The Fetal Stethoscope Guide: A Comprehensive Guide

Fetal stethoscopeThe use of a Fetal Stethoscope for monitoring the heartbeat.

It also will tell of the well being of a fetus or a newborn is a safe and often necessary method of observing infant cardiac changes.

In many cases, the use of one of these specialized stethoscopes is a better alternative to other methods of monitoring that are currently in practice with most hospitals, nurses, and doctors.

There are different types of infant cardiac monitoring systems available to the parents, caregivers, midwives, and hospitals for use in monitoring infant heartbeat rates.

It is important to know the differences between the systems so that you can choose the device that is best suited to your monitoring needs.

What is a Fetal Stethoscope?

Pinard Horn

This type of stethoscope dates back thousands of years in the medical world.

Also called a fetoscope, Pinard’s stethoscope, or a pinard, this device uses no electricity or ultrasound waves.

Instead, the success of this device rests on the pure resonance of the sound of the heartbeat from within the womb.

A fetoscope is a cone shaped device in which you the caregiver places the small end into your ear canal and the larger end of the cone on the pregnant woman’s lower abdomen or belly.

These cone shaped devices are particularly essential to the health and well being of unborn children in underdeveloped countries who have little or limited medical resources.


This type of listening device is resembling of the common stethoscopes that nurses and doctors wear around their necks to check heartbeats and breathing patterns in their patients.

There are differences between a commonly seen stethoscope compared to an infant stethoscope such as the chin or head rest for the care provider, a specialized bell for placement against the belly, and tubes connecting the highly sensitive earpieces that magnify the sound of the area under the bell.

Type of use: Home vs Health Care

Home Care

Using a home fetal monitoring device is a safe and easy way to closely monitor high-risk pregnancies, multiple births, and fetal health.

There are a number of different types of monitors for home use, all of which are user friendly and highly portable.

Monitoring the unborn infant’s heartbeat from home can be done easily, and as often as the mother or caregiver desires.

Periodically checking the heartbeat at home saves the mother and the unborn child the stress of having to travel out of the home, undress in a strange office, and deal with the likes of paperwork, insurance, and traffic.

Health Care

Monitoring the heartbeat of an unborn child by a medical professional can be done either at a medical facility or specialized clinic.

When patients are under the direct care of a nurse practitioner or OBGYN, the results of the heartbeat monitoring are interpreted by a professional who is able to detect slight problems or inconsistencies in the baby’s heartbeat pattern.

The equipment that medical professionals have access to in a medical facility is far more sensitive and technological.

Why Do I Need This In My Home?

what is a fetal stethoscopeHere’s the deal…

There is never a time that you can be too prepared.

The parents who are first timers or in high risk situations may benefit from the reassurance and comfort of having this device handy for periodic checks.

There is considerable cost and inconvenience when having to travel to the doctor’s office or clinic unnecessarily.

Having a monitoring device in your home will eliminate many of these unnecessary visits.

However, the caregiver or parent needs to be properly instructed on the use of these devices to avoid false readings and undue panic.

How Do I Use a Monitoring Device at Home?

Using a fetal monitoring device is relatively easy.

The hardest part is finding the heartbeat to start with.

Fetal heartbeats are very slight and often undetectable due to outside factors such as interference from internal sounds from the mother, fetal positioning, or external ambient noises.

It is best to follow these basic steps:

  1. Create a comfortable and completely quiet area where the mother can lie down to hear the heartbeat.
  2. Place the large cone end or stethoscope end onto the skin of the belly in the lower abdomen area. It may take some maneuvering to locate the back of the baby and the sounds of the heartbeat. Detection is easiest after the 20 week mark of pregnancy.
  3. After locating the heartbeat of the fetus, begin counting the beats per minute. A baby’s heartbeat is much faster than an adults rate of lower than 100; it will register between 120 and 160 beats per minute.


What am I Listening For?

You might be wondering about the sound when you are using a specialized stethoscope to hear the heartbeat of a fetus.

You ultimately are listening for the sound of the heartbeat which will be a whoosh, whoosh sound.

The number of beats per minute can be determined by counting the amount of beats heard in a period of time and then multiplying that number accordingly.

For instance, if you count the heartbeats for ten seconds, multiply that number by six to achieve the number of heartbeats per minute.

The caregiver can also listen for any abnormalities or irregularities in the pattern of the fetal heartbeat.

How to Listen to Fetal Heartbeat

Listening to a fetal heartbeat takes some practice and skill. With the Pinard Horn, the care giver presses the large end of the horn to the abdomen of the patient, and uses slight pressure to ensure a clear auditory path up the bell and into the ear of the caregiver.

When using a specialized stethoscope, the care giver rests their chin or forehead on the provided surface to create pressure within the abdomen while at the same time they have the ear buds of the stethoscope in their ears to get a clear resonating sound from the patient and baby.

Locating the back of the fetus will give a clear and distinguishable heartbeat.


Different Fetal Stethoscopes

Here’s the deal; when it comes to choosing the correct equipment, there are many factors to take into account.

1.) Budget

The cost of these highly sensitive listening devices can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars for some monitoring devices.

When looking to purchase one of these devices, it is important to keep an even balance between the amount of money spent on the device and the amount of time it will actually be used depending on the situation or your medical expertise.

Many of these devices can be rented from health professionals and suppliers.

2.) Quality

When it comes to the safety and health of a child, the quality of the equipment used to monitor and treat them is a very important aspect.

For the best and most reliable information, the quality of the monitoring system needs to be taken into account.

Customer reviews and product reviews may help you in choosing a quality product that is made of quality materials.

3.) Dependability

The dependability of a monitoring system is essential in the event of an emergency.

The equipment is of no use if it is non-functional when it is needed.

Check consumer reports and reviews for the most dependable monitoring devices.

Compare such things as power sources and battery life of the unit if warranted.

4.) Type

The type of monitoring system that a caregiver uses must perform at the highest capacity for each situation.

Low risk pregnancies may incorporate the use of a horn or infant stethoscope, while pregnancies that are high risk may incorporate more technical forms of fetal monitoring.

Each individual situation will determine the correct type; horn, stethoscope, or electronic system.

5.) Weight

When it comes to the portability of a monitoring device, the weight is a large factor.

For women who are mostly centered around their home are able to function well with larger units, while women who tend to travel a lot or have very active lives may choose to incorporate a lightweight and portable model that can be taken along when traveling.

6.) Parts

fetal stethoscopeThe amount of parts that the pregnant woman or caregiver has to deal with when using these monitoring devices varies by which type of device you choose.

The simplest listening device consists of one piece; the horn.

There are no parts to replace on this single device.

A Fetal Stethoscope also consists of only one item.

However, it contains more internal parts and external components to be aware of when shipping, traveling, or using.

If any of these internal workings become defective, the listening device is useless.

7.) Durability

Finding a fetal heartbeat monitoring device that can stand up to the rigors of daily use is an important factor in the model that you purchase.

If you tend to do a lot of traveling from home to home as a midwife or homecare specialist, it is important to use equipment that can stand up to your busy schedule.

What is the Importance of the Fetal Stethoscope I Use?

Using the incorrect type of device to detect the heartbeat of a fetus may result in not being able to hear the heartbeat.

This may cause undue panic and fear in the hearts of expecting parents.

When choosing a fetal stethoscope it is important to realize a few medical factors concerning the development and heartbeat of a fetus.

Pinard Horn-

This one-piece listening apparatus is able to clearly detect the heartbeat of the baby from about 18 to 20 weeks into the pregnancy. T

his method of listening to the heartbeat of a baby is normally used by midwives and doctor’s practicing in countries without the convenience of electricity or modern medical devices.

But here’s the kicker…

This type of listening device is highly durable, dependable, budget friendly, portable, and highly effective when used properly.

This type of device is user friendly and requires no type of formal training or schooling, just simple instruction from a caregiver, nurse, doctor, or midwife.


This highly sensitive listening device is used by most professionals in the medical field to detect and monitor fetal heartbeat around the 12th week.

This device resembles that of a common doctor’s stethoscope in many ways.

It has the commonly seen ear pieces that the doctor or nurse inserts in his or her ears to create a sound proof environment in the ear canals.

This scope also has the long tube from the ear pieces to the bell of the instrument.

Where the bell meets the tube there is an additional piece of essential equipment.

A fetal scope contains an added chin or forehead rest for the nurse, doctor, or midwife to use as an added source of pressure.

This addition to the traditional stethoscope is necessary for the proper inward pressure on the fetal area to achieve the greatest sound barrier and clear internal reading of the fetal heartbeat.


This type of monitor is normally in use by health professionals in an office, hospital, or clinic.

This type of monitor utilizes ultrasound technology to detect the heartbeat in a fetus from the age of eight weeks with some highly specialized equipment, but is normally used to detect the heartbeat around the 12 week mark.

These devices are available for home use, but are not recommended or approved by the FDA.

Continuous Fetal Monitor-

This type of monitor is commonly used in the later portion of a pregnancy and is nearly exclusively used in a professional hospital setting.

Uses of this monitor are normally for the continuous evaluation of the fetal status during and just before delivery.

In rare cases of women who are deemed bed-ridden or are experiencing multiple births may need to incorporate this form of monitoring into their home setting.

This type of monitor is beneficial to situations where a constant monitoring is necessary and the caregiver benefits from the printed results of the monitoring for comparison and progression updates.

When it comes to the bottom line regarding the monitoring of an unborn baby’s heartbeat, there are different types of instruments which a parent, caregiver, midwife, nurse, or doctor can use to hear the rhythm.

Each of these different medical listening devices are able to assist professionals and new parents alike in hearing the glorious sounds of a new human being from within the womb.

Choosing the correct listening aid will depend on such factors as price, functionality, portability, and the medical needs of the mother and child.



Cardiology Stethoscope

Amplified Stethoscopes

Stethoscopes for Hearing Impaired

Veterinary Stethoscopes

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