Q. I've heard of fetal heartbeat products that let pregnant women, for instance, connect to a smartphone app so the parents-to-be can listen to their baby's heartbeat whenever they want. What do obstetricians think about such products? Are there any pros or cons?
A. These types of products can backfire, says Dr. Elisa Felsen-Singer, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Huntington Medical Group.
They are meant to provide joy for the parents and the chance for the extended family to gather around and listen to proof of the baby's burgeoning life. And parents may use them for repeated reassurance that baby is still A-OK in there. "In a perfect scenario, it's a lot of fun and a cool thing to do," Felsen-Singer says.
But that's when things go perfectly. When they don't, such tools can lead to unnecessary anxiety and even fear in expectant parents, she says. "What ends up happening is they can't hear the heartbeat and then they say, 'I have to go to the emergency room,'" Felsen-Singer says. Or they don't realize they're hearing mom's heartbeat instead of the baby's and think the rate is too low, so they panic.
Felsen-Singer prefers that her patients tape the heartbeat when they hear it in the obstetrician's office, then replay the tape for themselves or family when they want to hear the heartbeat again.
"I can't imagine that any physician is going to say, 'This is great,'" Felsen-Singer says of the heartbeat tools. "It's just more aggravation than it's worth."