Pregnancy & Postpartum

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The Doppler Affect

How I Kept My Cool After Losing Three Pregnancies

Feb 14, 2019


We had the misfortune and heartbreak of losing three consecutive pregnancies.  The first miscarriage came with a lot of drama and fanfare - I went in the ER with severe pain and was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.  Days later and a second procedure for a D&C, multiple docs couldn't agree if it was a molar pregnancy, which then significantly alters the course you take afterward.  Multiple opinions were sought and many long hours were spent agonizing if I could've prevented it. The second and third miscarriages were established as trisomies that weren't viable for life.  Three miscarriages in 18 months and we were diagnosed as having "bad luck".

So when we were pregnant again, my new OB comfortingly saw me once a week starting at 5 weeks gestation.  But even at once a week, I was constantly looking over the proverbial shoulder wondering if the baby was gone.  After all, during my third miscarriage I still carried the symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, unsatiable hunger, tender breasts...) three weeks after we lost the baby and found nothing left but a perfectly round yolk sack.  So I certainly lost confidence that my body would inform me if the baby was still all right.

I was shopping for a home ultrasound machine (I know how crazy that sounds, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea) and floating to my physician brother which ones to purchase, when he gently suggested that I get a doppler instead.  He gave a whole slew of reasons, but ultimately, convinced me that I had a high chance of misoperating the equipment.  What he said was true - ultrasound techs are highly trained people and I could never tell what I was seeing at the doc's office anyway unless it was explicitly pointed or drawn out to me.  And if the point was to make sure the baby was still around, hearing a heartbeat should be sufficient until my next weekly ultrasound.

At 6 weeks, you may faintly see the flutter of a heartbeat on an ultrasound.  By 7 weeks, I was able to find the heartbeat with my doppler consistently.  I had lost the other 3 during the weeks of 6-8.  During weeks 6-10 of this pregnancy, I checked for a heartbeat every night to be sure this new baby was ok.  When I started feeling the kicking and movement, I didn't need my doppler as frequently.  I was reassured by my OB that we're out of the "danger zone" and the chance of a miscarriage is extremely low by week 8 of gestation.  But if it was a quiet day and I didn't feel much from the baby, I would still break out the doppler and reassuringly hear the whirring of 155 beats per minute.

I'm grateful for this affordable piece of technology that had allowed me to enjoy my last and final planned pregnancy.  And if you, too, have considered getting a home ultrasound machine, this is me gently suggesting a doppler instead.