance could be dangerous as it may delay a woman in seeking advice from her midwife. Even if the mother has picked up the baby’s heartbeat this is not an indication that the baby is well.

“The best way for a woman to monitor her baby’s wellbeing is to get to know her own baby’s usual pattern of movements and notice if there is any change. Being active – wriggling, kicking, rolling – is an indicator that the baby is well. Babies will have individual patterns that their mothers will begin to recognise as their pregnancy progresses – for example some babies are much more active when their mother is having a rest or in the evening or after a meal, while other babies have very active mornings. We would recommend that where a woman is concerned that her baby has been less active than usual that she should call her midwife or maternity unit to seek their advice.

“Women should always contact their midwife if they are worried about their baby’s movements, or anything else. Midwives want them and their baby to be as safe and cared for as possible.”

– Mandy Forrester, Head of Quality and Standards, Royal College of Midwives

If you would more information about the issue you can visit the Kicks Count website, or The Royal College of Midwives 'Pregnancy and Birth Information Hub for Women'.

The charity Tommy's which funds research into pregnancy problems and provides pregnancy health information for parents, has also provided a dedicated page online with tips and advice for parents-to-be on monitoring reduced baby movements.