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.
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.
“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.
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.